Bahá’í activity in the field of social and economic development seeks to promote the wellbeing
of people of all walks of life, whatever their beliefs or background. It represents the efforts
of the Bahá’í community to effect constructive social change, as it learns to apply the teachings of the Faith, together with knowledge accumulated in different fields of human endeavour, to social reality. Its purpose is neither to proclaim the Cause nor to serve as a vehicle for conversion.
Social action is best thought of as a spectrum ranging from fairly informal efforts of limited duration undertaken by individuals or small groups of friends to programmes of social and economic development with a high level of complexity and sophistication implemented by Bahá’í-inspired organizations.
Every member of the human family has not only the right to benefit from a materially and spiritually prosperous civilization but also an obligation to contribute towards its construction. Spiritual principles guide development practice.
There is a tendency among many organizations in the world—including those working to
achieve praiseworthy ends—to measure success principally in terms of the amount of money
received and spent. Bahá’í development efforts are expected to set aside such criteria.
Coherence between the spiritual and the material requires the rejection of approaches to development which see it as the transfer of the patterns of life (the ideology, the social structures, the economic practices, the models of governance) prevalent in certain highly industrialized regions of the world.
Setting and achieving specific goals to improve conditions is a legitimate concern of social action; yet, far more essential is the accompanying rise in the capacity of the participants in any endeavour to contribute to progress.
The mode of operation is one of learning in action. When efforts are carried out in a learning mode—characterized by constant action, reflection, consultation, and study—visions and strategies are re-examined time and again. The Bahá’í principle of consultation needs to be fully appreciated.