Our Strategic Priorities

The achievement of our aspirations will be driven by the following four strategic priorities:

  • Attain leadership in signature program areas for greater impact and influence
  • Deepen expertise in five targeted core competencies across CRS
  • Strengthen engagement in the United States and overseas with sister Catholic Church organizations and individuals to promote integral human development
  • Reinforce an organizational culture of high performance and accountability

We will align our approach to resource mobilization to reinforce our ability to succeed with the four strategic priorities above.

Signature Program Areas

Emergency Response & Recovery

59 countries
363 projects

Agricultural Livelihoods

45 countries
305 projects


41 countries
176 projects

CRS takes a holistic approach to relief and development, with nine fields of expertise: agriculture, education, emergencies, health, HIV and AIDS, microfinance, peacebuilding, water and social safety nets. We strive for excellence in all that we do, ensuring the programs we support in these fields of expertise are community based, participatory, equitable and results driven.

In our new strategy, we will invest to increase our impact and influence by deepening our expertise and performing at a world-class level in the following three signature program areas, or SPAs: emergency response and recovery, agricultural livelihoods and health.

Informed by our theory of change, the SPAs reflect where CRS can most effectively contribute to integral human development. Implementation will include:

  • Strengthen staff and partner capacity
  • Build strategic partnerships and networks
  • Innovate and scale up
  • Implement high-quality monitoring & evaluation, accountability and learning
  • Advocate for just structures and policies
  • Work smarter through better systems and processes
  • Market and communicate our successes
  • Raise more resources

Each SPA comprises a broad range of sectoral interventions. The bullets in the diagram to the right represent areas of particular strategic investment within each SPA.

The expected outcome is to reach more poor and vulnerable people with evidence-based participatory, equitable, efficient and holistic interventions that leverage systemic sectoral and policy improvements for lasting, positive change.

Core Competencies

5 Core Competencies:

  • Partner Collaboration & Support

  • Justice and Peacebuilding Integration

  • Monitoring & Evaluation, Accountabilty and Learning

  • Information & Communications Technology for Development

  • Global Brand Management

A core competency is a specific capability that is central to the success of an organization and is applicable across a broad range of programs. We have identified the following core competencies for deeper cultivation and investment during this strategy period.

Partner Collaboration and Support

It is only through strong collaborative relationships across civil society and the public and private sectors that lasting, positive solutions to poverty and injustice can be achieved. CRS has worked for many years to “connect the dots” across myriad stakeholders—from local Church partners and governments to small-scale farmers and international businesses—to promote collaborative, mutually beneficial relationships. We will continue to promote this type of cross-sector engagement in our new strategy, with a particular focus on deepening our expertise in engaging more effectively with the private sector and universities to benefit the poor and vulnerable.

As a faith-based, private organization, CRS is committed to supporting local civil society actors, including Catholic Church and community-based organizations, to strengthen their capacity to contribute to lasting and meaningful social change. Local partnerships foster greater understanding of local needs and context, and allow for more appropriate, equitable and sustainable solutions. Through creation of a new Institute for Capacity Strengthening within CRS, we seek to transform how we engage with local partners by equipping staff with the necessary knowledge and skills to respond to specific organizational needs and provide exemplary technical support. The institute will document CRS and our partners’ co-created, shared, and applied learning and innovation from capacity strengthening efforts with an eye toward contributing to the broader development community’s knowledge.

Justice and Peacebuilding Integration

At the heart of the social mission of the Catholic Church is a call to work for justice and peace. Cultivating just and peaceful societies is part of our mission statement and an essential component of integral human development.

To strengthen the application of the integral human development approach, we are committed to intensifying our efforts to integrate peacebuilding and good governance into our work, particularly those approaches that address social equity and inclusion—along the lines of sex, age, ethnicity, race and religion. We will ensure that staff and partners have the skills and tools to:

  • Conduct sound conflict analysis (identification of the key parties, problems and processes) as the foundation for both peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity
  • Conduct rigorous power analysis to ensure clear understanding of relationships among women, men, girls and boys in order to design programs that promote equitable relationships
  • Ensure that our relief and development programs identify ways for the people we serve to increase equitable and inclusive access to and influence on systems and structures that affect their lives

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), Accountability and Learning

Our commitment to operational and programmatic excellence demands continuous improvement in our ability to document, analyze and apply learning at the project, sector and agency levels, and to share that learning with stakeholders, practitioners and policymakers.

CRS will invest in an agency-wide monitoring & evaluation, accountability and learning system for overseas programming to improve our ability to:

  • Provide effective feedback mechanisms for program beneficiaries
  • Systematically measure results, incorporate and document experiential learning
  • Optimize use of technology to improve the accuracy, timeliness and accessibility of monitoring & evaluation data
  • Facilitate decisions based on evidence and learning
  • Share our learning with the broader development community and policymakers

Information and Communications Technology for Development

Information and Communications Technology for Development, or ICT4D, harnesses the potential of technology to improve both operational and programmatic aspects of our work. CRS is an emerging leader in this area, having rapidly built our capabilities through field-driven project needs and ideas, coupled with thought leadership and technical support sourced internally and from a broad base of partners.

