Participatory Growth and Development: A Guided Capacity Building Process with a Caritas Consortium

View of Amman from hillside

View of Amman, Jordan

One of our goals as an intersectional feminist consultancy is to equip our clients with the capacity to grow and learn as organizations, partners, and implementers in the development sector. 

A hillside view of Amman, Jordan

In working with Caritas Austria over the course of March-August 2022, our team sought to build not only the skills of the team in Austria, but also of their partner organizations in Caritas Lebanon, Caritas Jordan, and Caritas Syria, highlighting the importance of and need for collaborative learning environments and semi-horizontal organizational structures that enable participatory approaches. 

Hands-on Learning

The Caritas Austria team clearly understood from the start the importance of capacity building and internal development. They requested a learning exercise in the form of a hands-on needs assessment training, guided by Catalystas but conducted by Caritas teams, in order to ensure they would have the skills to implement future needs assessments on their own. Rather than keeping the exercise in-house, they involved their main implementing partners for their education sector work in the Middle East: Caritas Lebanon, Caritas Jordan, and Caritas Syria. 

After a series of meetings to gain a thorough understanding of the needs of each partner, the types of capacity development desired, and the preferred applied learning methods, Catalystas guided the Caritas teams through the design of a multi-country needs assessment, from the selection of locations and sample sizes, to the development of questionnaires, the design of survey collection procedures, and the training and deployment of enumerators in the field. Our sessions were held virtually, using interactive meeting tools like Miro Whiteboard to facilitate participation and encourage interactive learning exercises. We held full consortium as well as country-specific sessions to provide trainings that best suited each partner’s needs, designed to ensure all partners were equipped with the same skills and tools, and to provide extra support for context-specific challenges or gaps.

Contextualized Approaches

With wildly different starting points in each country, from the size and capacity of each Caritas partner, to the country contexts and accessibility of identified populations, our team worked with each country office to tailor the needs assessment process to the specific situation and requirements in each location. First, as a consortium, Caritas made clear their ultimate goals in conducting the needs assessment, narrowing the focus to the types of information they needed to collect from survey participants. Then, Catalystas guided each partner through the process of location and sample size selection, as time and financial constraints made national-scale assessments impossible. Prior to Caritas embarking on the development process, we provided a half-day training on quantitative survey design techniques and ethical qualitative data collection to the full consortium to ensure that their country office enumeration teams would be fully equipped to conduct data collection during implementation. Alongside this process, we worked with each team to develop survey questionnaires that captured the detailed information needed for the assessment, while remaining sensitive to cultural considerations and contexts, and delicate issue areas for each population. 

As the questionnaires were developed, the Caritas teams encountered unexpected challenges, which Catalystas helped them to navigate. In some cases, where it was discovered that door to door surveying was not allowed due to government restrictions, surveys were adapted to phone interviews. In other cases, where certain communities proved inaccessible, communities with some tie to Caritas were approached to ensure no government or privacy restrictions were being breached, with the appropriate adjustments in reporting to include clear explanations of methodological choices and logic around changes in sampling, and the accompanying potential biases in results that could occur. 

Ongoing Support

Throughout the process, Catalystas remained a touchstone for the Caritas teams, enabling them to attempt to implement each component of the process themselves before returning to us for assistance or review. While we remained available for questions and support for the duration of the design, development, and implementation of the needs assessment, and provided feedback and support in analyzing the collected data and drafting country reports on the findings, the Caritas teams conducted each step themselves, building their skills and their confidence to ensure that they will be able to conduct future research and assessments on their own. 

Catalystas is proud to have supported Caritas in advancing the skills of multiple teams, and to have provided a participatory platform for open discussion, learning, and growth. In designing our trainings and guiding processes, we aimed to maintain an equitable power dynamic where each team felt confident in sharing both their strengths and weaknesses, in order to grow as a consortium and gain new tools with regard to skilling up their own teams, but also in knowledge sharing and information management across consortium partners. We look forward to seeing Caritas continue to put these new skills into practice, and reading the many insightful reports they are sure to produce! 

If your organization is interested in skilling up in research design, data collection, analysis, and reporting, reach out to inquire about our hands-on training and guidance packages. 

A street in Beirut

A street in Beirut, Lebanon

Scope of Work

Catalystas provided the following services for Caritas

Aviva Stein

Co-Founder & Partner
The Hague, Netherlands

Aviva is a development and political stability specialist with over eight years of experience working in and on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Sub-Saharan Africa, and South & Southeast Asia. She focuses on the intersection of peacebuilding, empowerment, and gender equity, with an emphasis on interweaving growth and sustainability throughout social, political, and economic development. Aviva has experience in program development, implementation, situational analysis, and strategic planning in various contexts, including highly volatile areas.

Holding a Master’s in Conflict Studies and Human Rights from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, she has worked with organizations large and small, including Search for Common Ground, SPARK, the Netherlands Entrepreneurship Development Agency (RVO), the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO), and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

A lover of the written word, Aviva is an expert in writing and communications and embraces the challenge of creating content for a variety of audiences – from grant proposals to awareness raising campaigns.