Founded in 1995, Catalyst Miami had a multi-pronged strategy to build capacity and resilience and advance social and economic mobility in low-wealth communities in Miami-Dade County. In 2017, in the midst of their strategic planning process, the organization faced a changing landscape and an important pivot point. In October of that year, Hurricane Irma avoided making a direct hit in Miami but triggered extensive evacuations and caused widespread flooding, power outages, and transportation issues that resulted in many people missing work for weeks. Tens of thousands of people living in Miami lined up outside local parks in sweltering heat, hoping to access post-disaster food stamps. This crisis highlighted the threat that climate change posed to Miami-Dade County’s low-wealth communities, the number of people combatting financial insecurity, and the need for an organization like Catalyst Miami.
As the organization was increasing in size and stature, the leadership team was reminded of the depth of the problems that Catalyst Miami was confronting, and the critical importance of seizing the moment to answer a set of challenging questions about their future. Among them: How should the organization structure partnerships and reinforce networks with other stakeholders to advance its goals? What changes needed to be made to the organizational culture and evaluation efforts? What should Catalyst Miami do to promote racial equity? How should the organization reinforce its existing efforts to help the community build resilience given the threat of climate change, reflected in part by increasingly severe storms like Hurricane Irma? Most fundamentally, how could the organization help low-wealth Miamians prepare for future storms, literally and figuratively?