On July 22-23, a two-day strategic session of the large Caritas-Spes Ukraine team took place. The National Office team and representatives of diocesan and parish centers of our Mission joined the meeting. Erik Heinonen from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Anait Mhoian, director of Caritas Georgia joined the session as guest facilitators. The two-day session united the team, summing up five months of the humanitarian crisis response and setting new goals and work priorities.
During the session, our team conducted several analyzes and reviewed the Mission and Vision of Caritas-Spes Ukraine, as well as deeply analyzed the existing anti-crisis projects in terms of continued effectiveness. The strategy session was preceded by a day of team building. In the last five months, new employees joined our Mission, therefore, live contact with colleagues was of great importance for many of them.
These days of intensive work for our team became a point of rethinking information for making new decisions. It was important for the Mission to set mutual expectations regarding further cooperation of the National Office team and representatives of diocesan centers. Many participants were impressed by the opportunity to get to know each other, exchange emotions, ideas and, most importantly, make crucial decisions regarding joint actions.
Our current Mission is as follows: "Cultivating compassionate love in action." The participants highlighted new challenges faced by the organization since the beginning of the war and reconsidered whether our actions really match these statements. For this purpose, a group work was organized, each group had to offer its own interpretation of the Mission. Our teams agreed on Caritas-Spes Ukraine to continue serving people in need with respect for their dignity through acts of mercy.
With regard for the Vision, the team reviewed the relevance of our efforts in the realities of war. The task of this part of the session was to answer the question of whether our vision is clear to people and whether all the team members understand it correctly. Can we really stop poverty when millions of people are left with nothing or forced to flee Ukraine after February 24? Can we build a civilization of love, justice and peace in the midst of cruelty and despair?
The next session block was about identifying the root of problems being solved by our Mission. Facilitators offered the "problem tree" tool, which made it possible to rethink existing projects and identify the root causes of problems the Mission's projects are aimed at tackling.
"When we face a problem, we need to be able to see all its levels: the root cause, the problem itself and the consequences," said Anait. "We can see the leaves falling, but our task today is to find out what is the cause of this fall. Constant raking the fallen leaves is one level of solving the problem. The same happens with our projects, with us repeating the same course of work. But it is also possible to get to the root of the problem and make it so that it does not repeat itself. The main thing is not to let the war set us a frame, but to think critically and outside the box."
The final activity of the session was a joint analysis of existing projects and setting mutual expectations of the National Office team and representatives of diocesan centers regarding further cooperation. For many, it was an opportunity to exchange emotions, ideas, and most importantly, to make significant decisions for the common goal of the organization. The presentation of ideas proved the professional growth of the Caritas-Space Ukraine team, the search for new organizational and communication solutions, and above all the outline of a common vector where the organization in general and each center in particular should move.
Participants were happy to share their insights and feedback about the strategic session. Among them is Sister Franciska, logistician of Caritas-Spes of Kyiv-Zhytomyr Diocese:
"I made sure that our team stopped "putting out fires" during the third month of the war. Earlier we provided humanitarian aid pointwise and promptly, but didn't have full control over the situation. Later, we began to cooperate with state structures, creating a collaboration, which is now our additional aid resource. Such meetings are necessary to recharge, add strength and understand that we are actually doing everything we can. It was a useful session, especially the brainstorming part, where you hear different opinions and understand what you can change. Everyone is on the same page here."
Oksana Ukraiinska, an employee of Caritas-Spes Odesa, found the SWOT analysis to be a useful tool while working with a team.
"Determining strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities became an important practice for me, as I had never done this before. This concerns not only the work of the organization or a separate project, but people, first of all. I am interested in analyzing many working points in my team with the help of this matrix," Oksana shared. "I met new people at this meeting, and when I heard how many Caritas workers and volunteers there are in Europe, I felt like a part of a really big team."
Father Mykola Biskup, vice director of Caritas-Spes of Lviv Archdiocese, previously had experience working in the public sector and strategic planning. For the priest, it was important to define the problems to be addressed by the Mission projects in the near future.
"Reviewing our Mission and Vision, of course, is of great importance. We need to know if we live up to our stated words. However, the most interesting for me were the new problem definition tools. During this assignment, I saw a real team interested in the development of the organization. I liked the feeling of the process."
Erik Heinonen is a CRS employee who met our team a week ago and was a co-facilitator at the session. He took an observer's position and gave his feedback on the work of the Mission:
"There is a lot of positive energy. This is very important when dealing with an emergency. Especially when war can bring a lot of stress. My advice to the team would be to take a step back more often in order to prioritize ahead. During these couple of days, we reflected a lot. These thoughts should turn into a concrete plan or course of action."
Anait Mkhoian, director of Caritas Georgia and invited facilitator, noted that the Mission’s team is very involved and motivated. We managed to overcome a dangerous moment for the work of the organization - the beginning of a full-scale enemy invasion in Ukraine, and we were able to continue serving our fellow citizens.
"Everyone here works with all their heart and is very open to learning. I am very proud of Caritas-Spes Ukraine, as not only did you survive, but were able to grow in institutional development under the war conditions. Staying here for a couple of days is vitally important for everyone who joined us. As I said during the strategic session, when you are constantly on fire, you have to get out of it at some point and figure out where it is coming from. When we are constantly in a crisis situation, it can have a bad effect on the organization. During these two days, we have been in the rear because, in fact, all the people we help are in the rear. And now we are leaving to implement the outlined goals."