Kids as Catalyst

Kids as Catalyst is an award-winning schools-based program that equips children aged 8-12 with the skills to identify and solve real problems facing their community, through creative and collaborative projects. 

It has been delivered in 35 schools since 2011. Kids as Catalyst can be done either online or face-to-face as a one-week immersive Bootcamp, or a two-phase, 16-week social action program. 

Kids as Catalyst is a unique, real-world experience where children begin their work in the classroom and then step out into the community to lead local change.

‘The Kids as Catalyst philanthropy program has considerable potential for broad social impacts and should be prioritised as an intervention.’ University of Melbourne, Child-led Community Change Strategy Evaluation Report 2013-2016.

How it works

2019 Geelong Kids as Catalyst

196 Year 6 students across four Northern Bay College campuses teamed up with 28 community organisations and volunteer groups to develop and deliver 33 community change projects.

Stage 1 - Students identify local issues they care about

Working with Kids Thrive facilitators and NBC teachers, the kids form teams and identify the issues that they wanted to see improved in their communities. They chose:

  • Elderly isolation
  • Environmental sustainability
  • New arrivals support
  • All abilities sports
  • Food-related projects
  • Animal welfare
  • Inclusive communities
  • Homelessness

Stage 2 - Build partnerships with local charities and community groups

Students identify community connections - who do they already know who might help them with their project? Which organisations are already working on this issue and could help? Then, with the support of facilitators and teachers, they hop on the phone! Not everyone says yes, but 28 community organisations and volunteer groups agree to partner with the Kids as Catalyst teams, including:

  • Humans in Geelong
  • Marine Discovery Centre
  • Geelong Cats
  • Cloverdale Community Centre
  • Elf Squad
  • Lara Mens’ Shed
  • Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-op
  • Geelong City Council – The Fort

Stage 3 - Co-design, plan and budget community change projects

Then it's time to work through the step-by-step process of developing a community change project. Teams work together - drawing on the strengths of each individual - to create:

  • Goals
  • Timeline
  • Budget

Stage 4 - Pitch to a panel of school and community leaders for real money

Time to get creative! Teams prepare their pitch presentations to secure the money to deliver their projects. They are empowered to be big, bright, colourful, bold - and confident! In 2019, 12 community leaders joined the program as panellists, to assess each pitch and decide if they should receive the funding they asked for. Panellists included representatives from:

  • City of Greater Geelong
  • Victoria Police
  • Northern Bay College
  • Australian Department of Health and Human Services
  • Communities that Care
  • William Buckland Foundation
  • Deakin University
  • Australian Department of Social Services

Below: Pitch days in full swing at Northern Bay College


Read: More than $8,000 granted to Geelong students for community change projects


Stage 5 - Implement these projects

This is where the rubber hits the road - students get out into the community and deliver their projects. They extend their community networks even further, meeting new people in the organisations and community spaces they are working in. They deliver real benefits to real people. They have first-hand experience of making a difference. They made it happen!

The Helpful Kids worked with the Geelong Food Relief centre to create a child play area for kids visiting the centre with their parents.

The Mural Makers worked with Wexford Community Hub to create a welcome mural for visitors to the school.

The Elder Helpers worked with the Salvation Army to create hygiene packs for the elderly.

Stage 6 - Showcase to the community

The 2019 Kids as Catalyst Showcase was held at the Geelong Cats Stadium in the Presidents Room. Hundreds of students, community leaders and members of the public attended. It was an enormous celebration of the power of child-led, positive community change.


Read: The Awesome Power of Child-led Change

Listen: ABC's Life Matters program discusses the Kids Thrive's approach

Learn: How Kids Thrive programs link to the Victorian Curriculum

About: Did you know we offer a one week Kids as Catalyst Bootcamp?