"Is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?"
Participation in social action is a prominent feature of a life dedicated to the service of the entire human race. From a Bahá’í perspective, social action can range from fairly informal efforts of short duration undertaken by individuals or small groups to programmes of social and economic development with a high level of complexity and sophistication. Irrespective of its scope and scale, all social action seeks to apply the teachings and principles of the Bahá’í Faith to improve some aspect of the social or economic life of a population. Consequently, Bahá’í development initiatives are designed to engage and benefit all the members of a community and not just Bahá’ís.
At the heart of all Bahá’í development undertakings is the recognition of a deep and inseparable connection between the practical and spiritual aspects of daily life. Creating a desire for social change and instilling confidence that it can be achieved must ultimately come from an awakening of the human spirit. While pragmatic approaches to problem solving play a key role in development initiatives, tapping the spiritual roots of human motivation provides the essential impulse that ensures genuine social advancement.
Individual and community development, Bahá’ís believe, require both the "light" of spiritual awareness and the "lamp" of material resources. Material advancement is not viewed as an end in itself, but rather as a vehicle for moral, spiritual, and social progress. Meaningful social change does not simply result from the acquisition of technical skills, but more importantly from the development of qualities and attitudes that foster cooperative and creative patterns of human interaction.
India hosts a number of Bahá’í -inspired socio economic projects such as BARLI Development Institute for Rural Women (Indore), New Era Teacher Training Centre & New Era School (Panchgani, Maharashtra), Rabbani School (Gwalior), Foundation for Advancement of Science (Lucknow), Sikkim Baha'i Schools (Sikkim) and a host of privately owned Baha'i-inspired schools in different cities and villages of India. These schools attempt to satisfy the educational needs of all children from different walks of life. Bahá'ís have also established rural and community schools in villages of India and mostly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
The schools and other socio-economic development institutions in India that are inspired by the spiritual and social principles of the Bahá’í Faith, have been recognised worldwide for their contribution towards the promotion of value-integrated universal education, the enhancement of the status of women and the initiation of community development projects.
There are examples of activities of social action of a shorter duration such as seminars on raising social consciousness, projects of tree plantation, a neighbourhood cleaning drive, medical camps, etc.
Within the framework of a growing community concerned with moral and spiritual transformation, social and economic development is one expression of the Bahá’í commitment to realizing this vision.