Flowers with multicoloured petals collage that says Hope

Are you longing for your winter break and counting down the hours until it begins?

In an ‘imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal system’ (Bell Hooks), where we’re conditioned to be relentlessly productive and efficient, rest IS an act of resistance (as suggested by Tricia Hersey in her book of the same title).  Many of us feel we can’t rest, that we have to keep on producing and submit to the grind culture. Yet the winter period is for slowing down, taking stock. Everywhere we turn we see this modelled for us beautifully in nature, the visible dormancy a reminder to slow down.

At Catalyst, we’re taking a long winter break to allow ourselves time and space to reflect on 2023, because we believe that it’s a key component of systems change work. We’ve heard from some of our partners that this small act of rebellion has inspired them to do the same. 

We hope that however you choose to celebrate the season, that you can find some time to restore your energy, sow some seeds for spring next year and reflect on the richness of the learnings from the year.

There have been so many shifts and transitions for many of us at Catalyst. Not just within the work and the network, but personally. It’s never been more important to keep hope alive and to seek out the things which help us feel connected. 

We thought we’d share a list of things which on reflection have brought us hope and joy throughout 2023, and why:

By Jo Morfee:

Our steering group

  1. Working with the wonderful and wise humans within our steering group has been a real highlight for me, as the Producer lead. We intentionally baked our values into the recruitment process, which resulted in us meeting and working with a bunch of diverse and values aligned people. This year we’ve had the opportunity to work with social impact consultant Lauren Coulman at Noisy Cricket, who continues to be a teacher and friend (check out her blog on systems change learnings from this year). Together, we’ve produced a business case for Catalyst becoming its own independent entity, which the CAST board approved in October this year. We’ve done a lot of collective musing to co-create a new vision for Catalyst and a set of principles, alongside a new impact model. I can’t wait to see what happens next…

Our partnerships

  1. Earlier this year I took over leading on our relationship with Passion4Social, our communications partner. This partnership has blossomed into a shining example of how we can live our values in partnership with others. 65% of our supporting team has disabilities and the other 35% come from diverse backgrounds, and we’ve learned a lot together about how to model our values of love, equity and curiosity in particular. Thiago (the Founder), told me that because we had been kind and loving in our interactions with them as a client, it had enabled him in turn to grow and develop his team and meet their needs. It’s examples like this which give me hope that we can choose to work differently to co-create alternative work cultures which are more life affirming.

Visiting a Healing Biotope 

  1. I visited a radical community in Portugal in October, Tamera. This was so far beyond anything I’d ever experienced, it felt like living in an alternative reality. The community there lives and breathes the principles of systems change, every day. They frame their model as a ‘healing biotope’ - which are ‘futuristic centers that research and model a new planetary culture’. I’m still integrating the lessons learned and plan to write more about it soon. Overall, it gave me hope to see that there are alternative ways of existing and being together and heaps of inspiration for my work.

By Ellie Hale: 

Learning about more liberatory ways of thinking and being

  1. Attending Minna Salami’s Sensuous Knowledge course (‘a Black feminist approach for everyone’) was a particular highlight for me this year. It really delivered in creating space ‘to think about reality in feminist-empowered, non-fragmented and non-dualistic ways that are healing, elucidating and ultimately liberating.’ Deeply nourishing.

Organisations showing dedication to their values

  1. We’ve put a lot of effort as a team this year into creating processes and policies that respect people’s needs and support us to thrive, with the help of brilliant collaborators like Abi Handley and Kayleigh Walsh of Alpacka, People Support Co-op and RadHR. With every design and iteration, we have a chance to revisit our values, and what it looks like to be values-aligned. I’ve also deeply appreciated the openness and care of the staff and trustee teams at Quaker Social Action (where I’m a trustee) in navigating questions and practice around inclusion and lived experience - as an anti-poverty charity working to address the imbalances of power and resources in society, we’re determined to make sure our own governance and processes reflect our values. A more high-profile example of walking the talk when it comes to values was the bold decision of Lankelly Chase earlier this year to follow its principles, redistribute its assets, and close.

Face to face events

  1. I’ve been loving the return of more in-person events - be them our own Catalyst stakeholder gatherings, Tech for Good meetups across the country (including my own local Brighton community!) or the UK Charity Camp unconference. Bringing humans together to connect, learn and share, and thoughtfully designing these spaces with equity and inclusion at the heart, creates an abundant well of joy. And such buzz!

By Megan Gray

Imagining the future

  1. I’ve relished opportunities and spaces to reflect on the world we want to bring into being - from a three horizons exercise with Catalyst’s initiative leads (I always come back to this video by Kate Raworth when using three horizons) to the beautiful stories of Matt Lloyd-Rose in his series of letters, Social Imagining (I recommend starting with this heartwarming story about a tortoise!) 

Workspaces where everyone can thrive

  1. I am so encouraged by what feels like a growing interest in and understanding of how we can create workspaces where everybody can thrive. I’ve certainly felt this in Catalyst since I joined in May. Jo, Ellie and all our amazing partners have given me hope that I can continue to make a difference even while living with cancer. I also want to shout out the ‘25 days of neurodiversity at work’ advent calendar on LinkedIn from our own Anita Foldvari, with each post busting a myth and providing practical advice.

Geeking out about governance

  1. I’ve loved working with many self confessed ‘governance geeks’ who enjoy deep conversations about how we can and should make decisions. I have a whole list of great resources, gathered while starting to design a decision making policy for our team, but top of the list is this piece from Dark Matter Labs on PARAR - the balance of power, autonomy, responsibility, risk-holding and accountability

If you have a resource of any kind that you think we should have on our radar, please share it with us! We would love for the wider community to influence our work and provide creative input. 

Drop us a line at hello@thecatalyst.org.uk Or tweet us @wethecatalysts.

Image by Freepik

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Ellie Hale
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