For a Human-Centered AI

Religion for a better innovation

July 16, 2019

Three reasons why religious freedom matters and is key to sustainable development

In 2015, the Pew Research Centre estimated that 84% of the global population, equivalent to approximately 6.1 billion people worldwide, subscribed to a religion or denomination. It should come as no surprise that individual believers and faith-based organisations contribute in ample ways to economic growth and innovation processes conducive to sustainable development. Yet this promising landscape is tarnished by evidence of a progressive crack-down on religious freedoms at the hand of governments worldwide. In this context, protecting and promoting religious freedom and freedom of belief is more important than ever before.

Through its research and action, the Centre for Religious Studies of the Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Trento, Italy, aims to demystify the contribution of religious traditions and communities to innovation in culture, society, science, technology, politics and the law. Religious freedom and diversity are key to fuelling innovation. These are the reasons why you, as an individual, organisation or business should care about religious freedom:

  1. Fierce global competition calls for inclusive and innovative diversity management, able to attract talents and retain them through effective social welfare policies. The promotion of religious freedom and diversity through corporate values and practices can thus allow companies wishing to be on the cutting edge to stand out from the competition.
  2. The UN Sustainable Development Goals urge us all as citizens, institutions and companies to be proactive vis-à-vis the challenges of our not-so-distant future. The protection of religious freedom and diversity, in the form of pioneering policies and practices, can become a key feature of corporate identity, improving companies’ reputation in the eyes of the public, attracting novel partners, instigating broader policy change and impacting overall economic results.
  3. Fridays For Future is only the tip of the iceberg. GENERATION Z – namely youth born in the late 1990s and raised with a smartphone in hand – shows a keen interest in politics. Youngsters today are more informed, more competent and less naive. 65% look into the manufacturing processes of the products they purchase, 80% outlaw companies involved in scandals, 70% buy branded products that they consider ethical. Freedom, integrity and values matter to Generation Z and this consideration reasonably extends to religious freedom and diversity.

Corporate culture can play a key role in protecting religious freedom, thereby also promoting innovative processes. The role of religion in innovation is only one of the three key aspects presented in the position paper recently published by FBK-ISR Centre, which seeks to unpack the complex relationship between religion and innovation. The other two elements concern innovation in religion  – namely how religious communities and practices understand change and innovation and how they enact processes of renewal or transformation – and the religion of innovation, a reflection on the possibility of innovation discourses to assume quasi-religious connotations.

From the triangular model on religion and innovation stem 11 recommendations for research and action:

A global future of innovative and sustainable economies cannot eschew freedom of religion or belief. Only if diversity is respected, fostered and promoted, interfaith understanding and peace are possible. Within this framework, religious freedom is good for business. Governments, civil society and, last but not least, businesses should join forces in promoting freedom of religion or belief.

Here follows a brief presentation of “Religion and Innovation. Calibrating research approaches and suggesting strategies for a fruitful interaction“, position paper of the Center for Religious Studies, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, with the contribution of its Director Marco Ventura and of the researchers Isotta Rossoni, Boris Raehme and Valeria Fabretti.

The author/s