Catalytic Communities was founded in 2000 in recognition of the abundance of community solutions across Rio’s favelas and with a mission to administer virtual and physical spaces designed to empower and inspire a global network of community-generated solutions, with Rio’s favelas as the catalysts. In 2001 we launched our first major project—the Web’s first open-access Community Solutions Database which, prior to Web 2.0, offered communities around the world perhaps the only free online space to organize and describe their localized solutions in detail and in ways that others could emulate and support. This database was recognized with a Tech Award in 2006, in the Equality category.
In parallel with this database, CatComm ran a physical community tech center—our Casa Community Technology Hub—for favela-based leaders and organizers in Rio de Janeiro, which were also the focus of the database’s solutions. Our Casa was recognized that same year by the UN as an ‘actionable idea’ for other cities. From 2003 to 2008 this community center supported over 1050 grassroots leaders from 215 favelas with strategic networks of support, peer-to-peer training and technology access, always in support of community solutions to collective challenges in Rio’s favelas.
By 2008 both programs had served communities with critical and unique timely tools, strengthened community programs and movements, and had served their purpose. By this point the Internet had become interactive, allowing communities to publish information on their initiatives in a range of open access online platforms; the Internet had reached every single one of Rio’s 1000+ favelas, meaning the anchor our community center provided via free access was no longer critical; Rio’s communities were now comfortable sharing information online and interacting via social media; and other Web-based solutions databases had popped up.