human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Lessons from the Caritas Europa

Organisational Development Learning Path

Download full document: Lessons from the Caritas Europa ODLP

Caritas Europa has recently piloted an innovative capacity building process. Seventeen participants from sixteen different national Caritas organisations followed the Organisational Development Learning Path-ODLP, with the objective “to empower Caritas organisations in Europe to manage their core processes and resources through shared learning, while keeping people they serve at the centre”.

The programme, implemented over a period of twenty months, was composed of four workshop-type training modules with time in-between the modules in order to apply the learning in the participating organisations’ on-going organisational development (OD) processes. The modules were characterised by a mix of methods, all with high levels of interaction. Participants could influence the content of the learning modules, were responsible for their own learning process and for the group dynamics.

Taking this very diverse group of participants through a journey of professional and personal development proved to be an ambitious approach. The idea has been to go beyond the common learning of facts and theories by the participating individuals.

The ODLP intended to strengthen the participating organisations through their seconded OD-practitioners. In the longer term, the whole Caritas Europa network is supposed to benefit from the increased OD-capacity available to the network.

Regarding the results accomplished at the level of the individual participants, a lot was achieved. A major learning outcome has been the substantially increased collective consciousness of what OD is –in particular in the context of the church-, what it can do and what the role of each participant in OD is. The participants themselves have shaped their understanding of their roles as “change agents” within their respective organisations. The duration, the modular approach, and working on real-life cases clearly were crucial factors for this success.

Accomplishments regarding increased capacities of the participating organisations or at the Caritas network level are there, but maybe less substantial as compared to the level reached by the participating individuals. Evidence of organisational,- or network results may need a little a longer to appear. A clearer vision for change at organisational level and a stronger commitment of the participating organisations would probably help in achieving more tangible results here.

The diverse group structure enriched the learning process and can serve as a model case or laboratory for a network-wide progress in OD. At the same time, the assessment of this first pilot programme concludes that in order to facilitate the transfer of competencies to the organisations and to achieve network-wide capacity strengthening in OD, a more strategic selection of participants could be beneficial. The selection of participants should be based on a thorough understanding of what kind of specific OD-tasks need to be strengthened within the network.

The investment in time and in commitment from all stakeholders involved was definitively worth the effort. The common vision around OD within the diverse Caritas working contexts combined with the newly acquired skills, the Caritas confederation’s ongoing OD processes their and their tools has at least the potential to serve as a foundation for a network of OD-practitioners within the Caritas network at national- and at international level.

ask an expert

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