Catalyst 2030 has just wrapped up the largest global networking event focused on social innovations that are aimed at solving the world’s most pressing challenges and helping to build a sustainable social economy for all.
The fourth annual Catalysing Change Week (CCW2023), held from May 1 to May 5 2023, offered a hybrid programme of more than 200 thought-provoking, interactive sessions. Under the theme “Solutions from the Frontlines” CCW2023 showcased many grassroots-up models for transformation.
Community-led development was also the focus of sessions such as:
- India’s Millions Mission: India’s Non-profit Sector Report, which featured research on the contribution of civil society in India in its 75 years of independence. The research was published in the report Turning Wheels, a guidebook on concrete actions toward co-creating practical solutions for challenges in local communities; and
- Locally Led Development and the “Compliance Conundrum” which explored the experiences of community organisations in the Global South which remain invisible to funders or are considered too risky for funding.
More than 6500 social innovators, entrepreneurs, policymakers, funders, business leaders and thought leaders from around 120 countries globally joined sessions that offered opportunities to co-create, collaborate, and work collectively towards systems change.
The week began with the headline session Communities at the centres. This timely discussion gave context to the UN General Assembly’s recent adoption of the resolution on “Promoting the Social and Solidarity Economy for Sustainable Development” which acknowledges the contribution of communities and the importance of localising the SDGs. David Ainsworth, Information Officer for UNEP – Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, moderated the roundtable discussion. He was joined by Catalyst 2030 Co-Founder and Chief Facilitator Jeroo Billimoria, Fredrik Galtung, Founder and CEO of TrueFootprint, Shiv Kumar, Catalyst Group Founding Director and Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC. The session set the scene for the emphasis on localising development, which ran through the week.
One of the most anticipated sessions was the one on AI: What Does ChatGPT Mean for the Global South? Host Colin McElwee, Co-Founder of Catalyst 2030 and Worldreader, shared ChatGPT’s astonishing feat of reaching the 100 million user mark after two months in the market. As McElwee predicted, “This is a real before and after moment here,” reflecting on the potential impact of CHATGPT for the future. The session featured Chris Capossela, Executive Vice President of Microsoft and Board member of Worldreader, in conversation with Lindiwe Matlali, CEO of Africa Teen Geeks.
The importance of youth in social innovation and community development was also highlighted throughout the week with a number of sessions exploring the topic. The session, How Young Social Entrepreneurs Ensure the Global South Thrives, introduced Lennox Omodi whose social enterprise Eco-Bana addresses period poverty, Abhi Gawri of insect biotech startup Loopworm, Muhle Ndwalane founder of digital marketing and tech agency Asante Tech Solutions and Mathias Charles Yabe of AkoFresh, which makes food systems more resilient. All raised significant capital in 2022.
The environment, education, technology, women, arts and culture, and the role of the private sector in partnering with social innovators and entrepreneurs to build a social economy, were also subjects explored during Catalysing Change Week. The session Implementing the Catalyst Business Commitment: Transforming Promises into Action brought together social entrepreneurs and corporate sector leaders to share stories of the mutual benefit they derive from these partnerships and how they power solutions that impact communities.
CCW2023 was crowned with a “star-studded” closing session, Walking the Talk: How Can Key Stakeholders Support Solutions from the Frontline? As Jeroo Billimoria said before introducing the panel, the week was filled with talk. This session was about moving into action.
Moderator Cheryl Dorsey, President of Echoing Green, launched the discussion with statistics from her home, the US, where she explained that only 8% of funding went to organisations benefitting people of colour and only 10% per cent went to local community-led organisations. This reinforced the sectoral inequities implicit in the ways funds are allocated which was the subject of the discussion. Dorsey called on funders to embrace the NGO letter to Shift Funding Practices, which she described as a powerful call to action in support of localisation and the funding of local organisations to do the work.
Panellists Nalia Farouky, CEO and Executive of the Arab Foundation Forum, Ndidi Nwuneli, Founder and Executive Chair of African Food Changemakers, Paula Fabiani, CEO of IDIS, Visha Kapoor, Director of Dasra, Nathaniel Heller, Managing Director of Geneva Global, Kevin McAndrew, Innovation at The Rockefeller Foundation, Maria Bystedt, Strategy Lead of the H&M Foundation and Nadir Shams, Director at the Skoll Foundation all shared what they and their organisations are doing to improve the direct support of community-led organisations and the localisation of development.