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Community Catalyst Initiative

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The Community Catalyst Initiative challenges museums and libraries to transform how they collaborate with their communities. It achieves this by testing and developing approaches for bringing about positive community change by drawing on the unique relationships, knowledge, and spaces of museums and libraries. It also encourages the exploration of partnerships with other organizations, including local non-profit and community development organizations. 

The word “catalyst” refers to how museums and libraries can spark ideas, energy, and action around a community’s vision and plan. The initiative seeks to understand the tools and approaches that can support increased capacity in community engagement, building upon the findings from the 2016 Strengthening Networks, Sparking Change report and town hall.

Through this special initiative, IMLS is gathering insights from the library, museum, and community development fields to create frameworks, tools, and resources that support strengthen organizational capacity to bring about community change and bolster resilience. The grantees are testing and evaluating new and existing approaches for engaging with and serving their local communities.

In addition, the twelve 2017 grantees are receiving National Leadership Grant support through a partnership with DePaul University to provide training and coaching on Asset-based community development using an adaptive developmental evaluation approach.

Asset-based community development is a framework used in programs focused on improving community wellbeing around issues such as housing, health, education, or civic engagement. This framework supports identification, alignment, and collective deployment of the skills and knowledge of local residents along with the resources and connections of social service organizations, and government entities to achieve a collective vision.

IMLS is also partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency to assist four of the 2017 grantees through the “Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities” program. The program provides technical assistance to help participants achieve their desired development goals, improve quality of life, and become more economically and environmentally sustainable.

For information on how you and your institution can get involved, see the list of resources (PDF 603KB). You can also contact Dr. Marvin Carr, Senior Advisor for STEM and Community Engagement at; Sarah Fuller, Senior Program Officer in the Office of Library Services, at; or Steve Shwartzman, Senior Museum Program Officer in the Office of Museum Services, at