“Flat bellies and planned pregnancies” (the Philippines)
“Alternative economic options for trafficked women” (Thailand)
“Educate young men on gender and sexuality” (Indonesia)
By Christina Bjornstrom
Catapult, the recently launched crowd-funding site and subsidiary of the organization Women Deliver, serves as home to some of the most eye-catching, targeted (and even provocative) project titles I’ve ever seen. Founder Maz Kessler says that Catapult is designed for us to not just “talk about” girls’ and women’s issues. It’s about actually funding and supporting girls and women.
During an hour of browsing through projects on Catapult–intuitively placed according to donors’ preferences–I learned a good deal about what is being done to empower girls around the world. The various project types on the site include:
Advocacy, Child Brides, Economic Security, Leadership, Labor Exploitation, Gender-Based Violence, LGTBQ, Technology, Human Trafficking and about 15 others.
As supporters of women’s and girls’ rights, we like to believe that we care about all women’s issues. However, some issues call me more urgently than others: Maternal Health, Labor Exploitation, Economic Security and Education and Training. What’s great about Catapult is that they’ve used our hyper-selective nature so that we can feel more confident about how, where and how much we donate. Catapult effectively removes the fluffy information, and answers the hard questions that critics of non-profit organizations often like to ask such as, “Yeah, well, who benefits and how will my money be spent?”
Whether you donate $1 or $1000 through Catapult, over the course of a year, you’ll receive three reports on exactly how your money has been spent, how your projects are doing including pictures of who you’re helping. Crowd-funding just became a little more personal and a lot more fun!
What I really like about Catapult is the credit and trust they give to on-the-ground project developer—the key term here being “on-the-ground,” as these projects are already well-designed, fully prepared and ready to go once the right amount of money has been collected.
With great enthusiasm, Kessler told me, “The people in Ghana and Sri Lanka—those are the experts. Our role is not to say how you should scope your work. Our community guideline is to say you can put funds into whatever you know is right and needed. Just tell people what it is and be transparent about it. We need to promote a culture of transparency and accountability. Through Catapult, people get to share their successes, but also meet challenges together.”
It’s been three days since I last looked through my favorite Catapult projects (all of which exist within reputable organizations that Catapult carefully pre-screens), and each and every single one of them has experienced solid increases in funding during that time. For example, Innovative Literacy Program Uses Mobile Phones is a project designed by the Afghan Institute of Learning to accelerate literacy for Afghan girls and women through the use of text messaging. That’s right—text messaging. The project, which is designed to teach 30 Afghan women and girls, has already acquired 5% of its funding through 10 supporters. How do I know this? Because Catapult describes in detail every step of the process, even providing supporters with an easy-to-read breakdown of their budget. Here, project supporters come together, proudly proclaiming their reasons for donating:
- “The Afghan Institute of Learning’s mobile literacy project is accelerating learning for older girls and women and inspiring them to take additional classes!” (Carolyn Dunlap)
- “I give because I believe in equality” (Marion Goldsmith)
But, if you thought Catapult is a site just for women, you thought wrong. Kessler emphasizes the importance of including men on Catapult:
“It’s really important to me that men care about this as well…We understand that we have a base of passionate female advocates, but we also welcome men and boys. A lot of our projects are about behavior change in boys as well as attacking inequality in boys and youth in general. That’s why Catapult is not called Her Catapult. These are issues that affect all of us.”
Catapult isn’t asking you to set aside your family obligations and fly to Nepal to build safe houses, but they will help you help others make that a reality.