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Introducing our two new Catalyst Producers.

After an intense and hugely rewarding recruitment process, we’re excited to announce the two people who will be joining Catalyst as Producers from December.

This blog is co-written by all three Catalyst Producers. The first section is from Ellie, who’s been part of the Catalyst journey since the beginning, and who led the recruitment together with Collaborative Future and a panel of network partners. The second half is from our new recruits in their own words.

Wait a minute, what’s a Producer?

Job titles are always a tricky thing to get right. They can carry a lot of baggage, especially given some outdated associations with the dominance paradigm we want to supplant. On the flip side, they can also conjure so much possibility, and summon whole new fields of reference into relevance. They can be powerful signals of intent and commitment.

A few months back, I came across this description of ‘Producer competencies’ on the International Futures Forum website. It cites Roanne Dods’ and Kate Tyndall’s work and thinking on the key role of the producer - an individual who typically supports the realisation of ambitious collective endeavours in the arts, and whose qualities can equally be applied to the context of social innovation:

“As producer, they hold the full picture, and are responsible for the successful intersection of all the forces at work in order to realise the idea in the most brilliant way possible.” - Kate Tyndall

“Ah!” I thought, “That sounds like what I’m trying to do.” (I’ve since reflected that perhaps this isn’t quite right for describing the subtle shaping and serving of an emergent distributed ecosystem like Catalyst - but it’s good enough for now).

I also resonated with the producer competencies described by Helen Marriage:

1. Don’t start from “this is impossible”

2. There are no rules (even where there are rules)

3. Get the fears articulated

4. Make friends

5. Take responsibility and seek contribution

6. Don’t ask for permission – it cannot be given

7. Push the ambition.

Helen writes that the culture inspired and embodied by a successful producer is respectful, trusting, responsible, meticulous, expects surprises, demands quality, promotes freedom and feeds hope.

This feels pretty spot on. I promptly changed my email signature. 

When it came to recruiting a dedicated team to co-lead Catalyst through its next phase, Producer felt a fitting title for us all. I also hoped it might attract candidates from fields where this is already a familiar term, like arts and culture and the creative industries, who could bring valuable new perspectives and skill sets into the team. I’m glad to say this worked!

Welcoming Siana Bangura

Hey there! I’m Siana, and I am a writer, producer, performer, podcast host and community organiser, hailing from South East London and now living, working and creating between London and the West Midlands.

To give you a bit of background, I founded and was editor of Black British Feminist platform, No Fly on the WALL, which I ran for five years; I’m the author of poetry collection, ‘Elephant’; the producer of ‘1500 & Counting’, a documentary film investigating deaths in custody and police brutality in the UK; and the founder of Courageous Films. 

I primarily work and campaign on issues of race, class, and gender and their intersections and I’m currently working on projects focusing on climate change, the arms trade, and state violence. Across my vast portfolio of work, my mission is to help move marginalised voices from the margins, to the centre.

I'm super excited to start this next chapter and join the small but nimble Catalyst Team! Particularly in this moment of such great change and transition, Catalyst's mission to capacity build, connect, and catalyse through the power of digital is critical now more than ever off the back of a global pandemic, ongoing unrest, and a necessary awakening within our communities - locally and globally. 

Charities, NGOs, and the wider sector must absolutely be able to step up and meet the needs of the communities they serve and do so with justice at the heart of their mission and intersectionality as central to their approach, acting as comrades and not saviours. 

I'm looking forward to bringing creative flair, soul, and a wealth of community organising experience to this role as well as insight from being a Producer in other walks of life. I can't wait to work alongside my fellow Producers, Ellie and Jo to support the Catalyst community over the coming years.

You can read more on my website and connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn

Welcoming Jo Morfee

Greetings, friends! I’m a social entrepreneur, content and educational programme designer and community network builder. I’m passionate about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and Tech For Good. I’m from Blackpool, currently based in Liverpool and soon moving to West Yorkshire to be more closely connected to nature. 

During the last 10 years I’ve learned that I need to do work with purpose and meaning, alongside people with similar ethics and values. Having worked in digital for a decade I’d experienced first hand the imbalance created by a lack of representation in the industry. This led me to Co-Found InnovateHER in 2016: a social enterprise with a mission of achieving equality and diversity in tech. We do this by equipping girls aged 13-16 from disadvantaged areas with the skills they need to pursue careers in tech, and working with companies to make them more diverse, equal and inclusive.

It’s been quite a journey and I’m so proud of everything we’ve achieved over the past 5 years. Especially the past 18 months, which included pivoting last year to become an eLearning provider. Now it feels like the right time for me to start a new chapter as the business enters a scaling phase. I wrote more about this decision and about the process of letting go on my personal blog

I’ve been following Catalyst for some time and I found the inclusive CV-less recruitment process for this role really heartening. I simply had to answer three thought provoking questions focussing on my views on societal changes post pandemic, how digital can enable positive change, and how to build networks. It was a joy to complete!

During my time at InnovateHER and through my active involvement with other tech communities like the Responsible Tech Collective, Federation Manchester, and Liverpool Girl Geeks, I’ve experienced and learned so much when it comes to building effective and diverse networks. I’m excited to bring new perspectives and fresh ideas to Catalyst, and also about the potential to reach more social enterprises through the Catalyst network.

At this pivotal moment in time, I believe that it really matters that we harness the power of tech for good, to counter the negative narrative and applications of technology across the globe, and to help society find ways to move forward through the multiple deep transitions we’re experiencing. I’m thrilled to be working with Ellie, Siana and the wider Catalyst network to co-create a thriving community of people working towards this goal.

Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Meet the team

Siana and Jo officially start on 1 December. In the meantime, we’ve been getting to know each other and what makes us all tick through a couple of group Zoom calls.

We’re looking forward to a couple of days’ in-person planning in December together with Catalyst’s Strategic Partnership Manager, Debby Mulling, who will be helping the new team settle in before moving on to new adventures in 2022. 

Debby’s huge contribution to Catalyst over the last 18 months deserves an entire blog in itself. From codesigning and delivering the £4.95m Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response fund, and supporting hundreds of nonprofits and digital partners to work and learn together effectively, to testing a range of open and participatory approaches to procurement and building relational infrastructures across the network. Most recently, she has co-created an ‘enhancing digital capabilities’ pilot programme for community businesses in partnership with Power to Change, DOT PROJECT and Outlandish (look out for this in the New Year), and developed several other collaborative partnerships for us to explore and test next year as Catalyst welcomes more grantmakers into its ecosystem. Keep your eyes peeled for a reflection piece or two from Debby in the coming weeks. 

Over the next few months the Producer team will be looking to connect with as many people as possible across Catalyst. We want to understand how different folk think about and value Catalyst, as well as the role it plays and could play in the future. 

It starts now! If you’d like to meet the team, ask any questions or share hopes for our next phase of work together, come along to the (virtual) Catalyst Network Meetup on Wednesday 8th December at 12.30-1.30pm. We’d love to meet and connect with you there.

Image by R. E. Beck on Pixabay

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Ellie Hale
Ellie Hale