Catalpa is a mission-driven organisation that sits at the intersection of design, technology and international development. We bring together a creative team of designers, engineers, and sector specialists, all focused on crafting unique solutions to old problems.
Catalpa started in rural Timor-Leste in 2010 with two co-founders and a small Rotary grant to help connect rural communities to essential services and provide free internet hubs for informal education centres.
Today, the organisation is working in four countries with a broad range of partners including the Governments of Timor-Leste, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Papua New Guinea, Australia along with multilateral and bilateral development partners such as UNICEF, ILO, FAO, WHO, USAID, UNDP, European Union, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
Catalpa practices human-centered design, a creative approach to problem solving that starts with people and arrives at new solutions tailored to meet their needs. We also draws on ideas from the behavioural economics to enable people to make ‘better choices for themselves’. These are brought together through the application of modern, appropriate and persuasive technology.
Our initiatives in health, aid effectiveness, education, governance, nutrition, gender, and disability continue to prove that design, technology and good sector expertise can influence behaviours to achieve social good.
In health, Catalpa’s personalised and timely nudges over SMS increase the likelihood mothers will deliver with a skilled birth attendant by two times, and increase her chances of coming for follow up care by over five times. To date, the Liga Inan mHealth program in Timor-Leste has delivered over 1 million personalised and targeted SMS messages to expectant mothers. Liga Inan also seeks to influence the behaviour soon-to-be fathers to actively support women’s access to a health facility before birth, during delivery, and through early childhood.
Together with the Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Health, Catalpa established an Innovation Technologies hub designed to explore the application of new technologies to tackle entrenched problems within the health sector. The innovation hub has fostered initiatives that led to improved ambulance case tracking and management, to supporting the Quality Control department establish mechanisms to support reporting of complaints and issues over mobile phones.
In Myanmar, Catalpa designed and implemented the country’s first open aid information management system Mohinga. The platform was described as a ‘Game Changer’ for Myanmar by Devex and one of the best examples of applying international standards to the country level by Helen Clarke former head of the United Nations Development Program. Mohinga was co-designed and developed within the offices of the Ministry of Planning and Finance. Starting from a simple sketch on paper, Mohinga has grown into a platform that now monitors billions in aid spending and thousands of individual development activities. Government ownership of Mohinga, and its international recognition, is a key testament to Catalpa’s collaborative co-design processes and ability to deliver innovative technology with government counterparts.
In Timor-Leste’s education sector, Catalpa is working with the Professional Leadership and Mentoring Program (PLMP) in partnership with the Ministry of Education and ABTJta, funded by the Australian Government. Catalpa has introduced mobile technology to support school mentors conducting classroom observations. This creates the opportunity for partners to collect any kind of relevant data, in a timely fashion and respond with specific needs-based interventions.
Within the PLMP program, Catalpa also established a peer-to-peer conversation system, to enable school leaders, mentors and accompaniers to chat and exchange resources in real-time. Early results from the program suggest positive improvements in children literacy and numeracy. In 2017, Catalpa is expanding the utility of this technology by focusing on improving teacher subject-matter knowledge through interactive training content and other institutional strengthening interventions.
In Papua New Guinea, a recently minted partnership between the Australian National University, the CSIROs data innovation lab Data61, and Catalpa is exploring the potential of improved information management and technology to assist the government meet its strategic goals and support its decentralisation efforts.
In nutrition, Catalpa is working on an innovationXchange funded initiative called Hamutuk. Hamutuk is bringing together a broad range of over partners across sectors, including government and non-government organisations, in an effort to combat stunting in Timor-Leste. With over 20 partners, and growing, Catalpa is using mobile technology and statistical learning to micro-target households to ensure they are exposed to the right behaviour change nudges. Hamutuk is attempting to change the way implementing partners co-ordinate and collaborate across sectors to achieve a common goal. To support Hamutuk’s behaviour change efforts, Catalpa is partnering with the BETA Team, also known unofficially as the "Nudge Unit" within the Australian Prime Minister & Cabinets Office.
Also in Timor-Leste, Catalpa has entered in to a strategic partnership with Abt-JTA's Partnership for Human Development (PHD). The PHD development facility represents DFAT's largest investment in Timor-Leste. In co-operation with the Government of Timor-Leste and NGO partners, PHD integrates work across 8 sectors to improve the wellbeing of the Timorese people. Within the facility, we are working to drive PHDs innovation agenda as well establishing a mechanism to modernise PHD portfolio management, and standardise the way implementing partners report activities and results.