human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Improving organisational capacities in Caritas

The very first Caritas Europa learning path to be developed and delivered for the network was the Organisational Development Learning Path. It was developed for Caritas organisations that wanted to improve their organisational capacities and strengthen their organisation’s sustainability. It was designed as an opportunity to develop the competences needed to start the process of organisational change and to help in getting prepared for CI Management Standards.

The Organisational Development Learning Path offered a series of learning activities that were spread over 18 months (May 2015 – November 2016) and involved 19 participants from 17 different Caritas organisations. Four key themes were addressed in four workshops: The Organisation (Prague); Organisational Development (Rome); Leadership (Madrid); and Planning (Berlin).

The first workshop, The Organisation, was based on the idea that Caritas people should start from determining who they are – their identities, history, and values. For Caritas, a worldwide network, the identity was shaped from different individual backgrounds and stories anchored in the history of the countries involved and the options they took.  In today’s world, as Joao Pereira, Secretary General of Caritas Portugal and participant in the OD LP cleverly states, “we no longer are a collection of single identities or single histories.” All Caritas “are services of the different expressions of the Catholic Church” and as Pope Francis said “it is the caress of the Church to its people, the caress of the Mother Church to her children, her tenderness and closeness“. (Pope Francis, May 2013).

Once you know who you are, you need to  determine what you want as an organisation: the objectives, how they can be achieved and what resources should be used. These are very critical elements regarding this subject; however, there is also a need to implement a methodology of personal, organisational and ultimately societal transformation.

The second workshop, analysed what Organisational Development is. Joao Pereira advises Caritas to “constantly adapt to change because the challenges are more volatile and that the demand for justice and the common good is never a completed task.” He insists that it is in fact “a process of discernment, prioritisation and coherence to [Caritas’] mission and vision.” This workshop was a clear reminder for Caritas to develop itself by constantly making a difference; to keep touching people’s lives.

Once participants learned who they were, as organisation, and where they wanted to go. The next step was to become more affirmative as a change agent, as a leader. The path for the third module was opened; Leadership. This workshop dealt with the diverse categories of leadership and use them accordingly. Regarding Caritas, the attitude of a “serving leader” needed to be integrated into the organisational workplace as it is more related to Caritas’ true identity and testimonials. This workshop enabled participants to use tools to help their organisations navigate through certain changes and challenges while becoming stronger and more relevant.

The last module of the OD LP was on Strategic Planning. This workshop enabled each participant to bring his/her own experience to the table; opening a path to the importance of the idea of participation. By participating in the levels of diocesan, staff, volunteers, the church hierarchy, and the beneficiaries of Cartias’ actions, individuals comprehended the notion that, starting from participation, an individual can strive to integrate the principles of the Catholic Social Teaching in everything that they decide to do. As Joao Pereira suggests “it is a precious guideline that can really act as a GPS in the decisions you need to take.”

Besides the central focuses of these four modules, the idea of unity and solidarity (sharing, acting together, learning and hence developing together) was displayed in a clear way to enable the participants to share their experiences while focusing on the strong and weak points of each of their organisations. This process was implemented to strengthen the overall quality of all services that these organisations provide as actions of charity and as actions to promote justice. Belinda Mumcu from Caritas Turkey defined this aspect of the workshops as “an exceptional experience that encouraged everyone to further develop their organisational structures“.

Doina Crangasu from Caritas Romania defined the experience as “very meaningful” and a process of learning by doing. She was “able to use the tools immediately after each of the workshops by carrying out related learning activities” in her organisation.

Read more about the insightful opinions of Joao, Doina and Belinda: