RSA Catalyst Awards 2023: winners announced - RSA blog - RSA

RSA Catalyst Awards 2023: winners announced


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Eleven projects have been recognised in the spring/summer 2023 Catalyst Awards, with one winner of a Student Design Award also joining the Catalyst learning journey.

We are thrilled to announce the results of the 2023 RSA Catalyst Awards, with six Seed and five Scaling awards awards receiving funding of £62,000 in total.

The awards provide grants to support social innovation projects. Since 2010, we have had the privilege of assisting hundreds of Fellows in bringing their ideas to light. The spring/summer 2023 Catalyst Awards continue the tradition of supporting change makers testing and growing innovations to shape better futures. We have also better aligned Catalyst with the RSA’s Design for Life mission and, as part of this, have funded two additional Regenerative Enterprise grants (which you can learn more about in our video).

After careful consideration by our community, we are proud to present the recipients of the 11 awards. These projects stood out for their impressive impact and significant contribution to our shared vision of resilient, rebalanced, and regenerative futures.

Catalysing regenerative enterprise collaboration

As well as the additional regenerative grants, members of this cohort can join our Regenerative Enterprise peer-learning journey. Collectively, we will work to define what it means to be a regenerative organisation and how we can support each other to make better decisions to positively impact the world we wish to create today and for future generations. Fellows can stay up to date on this journey by following the Regenerative Enterprise Community Circle space. Other RSA watchers can keep an eye out for blogs and reports showcasing our progress.

We are also delighted to announce that Rhiannon Beddoe, one of our young change makers and an alumna of the RSA’s Student Design Awards (SDAs), will be joining the Catalyst learning journey after receiving pilot funding earlier this year.

Summaries of the 11 Catalyst winners, plus Rhiannon’s Our Community, Our Future initiative, are available below, where you can learn about plans to test and scale these innovations.

Don't miss the chance to connect with the project leaders of these initiatives by visiting our Catalyst Circle space.

If you are not a Fellow but are interested in learning more about our Catalyst Award winners, please reach out to [email protected] and we can connect you.

Catalyst Seed Awards

Subversion Diaries

Subversion Diaries aims to document narratives across the Global South to build an archive of practices of Feminist Foreign Policy. This archive will serve as guidance for actors in international relations to build truly Feminist Foreign Policies.

“Women from the Global South have long practised Feminist Foreign Policy - a concept that is being presented as a concept pioneered by the Global North. This archive, called Subversion Diaries, will seek to reframe the dialogue and resituate the ownership of Feminist Foreign Policy where it belongs, while also calling for actors in international relations to learn from this community of practice.” - Kirthi Jayakumar FRSA

VRISE (Virtual Reality Interview Skills Enhancement)

VRISE, an innovative skills development project, aims to use virtual reality (VR) to revolutionise interview training for unemployed individuals. VR's immersive experience, backed by research, significantly enhances interview performance and confidence. Northamptonshire, an area with higher-than-average unemployment rates, will be the inaugural location for this pioneering initiative. VRISE-Northamptonshire aims to reduce joblessness and stimulate economic growth in Northampton, Kettering, and Wellingborough.

“Thanks to the RSA grant, we're excited to bring the VRISE project to life. Our goal is to harness the immersive power of virtual reality to elevate interview skills for unemployed individuals, particularly in Northamptonshire. We're not just aiming to improve employability, we're striving to instil confidence and hope, ultimately making a tangible impact on our community's economic well-being.” - Danny Mirza FRSA

Community Playbook

Community engagement specialist Olivia Bellas and Stanley Arts are crafting a framework to support relationships in South Norwood in South-East London. Using a co-production approach, they are working with student creators in schools, enabling skills from storytelling to project delivery. They are shaping a creative output and producing a playbook of their achievements.

Community Playbook aims to achieve “Community engagement that works. The practice of community engagement is often deprioritised as it’s seen as complicated or something that can be done on the fly. 'Community Playbook' empowers those participating and creates a blueprint for how it's done. Creative engagement for all. It supports young people from underrepresented communities to be aware of the opportunities around arts and culture on their doorstep.” - Olivia Bellas FRSA

Photo credit: Stanley Arts/ Glenn Foster

Shedding Light on Long Covid

This project invests in culture as a driver for change through educating society about living with long Covid by creating a bespoke S.H.E.D installation. S.H.E.D is the Social Higher Education Depot – a flexible structure designed to engage, inspire and cultivate ideas and dialogue.

