• FBOs;
  • social justice;
  • urban governance and politics;
  • Rotterdam;
  • the Netherlands


What is the changing and differentiated role played by faith-based organisations (FBOs), in fighting social distress and aiming for social justice in cities in the Netherlands? Based on a series of semi-structured interviews over a period of time and a desk study of FBOs, this paper draws on relations between urban governance and citizenship practices to tease out the implications for FBOs in politics of social justice. We argue that neoliberalisation: (1), opens spaces for the ‘reaching out’ and ‘de-privatising’ of FBOs into the urban public realm in new and sometimes contrasting ways; and (2), creates incentives for FBOs to professionalise and maximise efficiency, heralding a new entrepreneurial approach in the urban politics of social justice. Referring to the Oudewijken Pastoraat and the House of Hope in Rotterdam, we reveal striking differences in philosophy and methodology of faith responses to social distress. Changing governance of urban neighbourhoods rooted in professionalisation captures part of the explanation. We draw attention to the incremental and contested revalorising of faith actors as the informal, but increasingly professionalising, seat or underside of traditional social democratic welfare provision in the Netherlands. The paper concludes with a reflection on questions for new geographical inquiry on FBOs and cities.