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Supporting international projects through the Catalyst Award programme


  • Picture of Kimberley Staines
    Kimberley Staines
  • Catalyst
  • Fellowship
  • Global

Each year, the Catalyst programme of RSA support for Fellow-led projects receives numerous applications for exciting projects looking to generate positive social change in communities around the UK. Some of our successful Catalyst projects look further afield to locations outside of the UK.

Highlights include Lab_13 International, led by Rick Hall FRSA – encouraging experimental STEM education for young people in Ghana – and Open Cinema, led by Christoph Warrack FRSA – an initiative bringing cinema to marginalised groups and developing a digital platform which makes low-cost cinema available to communities across the globe.

Earlier this year, a Catalyst grant was awarded to Wessex Social Ventures, led by Adam Boxer FRSA – an organisation seeking to counter the lack of sustainability in development aid work by rolling out standardised commercial ventures to prospective social entrepreneurs in Uganda, Cameroon and Kenya. We’re proud to be able to support all of our Catalyst projects in developing innovative ways to enable positive social movements. However, we’re aware there’s more good work to be done through our Catalyst programme.  

Here at The RSA we believe the power of creative ideas to change the world should be open to everyone, everywhere, and we encourageall our Fellows to make the most of our support for Fellow-led projects. We are very aware that the challenges faced within different communities, regions and countries vary, and that some of the best work carried out in pursuit of social enhancement is developed by those who inhabit the site of a development project, who are deeply invested in their community.Since joining The RSA, I’ve come to think about how amazing it would be to have more strong international Catalyst projects emerging at the source of the social need. We’re actively encouraging applications from Global Fellows to the Catalyst Award programme as a result.

A successful application is about more than just its point of origin, of course. The strongest applications we receive address a clearly-identified social need, and, on reviewing their strategy for social development, are informed with regards to the sensitivities of their subject area. The RSA is a champion for creative thinking, and the strongest applications are examples of great social innovation, piloting and developing novel ways to overcome social challenges. Applications should also align with one of our three key themes, which are applicable anywhere in the world. These are: (i) Public Services and Communities, (ii) Creative Learning and Development, (iii) Economy, Enterprise and Manufacturing. More information about Catalyst eligibility criteria and the key themes can be found on our website.

Ultimately, our goal in awarding Catalyst grants is to enable the creative ideas of Fellows to have impact, by helping projects find their feet (through our smaller seeding grants of £1-2,000) and become sustainable, with a clear plan for life beyond the grant award (through our larger scaling grants of £10,000). We’d like to be able to help more Global Fellows to develop their ideas through this scheme.

Do you have an idea you’d like to discuss? Are you considering applying to Catalyst and would like to know more? We’d love to hear from you. Contact the Global team with all questions about developing projects and opportunities available for support in doing so. The Catalyst team is on hand to assist with any questions about making an application and the grant award and assessment process. The closing date to apply for the next round of Catalyst funding is Monday 18th September.

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