Citizens Transforming Society: Tools For Change
Catalyst began as a research project on November 1st, 2011. Since then, the team of #catalystas has grown to include 90 community organisations, 8 academic departments, 15 co-investigators, 4 full time postdoctoral research staff, a part time project manager, and a host of affiliated research students.
Catalyst explores deep questions about the role of digital technology in modern society, and the relationship between digital technology and pressing social problems. The technology revolution has changed our lives. Mobile digital communications have contributed (both positively and negatively) to key world events ranging from the London riots and the subsequent ‘clean up the streets’ campaign to the so called ‘Twitter revolutions’ in Tunisia and Egypt.
But do modern digital technologies really make it easier for communities to change the world? Or do they lead to problems of access to information, solidifying the status quo in power structures, and illusions of a quick technological fix? And how should we design future digital technologies – technologies with a social conscience built in?
Catalyst takes a practice-based approach to investigating these questions. That is, we research by doing. We form partnerships of researchers and social entrepreneurs who together define the problem and develop the digital solution; and by so doing, we gain an in-depth understanding of how technology can or cannot contribute to social change in practice.
Catalyst funds a range of projects, each of which are partnerships between the University and its community. Projects are competitively bid for, and range from small proof-of-concept studies (launchpads) to larger projects which receive support from a team of 4 full time postdoctoral scholars (sprints). To date, Catalyst has funded 11 projects in a variety of social contexts ranging from homelessness to climate change.