Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has launched a new internal web platform called ‘Caritas Baobab’ where Caritas members worldwide can connect and work together.
Linking together staff in more than 160 countries, Caritas Baobab will streamline Caritas’ communication system and its ability to respond quickly to natural disasters and other emergencies, coordinate advocacy, provide training and share resources.
“Caritas Baobab will provide state-of-the-art technology to help us serve the poor,” says Cardinal Rodriguez. “The more efficiently we can respond to emergencies, the more suffering we can prevent. The more people we can mobilize around one issue, the more chance we have of bringing about real change. In the modern world, fast, accurate information is key to our work. Caritas Baobab is about creating a platform so the right people talk to each other, come up with ideas and work together on delivering them.”
The Caritas Baobab system, or ‘Baobab’ for short, was developed with Caritas Germany. It has been piloted so far on emergency response, transparency and accountability capacity building, media and external communications, trafficking and regional coordination. Now Baobab will be open to all Caritas staff members, under the coordination of their regional or national Caritas office.
Internal Communications Manager Andreas Brender said, “For thousands of years, communities have come together under a tree to share problems and agree solutions. It’s still probably the best way to communicate. But we can’t do that with a global confederation, so we have created a virtual ‘Caritas Baobab’ tree instead. Baobab is simple to use and easy to access wherever you are. It functions by building working groups on specific issues and linking participants virtually via the web. We have piloted it successfully and now comes the real challenge of getting Caritas staff of all shapes and sizes to use it in their work.”
Effective communications in an emergency are vital to the work of Caritas. Staff dealing with crises on the ground like floods or earthquakes need to be able to relay information around the world, so resources can be mobilized quickly and sent to the places that need them most. During the pilot phase, Caritas aid workers used the website as they responded to the Syrian refugee crisis, food shortages in West Africa and severe storms in Latin America and Asia.
Advocating for a more equal, dignified world has become ever more global. Campaigners need to be able to speak across national and regional boundaries, to connect the voice from the village to the decision makers at the international level. Baobab allows policy documents to be stored and worked on collectively, campaign actions to be planned and big issues to be discussed.
Caritas member organisations carry out a wealth of development work, from health, to education, to services for the elderly, disabled and homeless, to clean water and homes. With growing pressure on resources, our staff need to be able to share best practices and identify gaps. Baobab gives space for peers to advise on each other’s work. Peer-to-peer trainers on financial accountability are already using the platform.
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