Butterflies in transformation

From navigating uncertainty to open culture to reflections on power sharing, Megan Gray shares what we're up to and what's been inspiring us in June.

It’s been an intense month for the producer team and our steering group. We’ve been pulling together a vast range of insights to refine an emerging proposal for the future of Catalyst. 

We’re looking forward to opening this up in July and August to our initiative leads and partners, network of funders, and the trustees of CAST (our incubating organisation), exploring:

  • Model - where should Catalyst focus, what should our ambitions be, and critically how should we achieve this?
  • Governance - what hard and soft governance structures and practices will best enable us to collectively make change happen, in line with our values and principles?
  • Impact - who do we intend to work with (and why?), what do they need, and what change do we want to contribute to? 
  • Risk - what do we understand about the potential risks of becoming an independent organisation? How will the decisions we make (for example, on a legal structure) support or hinder our ability to work in line with our principles and values? What is our risk appetite and how do we intend to mitigate risks?

And here’s an update from our support and training circle on some of the great programmes running to support charities and not-for-profit organisations. 

The top ten things inspiring the Catalyst team this month

As we’ve been grappling with the big questions above, we’ve been learning so much from what others are doing.

Here’s ten of our top sources of inspiration right now:

1. Being open about your culture and ways of working

Jo attended a brilliant event from Chayn on Trauma informed design. This thoughtful and in depth description of what it is like to work with Chayn which was shared at the event, is a thing of beauty. It’s great to be able to get such a sense of the values and ways of working of an organisation.  

2. Experiments in finance for networks

Megan was inspired by a share from Zahra Davidson, two great examples of projects using Open Collective to manage and distribute funding. Zahra identifies seven opportunities:

  • Potential to unblock power bottlenecks, by decentralising financial management
  • Potential for ownership of a community, group or project to be more fluid — or for there to be no ownership at all
  • Potential to imagine — and act — beyond organisational boundaries
  • Potential to enable healthy adult-adult working relationships and culture
  • Potential for accountability derived from public transparency instead of control
  • Potential to transform approaches to funding
  • An opportunity to work where the old and new system meet

3. Tools for systems thinkers

Here are a great set of tools from the social change agency. Jo is particularly drawn to the power mapping tool as an alternative to a RACI matrix, and the ‘are you a systems thinker’ infographic is great too. 

4. How organisations can act on the climate crisis

‘We all want a habitable, thriving planet so why do so many of us still stand on the sidelines of activism, particularly at an organisational level?’ asks Evva Semenowicz

5. Bitesize reflections on power

Megan loves this series of short weekly podcasts (5-10 minutes) from Emily Danby all about Power. They’re a great combination of light theory, helpful questions, and real life stories from Emily’s life. 

6. Reflections on consent-based decision making and being kind and inclusive under pressure

We try to work in the open as much as possible, and our open working and reuse programme supports others to do this too. As we continue our experiments with how to govern Catalyst together, it’s great to read about others’ experiences. Ed Howarth, taking part in the open working programme, shares his reflections on using sociocracy at Power to Change. While this post from Rosie Wild is wonderfully authentic about the challenges of being kind and inclusive when under pressure.  

7. Video primer about A.I. ethics

Ellie recommends this video The A.I. Dilemma as an essential primer to some of the ethical considerations and implications surrounding now-booming machine learning technologies like ChatGPT. 

8. Navigating uncertainty

Ellie also spotted this six week online course from the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures Collective, starting this week, which aims to ‘expand your capacity to navigate increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.’

9. How volunteering is changing

The Covid pandemic had a huge impact on people’s understanding and experience of volunteering. NCVO’s surveyed 7,000 members of the public and have compared this with what people said in 2018 when last asked. Key findings were released in May and the full report is hot off the press this week. 

10. Understanding power and alienation and reclaiming memory

Finally, Ellie shared a great (and short - just 14 mins) watch from Riane Eisler and Céline Semaan. They discuss power, dominance systems and the both systemic and deeply personal work needed to genuinely work towards collective liberation.

Image by wirestock on Freepik

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What’s on our radar #18?

Ellie Hale
Ellie Hale