In this next strategy period, we will:

  • Play a leadership role in fostering knowledge exchange in the field of relief and development on the successful use of ICT4D
  • Expand CRS’ portfolio of field-tested ICT4D solutions by focusing on projects that increase innovation and technical excellence in our signature program areas, or SPAs
  • Build the capacity to support CRS projects and a wide variety of partner institutions in adapting these solutions—and taking them to scale, when appropriate­—for their programs

Global Brand Management

We will launch an agency-wide initiative to strengthen our ability to communicate a coherent and consistent picture of who we are, what we do, how we do it and the results we achieve to our many stakeholders, including our staff, donors, partners, technical networks and constituents in the United States and in the 91 countries in which we serve.

In communicating more effectively and engagingly about our work, we hope to:

  • Connect Catholics in the United States intellectually, emotionally and spiritually to CRS, encouraging them to become more deeply involved in our mission
  • Engender respect for the values we espouse, the quality of our work, the integrity and commitment of our staff, and the strength of our relationships
  • Position CRS among donor governments and foundations as an agency that delivers results, especially for our signature program areas

Engaging the Global Church

The Catholic Church is one of the most influential forces for positive and lasting change in the world. The depth and breadth of Catholic social ministries around the world is beyond comparison.

As the official overseas relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, we engage with other Catholic institutions both overseas and in the United States. Our Church relationships are most dynamic and enriching when there is mutual learning, joint action and joint reflection. We will continue our efforts to strengthen the capacity of the global Catholic Church to have an influential voice and play a transformative role on behalf of poor and marginalized people.

In the United States

Our work in the United States both complements and supports our work overseas. As a part of the Catholic Church, we work with dioceses, parishes, schools and organizations to offer Catholics concrete ways to live their faith and “contribute to the progress of the world,” as Pope Benedict XVI urged in his message on the World Day of Peace in 2007. To inspire more than 10 million Catholics to act in solidarity with poor and vulnerable people overseas, CRS will educate and engage Catholics in the United States through a variety of programs and events that link with our work overseas.

Essential to this work is our support to dioceses and other institutions of the Church across the country to build ongoing, sustainable structures and capacities focused on reaching Catholics in the pews. Through programs such as CRS Rice Bowl, we involve missions of Catholics in the United States in praying, learning, acting and giving to help those we serve overseas. Of particular emphasis during this strategy period are our efforts to address the unique aspects of the growing Catholic Hispanic community in the U.S. to engage in our mission and the creation of university-based core programs to educate students about global poverty issues and provide them opportunities to get involved in our work.


CRS Rice Bowl is a program that parishes, schools, religious education programs and families in the U.S. use during Lent to learn about hunger and poverty around the world.

CRS’ fundamental identity as part of the universal Catholic Church implies that national Church organizations with which we work around the world are much more than partners. They are our sister agencies in one human family. Our support for Church partners is measured not only by improvements in their organizational sustainability and the quality of their programs, but also by the nature and quality of our relationships.

In this area, we will focus on ensuring that our staff has the knowledge and skills to build and foster strong relationships with Church partners to more effectively and collaboratively strengthen our services to poor and vulnerable people, and address the root causes of poverty and injustice.

A High-Performance Culture







Our aspirations and priorities call for a high-performance organizational culture characterized by the norms, expectations and ethos of CRS. These include: CRS as one agency, operational excellence, staff engagement and development, and accountability for outcomes.

One Agency

CRS has a distinct culture with strong cohesion surrounding, and deep commitment to, our mission and values. Our agency strategy provides the opportunity to build on the strengths of our traditions while forging new approaches that will bring out the best in our culture and people to serve our mission and act as one agency. To be greater than the sum of our parts, we will deepen understanding of and create new opportunities to celebrate our mission and Catholic identity across the agency and to foster more effective collaboration and communication across divisions and between the field and headquarters.

Operational Excellence

Achieving operational excellence—in other words, continually improving our efficiency and effectiveness in a spirit of collaboration, innovation and good stewardship of resources—is an ongoing and essential part of our work. Aspects of this work include our commitment to streamlining and standardizing core business processes and ensuring optimal use of agency systems to facilitate knowledge management and sharing, collaboration across teams and geographies, high-quality analysis and reporting, aligned operational planning and well-informed decision making.

Staff Engagement and Development

To continue to be competitive and effective, our approach to people and organizational culture must lead to excellence in all aspects of our work. CRS needs individual staff members with the skills and capacities to meet the constantly evolving demands of our work. To this end, we will create an integrated and role-based workforce development program tied to performance and career management. We will maximize technology and other approaches to support blended and distance learning curricula that can reach staff across the agency. Equally important will be our commitment to more creative internal communications to facilitate our staff’s ability to understand the agency’s strategic priorities and how they can contribute to their successful implementation.


To strengthen our accountability for results to our stakeholders and each other, we will strengthen our performance management system to facilitate alignment of divisional, team, and individual goals and objectives to agency strategic priorities. To support the ability of agency leadership and staff to contribute to the results we seek, we will create a framework of indicators to capture and regularly monitor and update progress on strategy implementation.

Resource Mobilization

It is critically important that CRS continue to improve our private and public fundraising efforts to ensure the agency’s ability to fulfill our mission in an increasingly competitive environment. This includes meeting the highest standards of stewardship to optimize the resources entrusted to us. By demonstrating programmatic excellence to our institutional donors and inspiring generosity from our private donors, we will maximize resources to achieve our aspirations to reach more people than ever.