human development, social justice and sustainable social systems


Exchanging knowledge, experience & expertise


One of Caritas Europa’s strategic goals is to encourage Caritas organisations to learn and exchange knowledge, experience and expertise in order to be more effective and sustainable.

A key tenet of this approach is the Caritas Europa learning path, which allows participants to improve their skills and expertise via a number of workshops over a 20-month period rather than through a series of ad hoc, one-off trainings.

Why do we need this?

The Caritas Europa learning path offers the following advantages:

  • The added value of learning with and from each other at a European level, thereby creating a community of practice around the learning path theme;
  • A learning trajectory of around 20 months that includes a number of workshops and, in between the workshops, enough time for the participants to put their learnings to the test in their own organisations, while still in touch with both facilitators and co-participants for advice and encouragement;
  • Knowledge and competences are transferred from the participating individuals to the Caritas organisations, ultimately resulting in a stronger Caritas Europa network;
  • Facilitation rather than training: there is a wealth of expertise, experience, practice, knowledge and skills available among the participants that is shared;
  • It is practical. Little theory is taught and reference is made to existing Caritas Europa tools and processes;
  • It explores Caritas Europa’ identity based on its values and Catholic Social Teaching in relation to the main themes of the learning paths.

How does it work?

A number of learning paths have been developed and implemented along the above lines:

1. The Organisational Development Learning Path (ODLP)

Based on the above, the first learning path to be developed and implemented was the Organisational Development Learning Path (ODLP).

Its objective was to empower Caritas organisations in Europe to manage their core processes and resources through shared learning, while keeping the people they serve at the centre.

The learning path was designed around four carefully identified themes:

  1. The organisation;
  2. Organisational development;
  3. Leadership; and
  4. Strategic planning.

From May 2014 to November 2016, an external consultant together with a Caritas Europa Secretariat staff member accompanied a group of 17 colleagues from 16 Caritas organisations throughout the ODLP. These included participants from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine.

• See what participants say about the ODLP!

A second edition of the ODLP, planned along the same lines as the first one, started in November 2017 and will continue until November 2019. Participants in it come from Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine and the Caritas Europa Secretariat. They will learn with and from each other about the way Caritas Europa is organised, organisational development, institutional advocacy and other topics that will emerge as priorities for this group and their organisations.

The same facilitation team is accompanying this second group of ODLP participants.

2. Catholic Social Teaching Learning Path (CST LP): “Caritas in Action”

The second learning path that was developed and implemented was the Catholic Social Teaching Learning Path (CST LP).

Two colleagues from Caritas England and Wales (CAFOD) facilitated the learning paths’ four modules that were implemented during three workshops and in the months in between. The modules were designed to help participants to:

  1. Listen: understand the basics of CST;
  2. See: develop their self-awareness (what is going on in my organisation?);
  3. Judge: develop consciousness; and
  4. Act.

13 Caritas employees from 11 different Caritas organisations took this journey together from April 2016 to April 2017. They came from Armenia, Bulgaria, England and Wales, Greece, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Slovenia and the Caritas Europa Secretariat.

• Listen to the testimonies of some of the participants

3. The Advocacy Learning Path (ALP)

From spring 2016 to November 2017, 15 participants from as many Caritas organisations undertook their Advocacy Learning Path (ALP) together, exploring ways of improving their advocacy work.

The aim was to bring about changes in institutional policies and practices, political processes and systems, as well as in attitudes and the behaviour of stakeholders throughout Europe.

People in need are the starting point for Caritas Europa’s advocacy. We listen to them and then work to systematically mainstream their wants and concerns in policies at the European and national level.

Framed around Catholic Social Teaching and the European, national and regional legislative agendas, the learning path allowed the group to get to grips with the tools, timing and techniques specific to campaigning and lobbying.

Two advocacy experts facilitated this learning path, which was based on four modules:

  1. Seeing, listening and interacting with people and communities experiencing poverty;
  2. Judging and analysing what we see, hear and experience with people and communities experiencing poverty;
  3. Acting on the analyses of what we have seen, heard and experienced with people and communities experiencing poverty; and
  4. Caritas acting to change the trends.

The participants were from Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, England and Wales, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine and the Caritas Europa and Caritas Internationalis Secretariats.

Looking to the future

  • A Humanitarian Learning Path (HLP) is being developed for take-off in April 2018;
  • A Grassroots Participation Learning Path (GPLP) should be ready for enrolment by April 2019.

More learning paths will follow based on needs in the Caritas Europa network.

Caritas Europa Academy

Learning paths are in general made up of four modules that are delivered through four workshops and continuous work within the participants’ organisations.

The twice-yearly workshops all take place at the same time and in the same place, in the context of the Caritas Europa Academy – once in April (Spring Academy) and once in November (Autumn Academy).

ask an expert

Miriam Pikaar
Institutional Development Officer
Tel: +32 (0)2 235 03 99
Mob: +32 (0)478 58 54 36