”la Caixa” Foundation's International Cooperation programme has been joining forces with major organisations and foundations for more than 25 years to share knowledge and resources in order to be able to generate more impact and sustainability, transforming the lives of thousands of people.


25 lessons learned and challenges related to international cooperation

Throughout these years, and thanks to the collaboration of more than 800 social organisations and philanthropic institutions, we've been able to compile some very valuable lessons we've learned into 5 major areas, which we'd like to share with you today:

Lesson learned no. 1
Joining forces creates more impact

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Together with more than 800 organisations, foundations and international agents, for 25 years we've been sharing dreams, challenges and the same hopes: to defend the rights of thousands of people. Working together, we've created opportunities and have fought against inequality for the most vulnerable people in various countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And we've proven that we can go much further if we walk together.

Lesson learned no. 2
Building bridges, creating networks and relying on everyone enriches us

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Synergy between different views, cultures and ideas is key to designing more humane and creative solutions that are capable of responding to any challenge. Having diverse teams that share the same values and a common agenda has proven to be a factor of enrichment and innovation that defines the very essence of international cooperation.

Lesson learned no. 3
Together we can create longer-lasting solutions

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If our aim is to provide sustainable solutions over time, we need allies who share our vision and complement us so that each party's strengths amplify the overall result and guarantee a strategy for the future. That's why, in 2008, we became the first private partner of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in Europe and set up the Child Vaccine Alliance, an initiative that aims to reduce deaths among children under five and, in the long term, increase life expectancy and improve the future of communities.

Lesson learned no. 4
Adding can also help to multiply

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The private sector is one of the key players in international cooperation. It can provide resources to tackle the major challenges of our world and seek answers from innovative points of view. Through the Matching Fund, our foundation, together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, raises four times more money to vaccinate children. And we do so because we want to accelerate social action and make society's contributions to the most urgent causes go that much further.

Lesson learned no. 5
The world has a common agenda and it must be accomplished

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Faced with such complex challenges, a common strategy needs to be established with clear and measurable goals. In a world that's home to almost 8 billion people, everyone must be involved in order to bring about change. If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, it's essential to pool the knowledge and support of all types of civil organisations in society and promote new initiatives to reduce inequalities. This is undoubtedly a decision that affects and benefits everyone.

Lesson learned no. 6
Research and innovation are key to global development

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To tackle the challenges of a globalised world, we experiment with pioneering types of intervention, involving both technological and methodological factors, and our achievements inspire other organisations to invest in social innovation. We contribute to the development and empowerment of the most vulnerable people by learning together and, very often, the most significant innovations end up coming from the communities themselves.

Lesson learned no. 7
Listening is the first step towards innovating

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In our cooperation initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America, we've learned that listening is essential in order to bring about real transformation. To fully address the complexity of the social problems faced by the most disadvantaged communities, it's the members of the group themselves who must identify their needs and challenges. By giving them a voice, the Work4Progress programme empowers women and young adults at risk of marginalisation and encourages the creation of long-term businesses.

Lesson learned no. 8
People must lie at the heart of solutions

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Once the community itself has identified its needs, the highest priority issues need to be determined and, together, work needs to begin on coming up with solutions. In our job creation, education and health programmes, we believe that, in order to develop the best possible approach to any problem, all stakeholders -especially the end users- must be actively involved. We design opportunities with them instead of just for them.

Lesson learned no. 9
It's vital to promote new ways of attracting capital

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Philanthropy is more essential than ever in the 21st century but, in order to create stable public-private partnerships, innovative financing mechanisms must be promoted. Thanks to these new forms of financing and the first humanitarian impact bond, in five years three rehabilitation centres have been built in Africa that will serve thousands of people with disabilities and help us create a fairer and safer world. This initiative must be an example for the future of development cooperation.

Lesson learned no. 10
Innovation speeds up humanitarian action

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Technological innovation has amply demonstrated its potential, both in streamlining processes at key moments (e.g. when supplementary feeding is required in situations of child malnutrition) as well as in the diagnosis of diseases. A good example of this is the MOM programme, which improves the nutritional condition of refugee children in Ethiopia through an innovative strategy focused on prevention and the use of new technologies, such as electronic vouchers, electronic registration in nutritional programmes and the optimisation of the technique to diagnose anaemia.

Lesson learned no. 11
Some stories go around the world

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There are stories that change everything. Unforgettable stories that awaken something inside us, capable of moving us and turning an instant into an indelible memory. Stories of volunteers who help to achieve the change we all want to see. Left untold, no-one knows about these stories. It's vital to share them and give them life. Through media such as journalism and art, we can boost one of the most relentless, transformational and humane values: solidarity.

