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Glossary and Key Concepts

Key Systems Change Concepts

There are multiple definitions of many terms that are used in the systems change process. We have selected and focused on definitions that are most relevant to Catalyst 2030, the movement and our members.


A catalyst is a person or thing that precipitates an event. Catalyst 2030 members are sometimes referred to as ‘Catalysts’.

Catalytic Collaborations

Catalytic collaborations are established collaborations among a group of people or organisations who are focused on solving a specific, complex problem. They exert the power of their collective expertise and common purpose to change the conditions or systems that hold problematic societal, economic and environmental issues in place. Catalytic collaborations unlock and exercise their collective power to explore and create solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Catalytic Funding

Catalytic funding is a small grant given to members who are at the inflection point of scale-up of their chapter activities and are in need of funding for a coordinator or for a specific systems changing collaboration. This funding is a one-time grant that will help lead to the creation of a country chapter or a collaboration.

Catalytic Network

A diverse group of individuals and organisations who are committed to working towards achieving larger, systems-level social impact in a collaborative, catalytic approach. These individuals and organisations can include social entrepreneurs and innovators, innovative NGOs and other partners, ranging from government and community agencies, to impact funders or businesses with a specific social mission.

Catalytic Thinking

Catalytic thinking is a visionary way of seeing the world and its problems. It’s a way of and creating and implementing a set of practices or processes that consistently produce positive results to solve or reduce the impact of those problems. These practices or processes can be applied, scaled up and replicated in other contexts to produce similar results.

Enabling Environment

An enabling environment exists when institutions, policy-making, funding access, and societal norms are in place to support social entrepreneurs’ and innovators’ successes. Catalyst 2030 is working to create an environment for them to flourish. This includes encouraging an understanding of social entrepreneurs’ roles, enhancing the scale and responsiveness of the funding system and making improvements to policy frameworks and sustainability practices at a community and country level.

Honest Broker

An honest broker is an impartial mediator. The word “honest” is used because the person or organisation must operate with the utmost integrity, ensuring that all members have an equal opportunity. The term “broker” refers to the go-between function of the role. Unlike more formally structured organisations, Catalyst 2030 is led by members, not by a single coordinating body. The Secretariat works as an honest broker within the Catalyst 2030 movement to oversee the background activities that drive the movement.

Power of the Collective

Bringing together different voices, insights and a unique understanding that adds value to the situation. People working together for the public good leads to the different strengths of individuals and organisations being pooled to form a far stronger united, or collective strength, than if the individuals or organisations were working separately or alone.

Shifting Dominant Culture

Dominant culture refers to the norms, values and preferences that are thought of as the standard within a context. One component of dominant culture is the set of values that prioritise exploitation for short-term profit, unsustainable growth and individual over collective prosperity.

Shifting the dominant culture involves changing consciousness to prevent the dominant model of development – which focuses on top-down approaches implemented through hierarchical institutions – for a set of values and behaviours. These power shifts are in favour of the traditionally marginalised, moving from hero-oriented to collaborative action. See more on the Theory of Change page.

Social Change

Working towards a means or a process to achieve a result or common goal, over a period of time, that leads to an improvement in society.

Social Entrepreneurship

There are many definitions of social entrepreneurship, social enterprises and social entrepreneurs. At Catalyst, we embrace a broad view of social entrepreneurship including diverse operational, governance and funding models. Here are a sample of definitions from the Catalyst membership: Ashoka, Gordon Institute of Business Science, Duke University CASE and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.

Social Innovation

Social innovation is the process and practice of co-creating, learning, adapting and deploying effective human-centred solutions to problems that hinder social, environmental or economic progress.


A system is a connected set of things such as social, political, legal, cultural and economic practices and processes that are designed and organised to produce and perpetuate a uniform set of conditions that impact the daily lives of people.

Systems Change

Addressing root causes of issues (rather than symptoms) by transforming structures, customs, mindsets, power dynamics, policies and rules by strengthening collective power through the active collaboration of diverse people and organisations. This collaboration is rooted in a shared goal to achieve lasting improvement to solve social problems at a local, national and global level.

Systems Catalyst

Systems catalysts are values-driven individuals who bring about catalytic change. Whether they are social impact focused people, entrepreneurs, innovators, funders, lawyers, government or bilateral stakeholders, systems catalysts are defined by their common sense of purpose, collaborative mindset, generosity of spirit and desire to achieve collective change. These characteristics evoke a shared commitment to change the systems that hold problematic societal, economic, and environmental problems in place. Systems catalysts create solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Catalyst 2030 Glossary

These terms refer to the various ways that Catalyst 2030 members join, engage in and become a part of the movement. Here you can review the various ways that a group of Catalyst 2030 members engage to make things happen.

Catalysing Change Week

Catalysing Change Week (CCW) is the world’s largest event led by social innovators and entrepreneurs to share knowledge, exchange ideas, and accelerate collaborative systems change during more than 100 online sessions and activities in a dedicated annual conference week.

Chapter Subgroups

Chapter Subgroups are made of members from a particular Chapter, working together on current tasks required for the development of their Chapter (Local). These are different to Working Groups, which are groups of Catalyst 2030 members working on current tasks required for the development of Catalyst 2030 (Global).


Collaborations exist between/among members (and allies) in service of achieving the SDGs. At Catalyst 2030 we approach collaborations through a systems approach, recognising the need to co-create and co-design collaborations that shift the ecosystems in which we operate. This moves our work from the “me” to “we” mindset to achieve deep change.

Conversation Cafe

One of the remarks of Catalyst 2030 members is that they love meeting amazing people from all over the world. The Conversation Café is for members who are interested in making new connections with other members and discovering potential partners and collaborators. The Conversation Café is held on the 3rd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of every month.

Country Chapter

Each Country Chapter is a local version of the global Catalyst 2030 community, taking responsibility for part of the organisation’s mission in a specific country.

General Assembly

General Assemblies are regular meetings that are open to all members and take place once a month. It is anticipated that the General Assemblies will lead the evolution of Catalyst 2030.

Governing Council

This is the oversight board for Catalyst 2030 and is made up of representatives from various Country Chapters, Regional Chapters, working groups and collaborations.

Incubation Board

The Incubation Board steered Catalyst 2030 through its incubation phase, from July 2020 to December 2021, before the establishment of the Governing Council. See Governing Council.

Induction Ceremony

Once members are accepted, all members attend the Catalyst 2030 Induction Ceremony to formally introduce them to the network.

Issue-Based Groups (IBGs)

Issue-Based Groups were Catalyst 2030 collaborations based on a particular interest area, for example: Tourism or Disaster Response. These have now been absorbed into Member Collaborations.

Regional Chapter

Each Regional Chapter is a local version of the global Catalyst 2030 community, taking responsibility for part of the organisation’s mission in a specific region.


The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They include 169 targets that all UN Member States have agreed to work towards achieving by the year 2030.

Task Force

Task Forces are needs based, member-led teams. They are short-term and address one specific task or idea.

Theory of Change

Theory of Change is a particular way of approaching a problem. It is a process that includes a clear examination of the challenges as well as the ideas and hypotheses that are needed so that systemic change can be achieved.

Working Group

Catalyst 2030 Working Groups are groups of members working on current tasks required for the development of Catalyst 2030.

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