Catalysts by Design helps organizations and communities maximize their creative capacity.

Catalysts by Design partners with communities and organizations to resolve critical social challenges. Our mission is to maximize the creative capacity of individuals, groups and communities toward greater civic engagement. In practice, our services consist of The Creative Catalysts, a design consultancy that serves clients and partners, Design Serves, which educates youth in design thinking, and United Story, which fosters community development through story-based programs and events.

Our Approach

The CXD process encompasses seven design thinking steps that it uses in client relations, the Design Serves curriculum, and its approach to addressing social challenges. We teach these to clients to increase their problem-solving capacity even when we are not there. We instill this into the youth we engage in Design Serves as we guide them in addressing community issues. We encourage this amongst community members.



Recapping: United Story Interaction at #PXSTL

  • Posted on July 2, 2014
  • By De Andrea

United Story (U/S) is an initiative by the team at Catalysts by Design that uses story-based events, workshops, and projects to address social topics that interest communities. As a 2014 commitment to action with the Clinton Global Initiative University, United Story: Interaction served as a one of four themed storytelling nights and challenges that they team set for 2014. It was the second United Story gathering in the city of St. Louis.

US: Interaction aimed to champion the initiative’s motto of “stories sparking action,” and it chose the following collaborations and activities to help actualize this goal:
Staged Storytelling. United Story partnered with the team of Second Tuesdays, a local storytelling event series that allows community members to share personal narratives on the theme chosen for each event. For US: Interaction, the Second Tuesdays team used “Chance Encounters” as the theme, and 10 storytellers participated in the midst of three 30-minute segments through the event.
U/S Icebreaker Ballpit. Inspired by the Take a Seat project by Soulpake, the United Story partnered with local artist, Marcis Curtis, to build a ball pit that prompted conversations and interaction between participants via 7 icebreaker questions that were written on balls within the pit. Prompts will be provided by the Transformative Action Institute and yielded 8 groups of participants throughout the event.
Line Dry. With the purpose of providing creative writing during the event, Mallory Nezam of St. Louis Improv Anywhere, collaborated in the event to facilitate, “Line Dry,” a hanging writing project that filled a portion of the PXSTL structure with one-sentence stories. Each one-liner captured the climax of people’s personal life experiences.
Humans of St. Louis (HOSTL). During the event, the Humans of St. Louis project collected photos and stories from various participants. One photo (featured below) was included on the project’s Facebook page, generating 150+ “Likes” for the single image. This benefited the United Story in the days following the Interaction event as viewers’ reached out to borrow the ball pit, inquired about future collaborations, and engaged with us on other social media platforms.
Contemporary Art Museum Art Bus. The role of the Art Bus helped facilitate visual storytelling activities during the event with its MakerShare project. 17 participants from the event were prompted by the CAM team to make a work of art that shared their favorite moment from their lives. Participants then took photos with the object they made in a show-and-tell manner.
21-Day personal challenges. During the event, participants were invited to pursue 21 days of challenges that helped them interact more creatively and genuinely with people in their daily lives. These challenges were crowdsourced from the participants and will extend 21 days after the event. Results from the challenges will be collected, tracked, and disseminated via United Story’s online network.

During the United Story: Interaction event at PXSTL, there were many successes:
Attendance: For the event, we expected an audience of 60 people, and we excelled this goal with 73 calculated unique attendees and approximately 50 guests who were there from the first segment of the event to the last.
Collaboration & Support: We benefited greatly from the opportunity to collaborate and co-sponsor the event with Pulitzer and other organizations. Not only did this decrease the amount of coordination that the United Story team endured, but it also allowed participants to have multiple outlets for sharing their story–from writing, to speaking, to making, to conversing. Other reflections include that:

  • The Contemporary Art Museum was extremely supportive in allowing the ArtBus to be used in artmaking as well as hauling supplies. CAM allowed partnering artists to use the New Art in the Neighborhood (NAN) classroom as a pre-event creative preparation space.
  • The Gephardt Institute for Public Service became a second source of support as the sponsor for the ball pit.
    31 of attendees (approximately 43.46%) committed to the United Story 21 Day Interaction Challenge. Because of this sustained engagement, we will be enabled to keep this unique platform going as well as enhance it for future city-base United Story engagements.

Overall, the feedback for the United Story: Interaction was positive. Anecdotally, attendees enjoyed the stories and activities and expressed the success of the event’s creative concept.
Media Coverage: The Nine Network created an awesome overview video that captured the spirit of the event. The video was shown during its Stay Tuned episode on community art, and it is currently located for viewing on Youtube.





  • Posted on June 15, 2014
  • By De Andrea

United Story: Interaction at #PXSTL

Saturday, June 21, 2014 
Pulitzer Arts Foundation (PXSTL Lot)

Every encounter creates a new story. 

Gather at the PXSTL pavilion in Grand Center for this afternoon of interactive storytelling. Created in association with the summer PXSTL series at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, United Story: Interaction partners with storytellers, storymakers, and story-based groups across the city to cultivate both traditional and innovative ways to share stories about the way we engage. 

From ball pits to hanging stories to artmaking, photography, and more… 

————————-F EATURING—————— ——- 
United Story 
Project: Interactive Ball Pit
Turn strangers into friends by sharing stories and connections in this adult-size ball pit inspired by SoulPancake‘s Take a Seat project.

Second Tuesdays 
Project: Staged Storytelling
The theme this month is CHANCE ENCOUNTERS: Unexpected collisions, a lucky break, pure coincidence, because the day was sunny. Whatever you chalk it up to, happenstance happens. Tell us your stories of chance encounters and random run-ins.. 

Sir Mallory Nezam III 
Project: The Poetree Project 
Got an experience you want to share anonymously, poetically, or in writing? Create a fortress of stories by hanging yours onto the PXSTL pavilion with this interactive project.

CAM Art Bus 
Project: Make-and-Share Project 
Give “show-and-tell” a whole new meaning with the Contemporary Art Museum as it turns its ArtBus into an exhibition space for stories and artmaking. 

Humans of St. Louis
Project: Photographic Stories 
Put a face to your story with the new Humans of St. Louis photography project. 

And more… 

————————GE T INVOLVED—————— —–
SIGN UP to share your story with Second Tuesdays by messaging the Second Tuesdays Facebook page.

SHOWCASE your storytelling project by emailing

VOLUNTEER for the event by emailing .

————————– ————————– —————
This event is possible because of generous support by the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and Gephardt Institute for Public Service. 

United Story is a 2014 commitment-to-action with the Clinton Global Initiative University.