2023 Annual Report

Community Feature

Fetzer Institute

Community Feature - Fetzer Institute

Our Shared Story: Uniting in Love for Our Common Humanity

The Fetzer Institute’s mission is centered on helping build the spiritual foundation for a loving world. Grounded in data and led by the Institute’s values of love, trust, authenticity and belonging, their work explores how we could all be more united in our common humanity to shape a brighter future for all.

In this pursuit, the Institute is deeply engaged in efforts to bridge divides that fragment our societies and impede our collective flourishing.

To foster understanding and collaboration across diverse groups, much of Fetzer’s work takes into consideration people’s faith and spiritual identities. A 2023 report by the Fetzer Institute highlighted that spirituality and faith share commonalities among most people, with 83% of Americans identifying as spiritual and/or religious. Meanwhile, globally, 73% identify as spiritual, religious or a person of faith.

“Rooted in the idea that the world’s many faith traditions have messages of love and unity at their core, we are working with scholar-practitioners on a shared sacred story project that uplifts our common humanity and the imperative to work together in love,” Bob Boisture, president and CEO of the Fetzer Institute said. “The question at the root of this project—even for those engaged in it—is how can I retain my faith/belief system and appreciate how you approach yours?”

Fetzer commissioned teams of scholar-practitioners within Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Indigenous Spiritualities, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and newly emergent Inter-Spiritual Traditions. Each team, whose members are committed to living their respective tradition’s sacred story, will retell its origin story and translate its symbols in ways that speak to today’s time.

Fetzer shares that to solve our most pressing problems, we must go beyond the individual stories we use to define ourselves and instead share a larger, more global story demonstrating how we are connected across differences.

In 2024, Fetzer will publish and disseminate the shared sacred story internationally, honoring the diversity of religious and spiritual traditions.

“Our research and experience show that a vast number of people are less ideologically extreme and are eager for solutions that transcend division. As the data show, a majority of Americans identify in some way as spiritual or religious. This is the work of going deeper within ourselves to find the love, hope, and courage essential both to our own flourishing and our ability to contribute to the flourishing of others; it is the work of building a more loving world for all,” Boisture said.

"The work of going deeper within ourselves to find love, hope, and courage is the work of building a more loving world for all.”

Bob Boisture

President and CEO, Fetzer Institute

Boisture is transparent about the challenges we face as a society amid polarization and deep divisions.

“One of the most significant challenges is overcoming the entrenched systems and interests that benefit from division, such as media outlets and political factions that amplify fear for profit and power,” Boisture said.

The Institute is working with groups like the Faith & Media Initiative to open up this conversation. Their recent Global Faith & Entertainment Study illustrates the media’s role in perpetuating religious stereotypes and articulates what media experts say they need to ensure accurate, balanced representation of all faiths in news and entertainment. Additionally, there’s the challenge of engaging individuals and communities in a way that respects and honors their unique identities and experiences while fostering a sense of shared humanity and purpose.

The Fetzer Institute is hopeful about opportunities for all in philanthropy to advance efforts in honor of our common humanity. They believe that beyond financial support, philanthropic organizations can champion approaches to learning together in ways that promote social cohesion and shared flourishing. At Fetzer they are working to do this across all areas of their work, both staff and the board, as a learning community. They are committed to not only funding projects but also engaging in strategic partnerships and initiatives that amplify the impact of their collective efforts.

For example, Fetzer is engaged with a cohort of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders to learn together in a Racial Justice Praxis Project. The Fetzer team is learning about being in relationship, what it means to show up and having hard conversations differently. The team expects that the project will lead to actionable learnings to help them expand their networks and partner with BIPOC-led and focused organizations, support them and deepen commitments to racial justice.

Fetzer is currently in the early stages of implementing a new strategic plan aiming to catalyze a movement of organizations and funders applying spiritual solutions to social problems, which will enhance the team’s capacity to address the root causes of societal issues through a lens of sacred compassion and understanding.