It platforms long Covid lived experiences; bringing clinical and academic research together through a high-quality community project. This project will serve as a catalyst for change for those living with long Covid. It aims to connect the creative and cultural industries with the scientific community to create an exhibition that unveils new findings and highlights the impacts of long Covid on society and the future of design. Utilising design thinking, the long Covid community has a unique position to highlight and tackle problems and, through this project, can facilitate this by fostering a national community that can "create together".

“S.H.E.D can adapt to multiple possible co-designed configurations – it can be whatever it needs to be. Its flexibility supports diversity, brings together people and communities from multidisciplinary fields, and supports social and cultural growth, especially for those who do not usually have a voice. S.H.E.D is a truly collaborative initiative that will shed light on long Covid. Being a public space is very positive and I’m proud of colleagues who are working with S.H.E.D to showcase the clinical and arts research alongside the lived experiences of people to highlight and bring into focus long Covid. We’ve a lot to share and a lot to learn, and having the opportunity to discuss those shared challenges and how we can address them is invaluable.” - Rhiannon Jones FRSA

Shedding Light on Long Covid is planned to tour nationally in the future. If you are interested in exhibiting the installation, please do get in contact.


PlantIt strengthens communities by repurposing unused gardens into allotment spaces. Homeowners transform their underutilised outdoor areas into thriving gardens, fostering community and sustainability. PlantIt connects homeowners and passionate gardeners, creating a vibrant community at their doorstep.

“With this grant, we aim to address the segregation still present in urban communities, where despite being closer than ever, some remain disconnected. Our project provides a space for people to not only connect but also learn and grow together.” - Aditya Walia FRSA, Project Lead and SDA Alumnus for project Incube.

Catalyst Scaling Awards

Production Facility for Banana Fibre Sanitary Pads

In this project, Minazi Consulting, in conjunction with Dufatanye Organization, is building a local production facility to manufacture sanitary pads in Nyanza, Rwanda. The scaling grant will help pilot the production of 10,000 biodegradable and environmentally sustainable sanitary pads made with banana fibre sourced from a local banana tree plantation.

The pads will be made available at subsidised cost and will have information on safe, sanitary practices for our target group: women from low-income families in Nyanza for whom sanitary pads are particularly expensive. Information leaflets and a dedicated helpline created alongside the pads will also address any menstruation concerns for girls and women in the community.

“We are extremely grateful to receive the scaling grant from RSA. With the help of this grant, we can complete procuring the necessary equipment and raw materials to pilot the production of 10,000 biodegradable pads. Access to sanitary pads is a basic human right for women, as it directly relates to women's quality of life. This project aims to address a key need for the society of Nyanza and the women in this community. This project is fundamental to achieving Minazi Consulting’s overall mission of a reduction in inequality through environmentally conscious and human-centred engineering and design. Our team is very excited to deliver this project and we hope it will empower, support and bring change to the community.” - Aakeen Parikh FRSA, Director

Microbusiness Incubator for Women with HIV/AIDS in Rural Kenya

Our microbusiness incubator empowers women living with HIV/AIDS to establish small businesses deeply rooted in the local economy. The programme begins with the comprehensive Street Business School (SBS) curriculum, equipping participants with vital skills such as customer base building, recordkeeping, and budgeting.

After completing the SBS programme, participants receive a small start-up grant and six months of coaching, addressing challenges and facilitating growth. To date, 50 businesses have been successfully launched, generating profits that support family healthcare, children's school fees and household expenses.

"We're honoured to be a Catalyst Award winner. With this grant, we can extend our impact to an additional 90 women, empowering them to become business owners through our incubator. This grant will impact not just the the women themselves, but also their children and the broader community." - Kelly Brantner FRSA, CEO, Business for Better Society.

OITIJ-JO Studios: Bangla Inspired Women-Led Social Enterprise

Using a circular business model, OITIJ-JO aims to establish a studio to design and develop fashion, textile samples and products that have been sourced ethically and are sustainable. The studio will engage with British Bangladeshi and other ethnic minority women in Tower Hamlets initially, to co-create and co-develop the entity.

