Our Principles and Approaches

Helvetas strives for a fairer world in which every person can fulfill her or his basic needs. We support women and men in taking charge of improving their livelihoods in a sustainable manner and in working together as partners. The impact of our work is the product of a of a three-pronged approach: project work, thematic and methodological advice as well as policy dialogue at local, regional and international level. In Switzerland, awareness raising efforts and our fairtrade shop complete our commitment.

Our principles

  • We work in partnership on the basis of shared values, and strengthen our partners in their autonomy.
  • We shape our programs in an innovative and sustainable manner.
  • We actively engage in development policy dialogue seeking to influence international regulatory frameworks towards being more just and responsive to the demands of developing countries.
  • We work with civil society organizations, private sector and government actors and promote exchange among them at local, national and international levels.
  • We take into account the local context. In fragile situations, we engage in conflict prevention and management.
  • We foster intercultural dialogue, the exchange of experiences and knowledge and thus learn for our future work.
  • We uphold good governance and democratic accountability, including the fight against corruption.
  • We work in an outcome-oriented and efficient manner. As a learning organization, we systematically monitor the results and impacts of our programs and projects.
  • We are committed to transparency and accountability towards our partners and stakeholders. We foster open internal and external communication.
  • We support the professional and personal development of our personnel.

Our Impact

As a learning organization we assess the impact of our interventions to improve our work and to ensure accountability vis-a-vis our donors and partners.

Guiding principles of our project work

Development cooperation is challenging. It takes place in a difficult environment and requires staff to have a wide variety of skills. Technical knowledge alone is insufficient for successful and sustainable development. Social skills and the openness to engage with different cultural values are just as crucial.

Respect for the people we work with and striving to learn and grow from the dialogue with our local partners build the bedrock of Helvetas’ development work. Sharing knowledge and experiences across different cultures and geographical borders has been part of our mission. Online sharing platforms have made discussions fast and globally available. Helvetas believes that international development depends on a dialogue between cultures and on spaces that allow men and women to express their needs and abilities freely.

Helvetas is convinced that development can only be effective if the conditions of long-term engagement are met. We have gained a wealth of experience from more than six decades of working in the Global South. The following principles guide our work:

Proximity to the grassroots

The needs and interests of the grassroots local population are central to Helvetas’ work. Local actors must be in the driver’s seat when determining the kind of support most urgently needed. The participation of all – men and women – in planning and implementing projects is our core approach. When involving local populations we show pathways to improving their living conditions.

Helvetas interventions carefully map and build on the development efforts of other governmental and non-governmental organizations to ensure lasting, sustainable and widespread impact.

Partnership based on mutual trust

Successful development collaboration requires strong local partners, who can build a bridge between foreign aid and domestic needs. Working with local partners is imperative for Helvetas such as non-governmental organizations, government bodies or actors from the private sector. Collaboration is based on mutual respect and respect for each other's autonomy.

Helvetas values an open exchange of information and clear agreements on joint goals, allocation of responsibilities as well as contribution of ressources. We avoid dependence and empower partners to run projects on their own. Helvetas systematically supports the training and capacity building of partner organizations and their staff.

Self-determined development

Through development cooperation, we support women and men in taking charge of improving their livelihoods in a sustainable manner. We avoid any actions that degrade people to the status of simple “beneficiaries.” We attempt, whenever possible, to link up with ongoing processes and to support existing organizations – or else to influence the general conditions so that autonomous movements and organizations can emerge and become active. We strengthen the independence of our partners – whether they be local people, local partner organizations or the authorities.

The goal of a development project must be to allow people, organizations and political units to live, operate and determine their actions without outside help. Change requires time and effort. Helvetas advocates for a long-term commitment to projects and country programs.

© Helvetas / Christian Bobst
© Helvetas / Christian Bobst
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© Helvetas / Joerg Boethling
© Helvetas / Joerg Boethling
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© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
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© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
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© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
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Further information

Selected projects

Other topics that might interest you

Our Impact

As a learning organization we assess the impact of our interventions to improve our work and to ensure accountability vis-a-vis our donors and partners.

Partnership and Capacity Development

Sustainable change must be owned by national actors. Working in partnerships is a fundamental principle of Helvetas’ work.