Giving An Edge To Feminism With International Exposure

Aviva Stein- Strategy and Development Consultant; Co-Founder at Catalystas Consulting, an intersectional feminist oriented consulting firm that helps its clients progress on an international scale.

Aviva is the Co-Founder of Catalystas Consulting, an intersectional feminist boutique consulting collective, specializing in international development. Her background is in conflict and human rights, with an emphasis on the intersections of gender, politics, and diplomacy. She has worked in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and North America for a wide variety of NGOs, civil society organizations, governments, and companies. Originally from the United States, she has been based in the Netherlands for almost 8 years.

She was always interested in international affairs, history, and people. In fact, when she was young, she actually wanted to be a paleontologist, but over time, her interest in ancient history evolved into a love of applying historical knowledge to the modern day, and helping people to understand how challenges emerged and how they can be resolved or avoided.

Aviva studied International Relations at Boston University, followed by her Masters in Conflict and Human Rights at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. During her studies, she began working as a consultant supporting diplomatic efforts of non-state actors in the EU as part of her thesis research, and she continued consulting as a freelancer when she finished her Masters. 

As a freelance consultant, she saw so many organizations still operating through outdated or colonialist lenses, and a major gap in how Global North interventions worked with Global South partners and beneficiaries. She saw a need for more participatory approaches to development work, as well as a more comprehensive understanding of current events and environments- something perfectly suited to an intersectional feminist lens. Once she met her founding partner, she knew she was the one to build such a venture with.

Her career path shifted not as a result of an idea, but as a result of coming in contact with the right people. She has always embraced opportunities that present themselves to her, and when she met her now co-founder, Beatrice, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. “Our approaches and perspectives aligned, as did our professional trajectory, and joining forces to create Catalystas, based on the idea that traditional approaches to development and security need to change to include more diverse voices, has shaped [her] career ever since,” she says.

Catalystas Consulting is an intersectional feminist boutique collective specializing in international development. Even though their core team is small, they have a wide global network of international experts and local counterparts, who they engage with regularly as part of their ethos and participatory approach to anti-colonialist research. They provide a number of services, from baselines, scoping studies, and needs assessments to project evaluations and monitoring and evaluation frameworks, organizational strategy development, fundraising, program  design and development, market research, capacity development, and more. 

Catalystas works with non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, governments, and private sector companies, as part of their intersectional approach, which holds that involvement of all sectors is critical for sustainable and innovative development to occur.

While she faced more traditional challenges of being a young woman in a field which is traditionally dominated by old men, she also faced the added challenge of being an outsider in a foreign country and establishing a company there. She also faced many barriers navigating visa processes and other language requirements. However, these challenges did not stop her from working towards making her venture a big success.

The positive response to Catalystas has been overwhelming for Aviva. She and her team consider themselves lucky enough to have continuous working relationships with a number of their clients. Seeing their clients embrace and apply intersectional feminism to a lot of elements of their organizations makes her extremely proud. The company is currently witnessing an increased demand for feminist approaches and intersectionalism within the development sector, while also receiving great feedback for its podcast ‘Catalystas Unfolding Change’, where the team discusses development-related topics and breaks them down in a way that is easy to grasp.

As of March 2022, Catalystas has delivered tailored trainings, conducted national and multi-country research studies, helped organizations and governments in designing and planning long term strategies for programming and funding, and evaluated over ten large scale development programs- which is just the tip of the iceberg to their upcoming plans.

Taking the plunge into an entrepreneurial venture has enabled Aviva to thrive exponentially. She loves the work that she does, and is thoroughly enjoying the process of building something new that, as she puts it, ‘has a legacy’ beyond her. She feels that she is fortunate to be able to work in a way that works for her, while fulfilling her needs and taking care of her health. She has also enjoyed growing on a personal level, building her own capacity and skills in mentorship, management, and entrepreneurial mindset, and she looks forward to continuing to cultivate new skills and interest through her business ventures.

She believes that one should never give up on potential opportunities. If one has a chance that does not require specifically trained or technical skills- then one must take it up ‘immediately’. 

Too many of us are worried about not having every skill requested, every bit of knowledge in the job description, or enough experience to prove themselves. Do it anyway. Dive in. Apply for professional opportunities with the confidence of someone who has never been told no, and the drive to make it work when you get a yes. Know your limits, but take the opportunities, and surround yourself with likeminded people you can go to for help when you need it,” says Aviva.