“OITIJ-JO has spent the last decade collaborating with sustainable and ethical designers like @rukiaullah, @culturally_yours_ , @momtazbh and others, delivering design, textile, arts and crafts workshops in the community as well as products for sale. We know the talent and experience exists. Now, with the help and support of RSA’s Catalyst fund and RSA’s wider community, we will establish OITIJ-JO Design Studio based on a circular business model. The studio will provide opportunities for skilled and talented women from British Bangladeshi origin and other minoritised communities to explore the textile and design sector with expert support, mentoring and training.” - Maher Anjum FRSA

We need support to establish OITIJ-JO Design Studio. As part of our commitment to the circular business model, we need material which can be upcycled to make products. They should be remnants / off-cuts, sarees, bed cover, curtains or similar. Washed, clean and in good condition. They can be dropped off to our Café space at: OITIJ-JO Kitchen @ St Hilda’s, 18 Club Row, London, E2 7EY. Please email [email protected] for further information.

Following the success of @oitijjo_kitchen, the knowledge and experience gained will be used to establish and scale OITIJ-JO Studios.

Making Well

The Fathom Trust founder and CEO, Dr William Beharrell FRSA, is scaling a green social prescribing programme called Making Well to improve health and wellbeing for people in physical, mental or spiritual distress. Participants are referred by their GP, mental health team or the charity Mind for an eight-week course based on craftsmanship, conservation and contemplation. The course aims to restore life-giving connections to body, soul, nature and society, and prioritises the quality and resilience of relationships between patients, practitioners, peers, and their communities.

“Before starting the course I was suicidal with anxiety. I felt I was too ugly to leave the house. Since starting Fathom, I have stopped wearing make-up and now have the confidence to leave the house. I have made friends and have found a job.” - Making Well Participant

Regenerative Funding Stream


Trees4Croydon is an initiative led by the Croydon Climate Action group, under Change Drivers (a registered UK charity). This is a mass- participation initiative focussed on moving (walking, running, cycling, or traveling by wheelchair) and raising funds for tree planting in less advantaged parts of the London borough. 

Croydon has over 120 green spaces and parks, but this fantastic asset is spread unevenly. This grant, together with other money that trees4croydon raises, will help address this by tree planting and enhancing green spaces in areas of need. The 700+ community we have brought together to move over five weeks and help us fundraise will be delighted and the possibility of making this an annual community activity is enhanced.

“Anyone interested in mobilising their communities, building awareness of climate change and raising money for local environmental projects check out the Trees4Croydon website and/or drop the project a line at [email protected] to hear what we did, what worked and what didn’t.” - Sam Baker FRSA

"Indigeneity and Biomimicry in Animation" Internship

The internship scales our pilot project and will provide South African female participants with a foundational course in Biomimicry and 2D animation curricula, examining selected indigenous South African medicinal plants. Ultimately, animated educational eBooks will be created. The project will deliver impact both cultural preservation and impact biodiversity conservation, while offering enhanced professional animation and employment skills.

“I’m honoured to be an RSA Catalyst Grant recipient and eager to share our unique innovation in conservation and cultural preservation beyond our borders.” - Yolanda Methvin, Founder of LithaFlora African Botanicals based in Cape Town, South Africa

Joined by one of our 2022-23 Student Design Winners

Our Community, Our Future

Psychological Ownership Theory suggests that the more someone feels ownership towards their community, the more they will contribute to the community’s well-being. Our Community, Our Future is a toolkit that empowers residents to own their community and its future. Through frameworks and activity canvases, the tools facilitate a theoretically -grounded approach that helps leaders and community groups to shift ownership to residents.

“The Catalyst award has provided an incredible opportunity to pilot my master’s project in context with community groups and leaders, applying the approach to projects on the ground where It can have a real impact.” - Rhiannon Beddoe FRSA

Congratulations to all these impactful projects. We are looking forward to watching them flourish with the support of Catalyst funding, and our regenerative enterprises community learning journey. Please contact our Catalyst team at [email protected] if you have any questions. 

Contact the Catalyst team

If you have any questions about our grant programme, email the Catalyst team by clicking below.

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