Catalyst Lab: stimulating public discussion through digital media projects

Pioneering digital media projects that stimulate public discussion on wide-ranging social issues. These are the activities of Catalyst Lab, a new organization founded by Dr. Payal Arora from the Department of Media and Communication at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC). The goal is to bring public debate to life through creative social media strategies that entertain, educate and energize stakeholders to participate in discussions to inform and be informed. ​

Catalyst Lab applies the vigor of academic research to a social issue with the creativity in public outreach, via innovative media production and dissemination. This includes a wide selection of social media campaign ideas, such as scripts for viral videos, memes, transmedia digital storytelling across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, digital polls and online visualization of public opinion. It executes the agreed upon ideas through an integrated seeding strategy across multiple social networking sites, website design, and grassroots awareness building

The social issues range from the mundane to the profound, involving stakeholders such as businesses, non-profits, activists, artists, think tanks and government agencies in this endeavor. The Catalyst Lab does not market or advocate an issue, but captures the spectrum of voices on a particular question of consequence - Is it acceptable to promote non-alcohol beer to teens? How can a museum become more inclusive? Does medical self-diagnostics empower a patient?

Common goal
According to founder Dr. Payal Arora, Catalyst Lab showcases how academia and the private sector can genuinely engage the public together on matters of common concern. After all, marriage between academia and business is far from easy. Academics are seen as sell-outs for venturing into the world of business. Industry is accused of whitewashing their brand with the good repute of the university. Yet, they both share a responsibility towards the public and often a shared failure in living up to this responsibility. Catalyst Lab believes that both the university and the private sector can circumvent these barriers and unite in the common goal of fostering public dialogue and thereby gain insight into as well as contribute to the shaping of contemporary societal perspectives.

Clients come from diverse international and social contexts including General Electric (USA), Dutch Brewers (NL), the Institut Des Etudes Superieurs Des Arts (UK/FR), to the Institute for Technology & Society (Brazil). It is open to new partnerships, internships and other initiatives across the globe that aim to collaborate for increasing public dialogue in the digital age.

More information

For more information: Payal Arora, Founder and Executive Director,

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