PEX Catalyst Infrastructure

With increasing calls for philanthropy to be a force for societal transformation, the PEX Catalyst Infrastructure group looks into the ways, mindsets and approaches which philanthropy infrastructure organisations and practitioners can creatively employ to facilitate this transition, empower their constituencies and the wider field, and catalyse transformation.

In partnership with Alina Porumb and Alexandra Stef, Inspire, 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.

The quiet might of infrastructure: How philanthropy support organisations can catalyse transformation

‘Catalyst’ as a lens for thinking & doing

Philanthropy infrastructure organisations operate to strengthen the philanthropy sector by providing professional support to foundations and philanthropic organisations through a range of services, resources, knowledge, partnership-building and advocacy efforts on behalf of the sector.

With PEX Catalyst Infrastructure, we are using the catalyst lens as a metaphor for the roles, opportunities, practices and skills of infrastructure organisations to affect large-scale change beyond our direct constituencies. 

We are able to affect change indirectly. We can influence the space in-between organisations and the cultural norms within our own or other sectors. We see the catalyst lens as being connected to the leadership opportunities we have in our sector and beyond, to highlight issues, connect dots and foster new energy, interest and capacity. 

We aim to collectively define the transformation needed and enable the emergence of new ways of thinking and doing, so that they can self-replicate and expand without our continued support.

Our thinking behind the catalyst role is captured in this live community document.

PEX Catalyst Infrastructure background

Following the PEXforum 2022 in Istanbul and a series of PEXcommunity reflections on enabling collective impact, PEX Catalyst Infrastructure emerged as a space to reflect on the catalyst identity of philanthropy infrastructure organisations. The group convenes quarterly to reflect on the catalyst role of philanthropy infrastructure, align on the catalyst principles, map existing practices and engage in collective experimentation.  

We trust emergence and a simultaneous exploration of different levels, elements, aspects that influence each other, aspire to make visible principles and cultural norms that influence our own thinking, practice and the one of our constituencies, and look at transformation not only as a result, but also as an ongoing process. 

PEX Catalyst Infrastructure conversation tracks

The energy of the collective exploration on the catalyst role of philanthropy infrastructure is focussed on three conversation flows: principles, practices, and action and experimentation

  • Principles: we define and refine principles of catalyst transformation design and practice
  • Practices: we explore the experience within the diverse existing practices in the field
  • Action and experimentation: we test new ways of unlearning and collaboration within the PEXcommunity

An open door to join collective exploration and engage with a track of interest

We are at the beginning of our journey, and we keep open multiple points of entry for those who are interested in joining this exploration with us. We welcome your thoughts in our shared space

If you are interested in joining one of the conversation flows on the different elements of catalyst infrastructure, or you want to share the learnings of your practice with the community of catalysers in philanthropy infrastructure, we can’t wait to hear from you. 


iac Berlin

As a Do & Think Tank for impact networks, iac Berlin works with foundations, academia, public institutions, and locally rooted non-profit organisations to build networks and alliances with social impact and to initiate new forms of collaboration and engagement. Together with our partners, we co-create innovative ways to empower people and their ideas to make their impact more effective and sustainable over time. We contribute to a growing community of network builders and share our knowledge in an open-source way.

iac Berlin was founded in 2017 by the Robert Bosch Stiftung.


Inspire develops thought leadership on the catalyst role of philanthropy, particularly of infrastructure organisations. 

We provoke conversations in practitioner spaces on catalyst principles and practices, inspiring experimental action and distilling emergent thinking. 

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. 

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

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Alina Shenfeldt
Programme Manager – Membership and Foresight
Hanna Stähle
Head of Foresight and Innovation