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Research is at the heart of the Woolf Institute's work, it informs and develops the teaching, public education, online education and media activities by which the Institute aims to foster and increase understanding between religion and society around the world. The Woolf Institute's approach is to integrate academic research with practical education that targets audiences as diverse as police and doctors, teachers and clergy, diplomats and policy makers. All its research projects are designed to include policy and/or public education outputs in addition to academic outputs.

The new building will allow the Institute to be a base for greater numbers of researchers than previously possible, so that it can build upon the body of significant work already completed and underway. The Institute is working with researchers to develop a number of research projects subject to securing funding, details of which can be seen below. Gifts may be made online by credit or debit card, by GBP cheque to Development Office, Woolf Institute, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0UB, or contact to discuss other payment methods. More information can also be seen on our donate page about increasing the value of your donation with gift aid and donor recognition.

Library & Facilities

The Woolf Institute's new building represents a milestone in its development. After nineteen years as a tenant in buildings around Cambridge, the Woolf Institute has a permanent home for its work, a central hub to which researchers, teachers, faith leaders, supporters, students and community members are welcomed. The building was designed with the Woolf Institute's working requirements entirely in mind to facilitate and accelerate its work towards achieving better relations between religion and society through education. It provides a research environment for academic research, houses the Institute's specialist library and is a venue for teaching, exhibitions, talks, lectures and cultural events and concerts. It provides facilities for ongoing research, dissemination of research findings, promotion of policy initiatives, public education courses and production and administration of online courses. In this way, its impact is international and transformational.

The Woolf Institute library is an important resource for scholars, including Institute researchers and visiting scholars, Cambridge Theological Federation staff and students, University of Cambridge and Cambridge colleges' academics, staff and students; students from other universities; and independent researchers. Now that the library has a permanent home in the Woolf Institute’s new building, a part-time, but dedicated, librarian has been appointed to serve this community of users and to expand its numbers and reach, for example by working in partnership with other appropriate libraries.

The Woolf Institute library holds over 4,700 twentieth and twenty-first century books, some of which are on permanent loan from Wesley House, the rest of which have been purchased by the Institute, or generously donated by supporters. Approximately 400 are reference works and, together with oversized books and MA/MSt dissertations, these are housed on the ground floor of our two-level library.

We need to raise £275,000 per annum to meet the costs of our building, library and associated staff, such as the Receptionist and the Librarian. Gifts to support these costs help to secure the platform from which all our research, teaching, outreach and communications take place. To make a gift in support of our place of teaching, learning, research, discovery and sharing, please make a gift online. More information can also be seen on our donate page about increasing the value of your donation with gift aid and donor recognition.

Civility as a Virtue in the Qur'an and Muslim Tradition

This project examines the ways in which the Qur'an and Muslim tradition promote civility as a virtue and in what ways the Qur'an can be engaged to foster better social cohesion between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. This three-year £610,000 project brings together three researchers in Qur'anic studies, qualitative sociology and social anthropology and will result in two research monographs or edited volumes, academic journal articles and conference/research seminar presentations, culminating in an academic conference at the Woolf Institute. These will inform public engagement events and workshops with journalists and Muslim community leaders, a variety of articles in a range of press and online media and a report and materials for community leaders.

Human Dignity within the three Abrahamic faiths

Dignity Through Difference: Human uniqueness, value and virtue in the Abrahamic faiths, and in public education in the UK is a £1,500,000 multi-disciplinary interfaith research project. With five FTE staff (including the Co-PIs), it will address questions over three years, including: What are human beings and what makes us unique?  On what basis do we have value?  Which character virtues enable us to appreciate the dignity and worth of others despite the differences between us? How do the traditions and practices of the Abrahamic faiths support the development of such virtues? 

