Catalyst infrastructure

Inspire develops thought leadership on the catalyst role of the philanthropy enablers and infrastructure organizations.   

We inspire philanthropy and its infrastructure to be effective catalysts, 
cultivating and resourcing the new doers and new ways.

Our ambition is to shift philanthropic practice towards building the new, for ecosystems where the agency to drive transformation is incentivised, multiplied and distributed.  

We believe systems change needs more actors and more non-linear paths, and an entrepreneurial mindset that sees and acts from assets.

One conversation, many community spaces:

Our team has started its engagement with the 4C in 2014 with Alina Porumb preparing a case on the Romanian community foundations ecosystem building efforts for the Wings Infrastructure in Focus Report – A Special Look at Organisations serving Community Philanthropy. The case explored the impact of the Association for Community Relations (ARC) on building community foundations in Romania using the lenses of the 4C: capacity, capability, connections and credibility.


We continued this engagement in 2016 with the Inspire team participating in a practitioners community co-designing the 4C Framework for Evaluating Professional Support to Philanthropy, in a process hosted by Wings and Dafne. A guide for using the 4C resulted from this process and experimental practices were shared at a 4C session at Wings Forum in Mexico City in 2017.


In 2021, we proposed experimentally within the Romanian community foundations ecosystem, an expanded 5C framework that used mapped the collective effects of the ecosystem, also also introduced a 5th C – the catalyst lens for its effects on the emergence of new philanthropic and civic actors. We also found useful to group the approaches used by the community foundations and their support organizations under the 4C categories, as a way to stimulate thinking about the variety of practices and tools we have at our disposal locally and within broader national or regional infrastructure organizations.


We further explored this expanded framework during Thinkfrastructure 2021, inviting the practitioners from emerging and innovative community philanthropy spaces from Africa, Europe and Latin America – to connect their support practices to the 5C. This dialogue within the Architects of Change community continues, with further work done by the Inspire team to document the Romanian ecosystem building case within the expanded 5C framework, and make connections between this lens and real world examples and practices.

As a part of Inspire Architects of Change Community we explored the catalyst roles of community foundations and their support organizations.This has started in the framework of Thinkfrastructure 2021, where practitioners shared with their peers how they saw their practice through the 5C lenses, contributing to building a shared language and shared references around key infrastructure roles within the community.


As there was interest within the community to explore further the catalyst role, in the next two years, we continued the dialogue during Thinkfrastructure 2022 which had a key question of how one can influence change, without being in a position of control. At the conference, Assifero shared with us several ways in which they have applied the 4C framework creatively in their work.


Following Architects of Change workshops explored the catalyst lens in the roles of the community foundations support organizations and the grantmaking practices. To document this journey, the Inspire team has created a series of informative materials on the catalyst roles of CFs, CFSOs and the wider CF support ecosystems. We also produced a tool to support CF grantmaking processes in the form of reflection cards.


This year’s Thinkfrastructure conference was also focused on building the new in practice.

In partnership with Alina Shenfeldt and Hanna Stahle, within the PEX community of Philea, and Vinzenz Himminghofen, iac Berlin, we hold an emergent space for philanthropy infrastructure practitioners to explore the catalyst role philanthropy infrastructure can play, as a powerful concept to broaden our perspectives, incentivise change at a wider scale and expand the range of stakeholders who engage in imagining, enabling and amplifying change.


PEX Catalyst Infrastructure Group has started as an experimental initiative after the Istanbul PEX forum, following the threads of exploring collective impact and new roles of philanthropy infrastructure organizations within a new, more demanding context. We started with an opening call to explore the quiet might of the philanthropy infrastructure and to further define together and in practice its catalyst roles. This was continued with further dialogue, with cases from practice, a conceptual map of the catalyst roles and work within the PEX catalyst infrastructure group on three lines – principles, practices and shared experiments.


PEX itself is an interesting case of bringing together different actors of philanthropy infrastructure in Europe, understanding we can no longer work in insolation and that we need a space for more continuous interactions. Learn more about PEX origin story as an illustration of catalytic roles in ecosystem practice.

We are co-leading the Lift Up Philanthropy Working Group within WINGS. This continues the work of Infrastructure 2.0 group in WINGS and has created a community of practice around the Acting Together to Build a Supportive Ecosystem processes and tools related to the mapping of ecosystems and the use of the 4C in this context.


Within WINGS Forum 2023 we hosted a session on Building Sectors that Act on Transformation. Catalyst Practices for Philanthropy supporters: combining the 4C roles with a new lens of transformation. We presented our own experience with the 5C for building ecosystems in Romania and using the lens internationally and explored together with Philea Europe, Assifero Italy, the Center for Social Impact and Philanthropy at the Ashoka University India, Ghana Philanthropy Forum and Comunalia Mexico their perspectives on the transformative roles of the philanthropy infrastructure and how 4C (5C) framework has been useful in practice from different perspectives: of building strategy, of alignment in the team, partners and supporters, of bringing a collective lens to work or prioritizing certain areas of investment.

Help advance this dialogue

Share your practices on the catalyst role and the use of the 4C.

Why are community foundations ecosystems
of support for transformation?

4C Framework adapted to community foundations ecosystems and their actors

The catalyst role of community foundations ecosystems

The Association for the Practice of Transformation (APT) supports the intentional and systemic transformations of individuals, organizations, communities and societies by stimulating collaboration, research, learning, social innovation and strategic thinking.

INSPIRE is a program powered by APT with the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Contact us

We are a Romania-based nonprofit legal entity. Most of our team is based in Romania, UTC+3.

© 2024 Association for the Practice of Transformation

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