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Improved tools for online social innovation platforms

The EU-funded CATALYST project aims to develop and test collective intelligence tools and make them available, as open source solutions, to any online communities, particularly those focused on social innovation, sustainability and citizen engagement.

We’ve all seen how causes can swell in popularity with the help of online tools and platforms that gather like-minded people together online. Particularly in the area of social innovation and sustainability, online communities have been playing an increasingly important role in supporting grassroots initiatives. However, as such platforms expand, it becomes ever more difficult for community managers to manage them efficiently. In answer to this, a number of major community networks and top research institutes have joined together to create the EU-funded CATALYST project. Launched in late 2013, CATALYST aims to develop and test collective intelligence tools and make them available, as open source solutions, to any interested communities. Led by project coordinator, Sigma Orionis, the project team is currently busily developing these collective intelligence tools, processes and methodologies. The consortium includes five community partners engaged in curating very large online communities on social innovation and citizen engagement platforms — Imagination for People, Wikitalia, CSCP and Purpose and Euclid Network — and two research institutes, the Open University and the University of Zurich. The suite of tools that the team is working on comprise a spectrum of capabilities that range from collective sensing (where a collective gathers data on its environment), through sense-making (interpreting data to identify patterns that warrant action), ideation (developing ideas about which actions to pursue), decision-making (selecting the best actions), and finally collective action (implementing these actions in a coordinated effective way). The CATALYST package will be ready for testing at the end of the year and the team has launched an ‘open call for collaboration’ urging communities to take the tools for a test drive. Specifically, the partners are looking for communities from Europe and beyond, to try and test their developments while engaging large-scale discussions around a pre-defined societal issue. The call was officially launched in the summer at the first edition of the CATALYST annual event. Organised in the context of CAPS2014, the CATALYST event was so popular that, according to the project team, participants were ‘queuing outside the room’. Project partners delivered a set of presentations and explained the different aspects of their work, in particular the ecosystems of collective intelligence tools and methodologies and the preparation of the trial phase. Participants also had the chance to to test the functionalities of the developed tools (Assembl, DebateHub, LiteMap and Edgesense), through several demos. Interested communities can apply now to test the CATALYST tools. They will all be made available free of charge with the necessary level of support on how to use them and how to build up a community of participants. The deadline for applying is October 1, 2014. Tests will start by the end of 2014 – beginning of 2015 and be completed by the end of April 2015. For more information, please visit: CATALYST



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