Lesson learned no. 12
A donation can change lives

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A donation is much more than a financial transaction. It has an emotional value on the part of the person donating and, of course, it affects the person receiving it - and a lot. Donating means becoming a part of something: of a solution, of a hope. Today we have the tools to decide which project to help and how we want to do it. And participation is fundamental: both of large corporations and also individuals who decide to contribute to improving the quality of life of those who need it most.

Lesson learned no. 13
By volunteering you get back more than you give

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Being generous is not a personality trait. It's a way of life. You don't do volunteering; you live it. You change your life as you change the lives of others. And knowledge and gratitude are the best things you get in return. The CooperantesCaixa corporate volunteers agree that it's a life-changing experience in which you get back more than you give. They're also important witnesses of the essential role played by the initiatives we implement in each region to empower communities and eradicate poverty.

Lesson learned no. 14
Companies with a soul are a benchmark for society

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Job creation, education, global health, research, humanitarian aid... None of this would be possible without socially-aware companies that contribute actively and collaboratively with others, maximising their responsibility towards the planet and the people who inhabit it. Over the years, we've learned that this social and humanitarian involvement also enhances the competitiveness of companies and makes them, in turn, a source of inspiration for society.

Lesson learned no. 15
More philanthropy is necessary for the common good

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In the 21st century, the role of foundations is increasingly important in order to respond in real time to the challenges we face. Throughout the last 25 years, we've joined forces with renowned European and international foundations and formed part of leading philanthropic networks to help promote a diverse and inclusive ecosystem of foundations, philanthropic organisations and networks working for the common good.

Lesson learned no. 16
Transparency ensures trust in international cooperation

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If we talk about learning, then we must inevitably talk about transparency. Only by being transparent, by sharing what we do and how we do it will we be able to make objective decisions and identify new ways to progress. The value of transparency has always been essential to our work, since transparency generates trust and only through mutual trust it is possible to create progress.

Lesson learned no. 17
Measuring and evaluating guarantee a thorough approach

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Evaluating helps us to improve. Only by rigorously measuring and analysing results can we make decisions that ensure a positive impact on people and our planet. In the past 25 years, we've learned the importance of working with good measurement procedures to set realistic and achievable targets. This is the only way to get what we want: to continue carrying out our work and achieving our aims.

Lesson learned no. 18
The calls ensure that projects are chosen fairly

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The aim of the international cooperation calls has always been to reduce poverty and combat inequality in low and middle-income countries. With public calls for applications from projects, not only do we ensure that all organisations have an equal opportunity to apply for funding but also that the award procedure is equitable and fair by complying with protocols designed by neutral organisations that guarantee the ultimate quality of each application.

Lesson learned no. 19
Learning from others is the most efficient way to move forward

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Much of what we've learned in the past 25 years has been thanks to us exchanging both knowledge and resources with our partners and collaborators in the countries where we operate. The good practices of some have inspired the evolution of projects of others in the form of training sessions, workshops, seminars and conferences. This transfer of knowledge is essential in order to build collective learning platforms that will help us improve everyone's future.

Lesson learned no. 20
Strengthening organisations is key to their future

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If we want communities to be more independent, citizens must get involved. Empowering organisations, local agents and individuals so they can take charge of their own future is key to guaranteeing the sustainability of the solutions implemented. Investing in training tomorrow's professionals will not only cover their particular needs but also reap rewards in the local economy, both exponentially and successively. Providing training and improving skills and talents are the only way to create solid communities with the capacity for real and long-term change.

Challenge no. 1
To create sustainable employment, especially for women and young adults

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Full, productive and sustainable employment is one of the main development tools to improve living conditions.

Challenge no. 2
To train and empower people in vulnerable situations

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Everyone should be able to access good quality education so they can take charge of their own development.

Challenge no. 3
To always keep sustainability and efficiency in mind

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Cooperation and development projects must adopt measures to minimise the climate footprint and create clean, resilient economies.

Challenge no. 4
To support victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts

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Preventing future humanitarian emergencies and redoubling efforts in current emergencies is essential to ensure no-one gets left behind.

Challenge no. 5
To invest more resources in the global health system

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In today's world, health is global. For sustainable development, ensuring a healthy life for everyone, with particular emphasis on women and children, is a priority.

25 aprendizajes y retos para seguir transformando vidas
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All the lessons learned, in eBook format

We've compiled these 25 lessons and challenges related to international cooperation in an exclusive eBook. Content co-created by partners, collaborators and the personal experiences of those who've accompanied us over the years.

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Want to join the change?

You can collaborate with our project for child vaccination with GAVI or with our MOM project to combat malnutrition in refugee camps with UNHCR.