What is CATALYST all about?

CATALYST aims to improve collective sensemaking and creative ideation for the common good in large scale online debates for social innovation.


How innovative is CATALYST?

CATALYST will undertake technological developments aimed at radically improving collaborative knowledge creation through ground-breaking functionalities intended to mobilize collective intelligence for the public good, and will test these next generation solutions in authentic, real world settings.


Within a Collective Intelligence (CI) Spectrum ranging from Sensing to Collective Action, CATALYST focuses on Contested CI (Sensemaking and Ideation), which recognises the centrality of deliberation, argumentation and public debate.


What is the social value of CATALYST?

CATALYST’s testbed partners are leaders in running international social innovation online networks, providing access to very large communities of citizens concerned with social and environmental practices (Imagination for People, Wikitalia), sustainable lifestyle (CSCP) and more participatory democratic processes (Purpose, Euclid Network). These range from young people redrafting the European constitution, to social entrepreneurs sharing insights about responsible business models, to helping citizens co-create new public policies, etc.


What are the users’ uptake and motivation?

Public deliberation in complex debates is critical, but poorly supported by today’s social media platforms: it is impossible for citizens and moderators to grasp the state of the debate, or know where they might best contribute to advance understanding. In order to support the dynamics of multilingual deliberation networks, CATALYST will look at two core concepts: harvesters and analytics


Focus 1: Human-assisted online tools to inexpensively harvest and structure the vast amount of data and knowledge that develop in social media and online groups, and facilitate collective ideation, creativity and citizen engagement:

  • Harvesters are required to summarize the key points and relationships gathered from online groups as concept maps;
  • Harvesting will be realized by pre-identified “catchers” or through a crowdsourced process made up of simple micro-tasks.


Focus 2: Analytics to measure the quality of the collective intelligence dynamics back to the community to make the collaborative process significantly more effective:

  • Large scale social innovation involves attention-allocation tools (metrics);
  • These metrics help avoid balkanization and groupthink, help identify irrational bias, controversial or mature topics, and facilitate conversation diversity.


How multidisciplinary is CATALYST (approach and impact)?

The social innovation organisations in CATALYST bring years of experience mobilising and empowering citizens for collective action, grounded in the theory and practice of participatory democracy and open society. The academic partners (Open University and the University of Zurich) bring expertise in argument visualization, collaborative systems, social learning, interface design and evaluation, urban planning, artificial intelligence and open systems architecture. The cordinator (Sigma Orionis) specialised in services supporting collaborative research and global innovation in ICT will bring to the consortium its longstanding experience in the management of EU-funded projects and in outreach activities.


How scalable is CATALYST?

CATALYST will deliver an ecosystem of CI services that will augment current and future partners’ platforms with • Web-based annotation tools • Recommenders to help users prioritise attention • Online creativity triggers • Interactive visualizations of debates • Social Network and Deliberation Analytics. A coherent user experience will be delivered through a CI Analytics Dashboard.


The CATALYST project does not require partners and users to drop their existing tools, but provides CI tools that add new value to existing web platforms. All developments will be made available under Creative Commons (for methods) and open source / free license (for software). All the specific services provided should be accessible by any module, over the internet, using technology-neutral, lightweight open data formats and protocols. Data will not be locked into any part of the system.


What is CATALYST’s portability to other sectors?

Collective deliberation, sensemaking and ideation are challenges for all sectors facing complex, sociotechnical problems. Consequently, the academic partners have seen their current tools adopted across a huge range of sectors, and CATALYST’s software tools and services will prove to be of great interest to many constituencies, such as health, education, mobility, energy, urban design, economic development, corporate social responsibility, etc.