Catalysing Systems Change

Catalyst 2030 is an organisation that brings together social entrepreneurs and innovators from across the world and across sectors in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Mel is a member and talks to Alex about what it involves and their ambitious goals.

Alexandra Matthews: Hi Mel, you’re involved in an organisation called Catalyst 2030, which as far as I understand is a group of social entrepreneurs who are collaborating to ensure the UN’s SDGs are achieved by 2030. Could you tell us a bit more about the organisation?

Mel Young: Yes, that’s right. It is not just social entrepreneurs although there are lots of them involved with other activists and social innovators who are committed to making the world a better place. It is a member-led organisation and, in a very short space of time, it has grown dramatically. There is a huge amount of energy as members collaborate to try and add value to what they are doing. Basically, everyone agrees that system change has to take place and by working together, change can take place at a quicker pace. It is very dynamic.

AM: That’s really interesting – it sounds exciting and it sounds like it has the potential to actually drive change, as its members are already doing that. Does it feel that there is momentum behind the organisation?

MY: Yes, momentum is building and it is truly global with members from all across the world taking an active part. This coming week a whole series of events are taking place under the banner of Catalysing Change Week, where members and anyone interested are getting together to discuss constructive ways forward. The events have been created by the members and some of the topics are really fascinating and very relevant to the concept behind The New Ism.

AM: I’ve heard about Catalysing Change Week – I’m looking forward to attending some of the sessions. I think you are chairing some of them? What will you be talking about?

MY: I am in a session called “Older or Elder?” on Monday where the three founders (Chris Underhill, Andrea Coleman and myself) of the Elders for Social Entrepreneurship, which was also started over two years ago, will discuss what we have learned, and what role older people can play in creating systems change. I am also chairing a session on Friday called “Pave the Way for Youth” where younger people and older participants will discuss how the generations might work together to achieve the ultimate aim of system change. 

AM: They sound like fascinating sessions – I particularly like the fact that they look at how the different generations can drive change. We’ve often talked on The New Ism about how you can create system change no matter how old you are – we all have something to give. I’m really looking forward to attending the sessions you’re involved in. 

There are quite a few organisations that claim to be looking for ways to drive systems change. How is Catalyst 2030 different? And what do you think lies behind its success thus far?

MY: Catalyst 2030 is member-led which is key to its authenticity and I think that makes it unique. Members have a final say on everything and they are encouraged to get on and “do things” together and this is proving to be very impactful. This makes it very dynamic and fast-moving. As we all agree, change does need to happen and by focussing on the SGDs there are clear objectives which people can coalesce around. It has set itself very ambitious targets but people are starting to listen and connect which is very encouraging. Catalysing Change Week will demonstrate the enormous variety of ideas and initiatives with real innovation at the heart. The organisation has the potential to create real global clout. During CCW for example, on Wednesday 11th May, Paul Polman, the former CEO of Unilever will be in discussion with Matthew Bishop about how the role of business could change to make the world a better place amongst other issues and how we should try to be net positive. It shows how someone from his background is being attracted to this agenda and is willing to contribute constructive ways forward. And more people are joining in.

AM: That’s remarkable that Paul Polman is involved and has obviously seen the potential in Catalyst 2030 – especially as the organisation has only been active for a few years. It will be really interesting to hear his thoughts and ideas, as businesses like Unilever have a crucial role to play in driving change and creating a better future.

You mentioned above that Catalyst 2030 is a member-led, very dynamic, fast-moving organisation. What is it like to be part of it? 

MY: I really enjoy being involved because it is very stimulating. You hear other voices from right across the world so you are always learning and co-creating at the same time. It is very energetic, as I say, but it can be a little anarchic at times – that isn’t a criticism. If you are going to allow lots of different voices then this can be difficult to organise and articulate – it is completely different from the traditional regimented business and that’s what makes it different. It is also very magnetic because it is so interesting and you can end up spending a lot of time with it, so it can be quite overwhelming sometimes but that is simply because there is so much going on all the time. CCW is a fabulous example of what is happening and I would encourage people to join in.

AM: It sounds really great and it’s exciting that The New Ism is involved via you Mel! I can’t wait to attend some of the sessions next week, and we’d definitely encourage our readers to attend too – they’re open to all. We will undoubtedly discuss some of the topics from the sessions on The New Ism podcast in the future as well. 

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

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