Julie Bishop, CEO of Law Centres Network, at the inaugural gathering of Catalyst

We can no longer afford for progress towards a radically-refashioned civil society to be piecemeal and incremental. The Catalyst is a chance to knit all our strengths into a collaborative whole—here’s how.

On 11 July 2019 we held the first gathering of The Catalyst, a radical new collaborative that seeks to revolutionise how we tackle social and environmental issues in the UK: reshaping voluntary and charitable organisations to be more responsive to the communities they serve; more resilient; and more collaborative in the creation and scaling of solutions — all by massively accelerating their use of the most powerful tool of the modern age: digital.

The Catalyst coalition will develop new support for charities to embed user research in their service design, develop strong digital understanding among their leaders, access trusted digital skills and expertise, and develop new products and services. It also sets out to embed a culture of reuse — of ideas, products and code — in a bid to massively cut the cost and accelerate the speed of innovation.

The Catalyst sets out to support 40,000 UK charities to seize digital’s opportunities for innovation and efficiency, and enable them to provide services for customers going online in increasing numbers to seek digital solutions and support for everything from housing and mental health to education and isolation.

But how will we do this?

Catalyst has been funded (by Comic Relief, City Bridge Trust, DCMS, Esmée Fairbairn, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and The National Lottery Community Fund) to:

  • Galvanise an effective, sustainable and collaborative cross-sector network to drive sector change.
  • Increase the quality, range and uptake of tools and support to build the sector’s knowledge, skills and services.
  • Scale up the delivery of digital training, leadership and service design programmes known to improve nonprofits services and organisational resilience.

Our relentless focus is on the network. In a word, our success pivots on our ability to work together.

The Catalyst has been incubated by the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST), which, over the past four years, has deployed a networked approach to changing charities through digital.

We are convinced that we now stand on the threshold of a chance to galvanise truly exponential change, but to be able to realise that change on the scale and of the magnitude and duration needed requires all of us who care about this agenda to commit to work with massively increased levels of cooperation and collaboration.

Unless we align our resources and raise our collective ambitions, the impact of our work on the sector will remain incremental, and will be massively outstripped by the pace and scale of technological change. An outcome none of us can afford.

We urge you to join us on this path, so we can plot your expertise and resources and knit your strengths into our collaborative whole.

Please sign up for our newsletter at our homepage thecatalyst.org.uk and particularly please email us:

  1. What three things are you working on that the network might be able to help with?
  2. What might you be able to contribute to the network?
  3. What will you do as a Catalyst in the next three months?

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