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What we do

Creating Сhange That Matters and Will Last

Catalyse brings people together to discover what matters to them collectively. 
We build on what is already there and work out together how to turn ideas into actions that make a positive difference. For us, the process is as important as the outcome.











We work with individuals, groups, organisations and communities

who want to:

build strong relationships within and across their communities to improve cohesion, resilience and regeneration

develop and implement collective change that will enable their place adapt, flourish and thrive: socially, culturally, economically, environmentally and politically

get inspired and inspire other people around them to co-create positive change

understand what local people have already, want to keep or add and need to change in their places 

find pathways towards better lives in their communities, for all kinds of people and the place itself too

better understand the outcomes and impacts they are contributing to, and how to weave what they learn into next steps

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Our Work

This is a short summary of some of our current and recent activities. We undertake many short-term projects alongside longer term initiatives at any one time so a full list would be very long! 


Community Strategic Plans

Community engagement and strategic planning

2021 - current

With Timaru District Council and the Community Boards in Geraldine and Pleasant Point, Catalyse is working to deliver strategic plans in each community. The work involves research and wide-reaching, creative community engagement in rural and urban areas, both in-place and digitally. It is a real pleasure to help surface ideas from locals who might not usually engage in such work. Parts of this work have been undertaken in partnership with Powerdigm as well as involving Kete Planning

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Tagalad Reserve

Event organising and delivery


Catalyse worked with Mission Bay Kohimarama Residents Association and local people to run an Open Day that generates ideas and support for the development of Tagalad Reserve as a community asset. The work involves design, planning and delivery with diverse groups and individuals to create effective public engagement that encourages locals to feel positive and enthused about retaining the reserve in public ownership. Working both with and for local groups has numerous rewards and provides evidence for how much more productive working together can be.

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Takapuna Pavement Placemaking

Organising and delivery of pavement art


with local people in Takapuna. Building on a lockdown chalking activity with local residents, we ran a pavement art workshop to design several art pieces to trial outside the Sentinel Tower in Takapuna. Working with Kingi GilbertParis Kirby and James Ratahi (Ngāti Pāoa) and supported by Eke Panuku, the trial artworks reference key local features and stories and will inform the permanent works planned for the area. It has been fabulous to work and learn together in tactical ways that also inform systems change.

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Kūmara Awards
Architecture, Design and Direction nationally and in Tāmaki Makaurau


Planning, organising and delivering the Kūmara Awards nationally and in Tāmaki Makaurau brings us into contact with awesome placemakers and their initiatives across the country. Inspirational and a lot of fun! We couldn't do it without Eke Panuku, Fresh Concept, Gap Filler and Hutt City Council as well as a wide range of local partners in each host location. 


Mairangi Bay Placemaking

Locally-led Placemaking

2022 - current

Building on previous work undertaken by Auckland Council and the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board, our role is to awhi locals to undertake placemaking that matters to them. Another really good example of the need for locals to have access to support and expertise in order to make their ideas happen. Three initiatives are underway and we are excited to see how they develop.


Hibiscus and Bays Placemaking

Placemaking through Play

2022 - current

Working with local people to activate local places and cultivate community connections through play, our role is to help implement Sport NZ’s Principles of Play in ways that matter to locals and to grow placemaking skills among local people. To be able to join in with the things locals are already doing or thinking about is revealing ideas we would never have thought of ourselves! A real joy.

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Haere Mai and Welcome

Developmental Evaluation and Templating


This creative community initiative in the Roskill area is a partnership with Innovation Unit, Kāinga Ora and Roskill Together. It is designed to give new residents all the information they need to find their feet in the neighbourhood and our role is to provide developmental evaluation so the project can learn and improve in real time. We’ll also write a playbook so future projects can draw on the successes and learnings of this one. A great multi-disciplinary team that is up for learning together as well as making a positive difference.  

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Project Management


We are project managing a new wellbeing programme being piloted in five Tāmaki Makaurau schools in 2023 before expanding to other areas in Aotearoa. Our role is to support the content experts and run co-design and peer review processes to ensure the project is delivered well and on time. A new field for us so we are loving holding the process and creating conditions for content experts to focus on what they are best at while we learn a lot alongside them. 


St Vincent Avenue Case for Change 
Research, community engagement and assessment


 A research and community engagement project to ascertain how the top of St Vincent Avenue in Remuera might be upgraded to improve pedestrian safety and community connections. This work can underpin further investment and paves a way for local people to potentially be involved in some level of delivery that also delivers on Auckland Council and Auckland Transport goals. So much potential already exists for good change!

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Placemaking Aotearoa:

Strategic advice and project management


and developing and delivering the Placemaking Kit, Kūmara Awards, Ako Ako webinar series and redeveloping the Placemaking Aotearoa website, has been a mix of pro bono and paid work for us. Many learnings  and just about as many laughs!


Inspiring Communities and Powerdigm:

Strategic advice and project management


Denise has undertaken a wide range of roles over the years and continues to be involved in coaching, mentoring and facilitation as well as some evaluation project work for Inspiring Communities and Powerdigm.


More previous projects

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Pro bono work:
Grow Space

Grow Space is a social enterprise that runs Morningside Urban Market Garden (MUMG) and Morningside Urban Compost Kitchen (MUCK) in our neighbourhood on the Eden Park site. . Part of our Catalyse philosophy is to share our skills and profit and so we supports Grow Space with administrative and management support . Denise is also Chair of the trust board.


We join you on your journey, bringing our heads, hearts and hands to co-create positive change that matters to you and your communities, and to the place you are in.




We start with you, where you are and what you already have. We value your knowledge, experience and expertise, and that of those around you. We help draw this together in cohesive and purposeful ways, building on what you already have and adding to it. We help to grow, leverage and optimise the skills and resources you bring and build increased capabilities, competencies and equity.


We ensure local people are at the centre of decisions that affect them. This way many local voices contribute and local people get to know what’s happening, what works, what they want more of and what to let go of in order to create the kinds of places and lives they want together.


We offer proven strengths-based, participatory ways of understanding, inspiring and advancing how local people can be part of making their places work well for them now, and into the future. It involves growing, leveraging and optimising the skills and resources people bring and building increased capabilities, competencies and equity as we go. We do this in a wide range of ways, from locally-led activation to background policy, strategy, research and evaluation.

We invest in people as much as in making visible changes in places. We build the capabilities of those in communities as we go, so the skills for creating positive change take root and grow in ways that work best for all. 


We love local. The neighbourhood, suburb or small town scale is where the most successful locally-led change happens. These places are the building blocks of our communities, our cities and our regions. They are the places where we as individuals can see the changes we make, and also where we can see that when we work together truly transformational change happens.


We blend our practical experience with a strong academic background. We draw on our real-life experience of engaging with communities and groups as well as iwi, hapū, organisations, government and business and we strengthen this experience with best practices and models developed by practitioners and academics from across the world. We are always learning and love creating our own tools and frameworks too!




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Inclusive, safe, and nurturing platform

It has been a pleasure to work alongside Denise and the team in various projects supporting women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background. Denise embraces diversity in her practice and holds an inclusive, safe, and nurturing platform where women from diverse background are able to join, drive projects forward and implement changes. Denise is a great ally to have, I had the privilege to learn and be mentored from a thought leader in the community development space and have thus grown in my practice.

 — Rosemine Mutamaliza

Social worker at Red Cross NZ

Our Clients

It was (and still is) a big pleasure to work with all of our clients. We appreciate the trust and embrace the achievements!

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