From Intolerance to Inclusion (From I-to-I)

From Intolerance to Inclusion (From I-to-I) is a major programme developed jointly with the Policy Institute at King's (London). Warnings of social division and that levels of intolerance are rising are increasingly given in the news and on social media, as are reports that the police are receiving more reports of hate crimes; worries about growing instances of abuse on social media against people on the basis of gender, religion and nationality; and the rising popularity and traction of populist parties, but there is much that remains unknown. Important questions remain about whether intolerance is actually increasing in the UK and, if so, in which communities and why? Meanwhile, there is far less attention paid to the question of whether and where inclusion, social cohesion and diversity are thriving. This is essential: at the same time that there is interest in and concern about intolerance, focusing only on intolerance not only misses the a potentially important part of the picture, but also risks further alienating and dividing communities through the continual highlighting and exemplifying of fractures and hostilities.

From I-to-I has two main strands. First, to develop, trial and refine an annual index that will measure and map intolerance and inclusion across England and Wales. Secondly, to use the index to identify positive examples of tolerance and inclusion in order to develop, evaluate and recommend interventions to increase community cohesion in our more divided communities. The first five years of the programme will focus on England and Wales, but the aim would be to expand to include Scotland and Northern Ireland if resources become available and in the longer-term to collect data from non-UK countries in order to develop international comparators. The initial five-year programme, with 5.2 FTE research staff would cost up to £3.5 million, although work could begin once funding for three years has been secured (£2.1 million).

Living in Harmony

Living in Harmony will examine diasporic Jewish and Muslim communities from Aleppo and Baghdad through music and memory, both individual and collective, and encounter. The project consists of two distinct research strands that will shed light on musical traditions, interreligious encounter and remembrance from the perspectives of Jewish and Muslim diasporic communities. These strands will be brought together to create an outreach programme that will present the project's key themes for audiences from both Jewish and Muslim communities. This three-year project has been generously funded by the K C Shasha Charitable Foundation.

Details of the Living in Harmony project can be found here.

Responses to Religious and Political Violence within British Muslim Communities.

There remains an urgent need to address issues related to terrorism and extremism using approaches that engage more effectively with local British Muslim communities: demonstrated both by recent terrorist attacks and the widespread criticisms of Prevent. There has been a marked shift in the Home Office's response to tackling issues related to terrorism and extremism. The Home Office is developing a national network of Community Coordinators to evaluate and respond more sensitively to local needs. Ongoing discussions with the Home Office have revealed this shift, but also the dearth of policy research into 'what works' at the local level. The Responses project represents the first attempt to develop the study of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism beyond criticisms of Prevent and towards an empirical understanding of viable alternative community-centred and community-led approaches - a sizeable gap in the current scholarly knowledge. The project offers a novel application of the social psychological concept of resilience to the contexts of terrorism, extremism and British Muslim communities.  It seeks to answer three questions: 

  • What are the nature and extent of current community-centred and community-led approaches to religious and political forms of violence within British Muslim communities?
  • To what extent may such approaches be considered effective? Factors to be considered will include the extent to which UK Government and organisations reach and communicate effectively with British Muslim communities; identify needs specific to local communities; dissuade individuals and groups from violence; generate long-term resilience and foster more positive relations between the British state and British Muslim communities.
  • What are the prospects for the development and wider implementation of such approaches, whether by state agencies such as the Home Office and local authorities or by individuals and groups working to support the interests of British Muslim communities?

The Woolf Institute is seeking £60,000 over two years to support this work.

Director of Research

The Woolf Institute's research programme is led by the Director of Research, who oversees and co-ordinates research activity according to Woolf Institute principles. The Director of Research aims to have three flagship, multi-researchers projects underway at any given time, as well as a number of individual researchers based at the Woolf Institute and externally-located researchers (who may be part of the flagship projects, or may be working on smaller, individual projects).

The Director of Research's role is essential in ensuring that Woolf Institute research is focused so that the scholarly study of contemporary and historical interfaith encounters can guide present day relations and understandings between people around the world with different beliefs. This requires the Director of Research to build and deliver a research programme which uses a variety of approaches to address the issues in question and to communicate outcomes to a wide audience, with recommendations and examples of how these might be applied across society to create better understanding and tolerance between disparate groups.

The Director of Research role needs support of £60,000 per annum and could be endowed at £1,500,000.