Every community needs catalysts

By Suzii Paynter March

What is one word that describes what Prosper Waco does? Prosper Waco is a CATALYST — and every community needs at least one CATALYST. If you were going to write a job description for a Catalyst it might read something like this:

An organization that is a Catalyst will:

  • bring attention to an important issue,

  • identify barriers in the community,

  • bring new information and legitimacy to an issue,

  • identify leverage points for important actions,

  • increase the exchange of theory and practice,

  • identify promising practices,

  • bring additional activities to build momentum,

  • study the local situation,

  • analyze policy parameters,

  • reduce inefficiencies or duplications,

  • promote common language and clarify terms, and

  • create incentives for collaboration that may not have happened organically.

In a recent study of collective impact organizations in Canada, a wide-ranging study identified the catalyzing elements of successful efforts over time. Looking to the future, the study emphasized the importance of working harder to provide better linkages across multiple efforts in a community. This may translate into various forms:

  1. multiple conversations over time rather than a large conference-style meeting;

  2. deeper relationships between more staff within organizations; and

  3. more “revisiting” of previous reports, conversations, and conclusions.

All of these allow for new and maturing ideas to emerge or be refined into action items.

Solutions are “silver buckshot” not silver bullets. It takes many small steps to bring theory into practice and create impact. It takes resources, and it takes time to move past intractable places of scarcity, dysfunction, or ineffectiveness.

Catalysts can bring the energy needed to get through the snarls and tangles.

If you have been reading this newsletter for the past months, you may recall some of the ways that Prosper Waco has been a visible catalyst in Waco. Prosper Waco has HELPED . . .

  • facilitate community organizations to add health screenings to food distribution sites across the city,

  • start a Families & Foster Care Coalition,

  • bring high quality workforce training to Waco neighborhoods,

  • support Waco police with mental health crisis situations,

  • support and gather data from 1,200 discharged mental health clients.

A few pieces here and a few parts there and we begin to recognize solutions that successfully disrupt troublesome needs and ultimately transform the status quo. Prosper Waco is, indeed, a CATALYST for progress in Greater Waco.

Suzii Paynter March is CEO of Prosper Waco.