Supporting Impact, Innovation, and Equity at Scale
Capacity gaps at every level are constraining our ability to deliver on ambitious goals
Leaders and teams nationally are working to improve outcomes for youth, families, and communities.
However, their efforts and investments often miss the mark because of a lack of organizational and ecosystem capacity. But capacity building efforts are often ineffective, inaccessible, and inequitable. There is no easy way for organizations, especially those proximate to marginalized communities, to access high quality support that is tailored to meet their needs and contexts. At an ecosystem level, there are few mechanisms to surface needs and insights in a timely way.
What if every education leader and team that identified a challenge could access the expertise and hands-on support they needed to address it? What if, as a sector, we were continuously learning from these efforts and leveraging insights to better students, families, and communities?
Catalyst:Ed is a national nonprofit working to transform the capacity of the nation’s education ecosystem and improve outcomes for the millions of students it serves. Our pioneering model rapidly and effectively matches education organizations to tailored technical assistance and capacity building supports so they can address long-standing challenges and expand the limits of what they can accomplish. We also invest in strengthening the capacity of grassroots organizations that work in close proximity to historically marginalized communities. At a systemic level, we are building the “marketplace” infrastructure – the technology, network, and know-how – needed to support capacity building at scale, strengthening the field of providers, and facilitating sector-wide learning.
Our Guiding Beliefs
Capacity building fuels world-changing work.
When done well, capacity building helps leaders and teams understand how to leverage their strengths to maximize impact. When integrated wisely, capacity building leads to impactful, equitable, and resilient organizations. At its most powerful, capacity building provides the direction and the fuel needed to change entrenched systems.
Individualized support is necessary, yet collective learning is possible.
Organizations vary, and there is no single model of success. Leaders need help identifying the priorities, approaches, and providers that resonate with them, so they can be set up for success on their own terms, in their unique environments. At the same time, the insights that emerge from these experiences must contribute to our collective understanding of what’s working and why.
Equity is a compass.
A focus on racial and economic equity and justice must be integrated into capacity building, guiding decisions on what support looks like, who benefits from it, and, importantly, to what end. Capacity building must also include diverse voices, especially those who are most marginalized, attend to its impact on communities, and be in service of creating a more equitable and just society.
There is no progress without trust.
Capacity building work is people work. People need to trust and be trusted in order to learn and grow, individually and collectively. Trust encourages calculated risk-taking and fortifies against setbacks and failures – ultimately leading to more impactful, equitable, and innovative solutions.
We help school systems, education agencies, postsecondary institutions, education nonprofits and philanthropies tap into the expertise of our network of education leaders and technical assistance providers in order to spur change and power organizational learning and capacity building.
We strengthen organizational capacity by matching education organizations with customized support so they can strengthen their organizational and programmatic capabilities and address challenges.
Investing in Potential
We invest in capacity building for grassroots organizations that work with historically marginalized communities, and match them to our diverse community of providers who understand and are responsive to grassroots contexts and needs.
Strengthening the Field
We strengthen the field of providers by offering a platform for them to access new opportunities, demonstrate expertise, learn, and collaborate.
We facilitate sector-wide learning by aggregating data and insights across hundreds of projects and disseminating it broadly to build the collective understanding and capacity of the sector.
Pandemic Response: Recovery, Reinvention, Resilience (R3) Fund
At a time of unprecedented uncertainty and change, Catalyst:Ed mobilized its network of providers to provide rapid and responsive support to school districts nationally. We worked with 176 school districts during the first six months of the pandemic and allocated $2M to help them identify and leverage the expertise to pivot their teaching and learning models, plan for contingencies, address students’ social and emotional needs, engage with families, and more. 88% of projects met their goals. 100% of school districts agreed that they would recommend their provider to others. Based on our work, we also developed a roadmap to help leaders identify and prioritize actions.
Supporting Equity-Oriented Capacity Building
Catalyst:Ed's DEI Expert Hub provided responsive support to 180 organizations seeking guidance on diversity, equity, and inclusion during the summer of 2020. This work included providing a more intensive experience to 29 grantees of a national foundation through a multi-year initiative. 100% of participating organizations felt that the tailored support offered by Catalyst:Ed was useful to them in their equity journeys.
Building Organizational and Field Capacity in Networked Improvement
Catalyst:Ed worked with 40 grantees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help build capacity to design and implement networked improvement strategies. Each grantee went through a capacity assessment, based on which they were connected to customized supports and resources. 93% of organizations stated that they were satisfied with the support they received. The NSI Exchange has since spurred us to launch the Learning Lab for School Improvement Teams, a public-facing resource for teams interested in incorporating networked improvement practices into their work.