Rob Katz

Catalytic Communities – Bottom-up Solutions to Local Problems

Theresa Williamson, Catalytic Communities founderCory’s post about the Tech Museum Awards reminded me to look through the list of this year’s Laureates. Nominees outside the Economic Development category may not necessarily be base of the pyramid focused, but they tend to be really innovative and under-the-radar. As I browsed down through the categories, I was pleasantly surprised: Catalytic Communities, a NextBillion ally and base of the pyramid innovator, is listed as a Laureate in the Equality category.

We’ve previously mentioned Catalytic Communities (CatComm) on in the context of their community work in Brazil. A quick reminder – CatComm serves as a clearinghouse for low-income communities? collective wisdom. CatComm’s Community Solutions Database tracks hundreds of bottom-up solutions to local problems, and they have built powerful peer networks of community leaders worldwide to grow and field-test those solutions.

I?m thrilled to see this project recognized by the Tech Museum. Sure, the Community Solutions Database uses cutting edge IT in its work, but the real innovation is their model. Here at NextBillion, we often talk about what works for the base of the pyramid, returning again and again to the importance of partnerships and understanding local markets. CatComm doesn?t talk–it builds partnerships and disseminates local knowledge, helping successful models scale up. They don?t have to worry about local buy-in–they ARE local. This is one of the best examples of bottom-up, base of the pyramid development out there.

Catalytic Communities is the brainchild of Theresa Williamson, whom I met at the 2004 Eradicating Poverty Through Profit conference. Theresa is an electrifying person, whose passion for her work spills over into her personal life. She founded Catalytic Communities in 2000, after earning a Ph.D. in International Planning. No surprise that she’s sharp – her intellectual pedigree is second-to-none: her father, John Williamson, is a noted economist with the Institute for International Economics, best known for coining the term ?Washington Consensus?. (Side note: I’ve met John Williamson as well, through the Carroll Round at Georgetown University–small world).

Congratulations to Catalytic Communities and to Theresa in particular. For more coverage of CatComm, check out Sarah Rich’s post at WorldChanging, or read Theresa’s blog.