Since its founding ten years ago, Catalyst Balkans has been committed to living up to its name by applying concepts of transformation and catalytic collaboration to its program activities, its external partnerships, and how we operate internally.

While founded by two experienced and strong-minded individuals, Aleksandra Vesić and Nathan Koeshall, Catalyst Balkans was built to be an engaged intermediary that complements and serves Western Balkans' philanthropy and nonprofit ecosystems. This implied that Catalyst Balkans recognized itself as needing to engage with its staff, stakeholders, and community in a way that would provide added value and increased know-how as the product of each interaction with Catalyst.

Change is good. Transformation is desirable. Increasing returns of impact is imperative. Identifying a pathway for progress and purposefully activating the triggers that facilitate this progress has always been a part of our thinking as we have worked to apply the data we gather to purpose-building the ecosystem through deliberate actions that set change processes in motion. While Catalyst Balkans talks a lot about innovation in its work, the truth is that a big part of how we have operated is simply in having the guts to throw caution to the wind and just plain experiment with trying something new and continuing to work on it iteratively until it was something the organization could be proud of.

Being set on this path and having the word catalyst embedded in both our name and our operational DNA, it has been natural for our team to approach internal operations like we have our external programs and collaboration.

Over these ten years, the organization has been structured in a way that both long-term staff and newly hired employees have the opportunity to contribute ideas, suggest improvements and work together to achieve results that no single one of us could do on our own. Engendering a sense of ownership and a responsibility to stimulate and spur others to action are two of the principles instilled in staff.

We have faced many moments when a staff person's departure is announced and there is that moment where one thinks that it would be impossible for Catalyst Balkans to move forward without that particular person's input, ideas, experience or personality. Time and time again, it has been witnessed how that departure catalyzed something new within the team: an improved process, a new view, or an expanded opportunity revealed itself in the wake of such a departure.

When, in 2021, the Catalyst Balkans team shared in the profound grief and unspeakable loss of our co-founder Aleksandra Vesić with all of those in the philanthropy and nonprofit ecosystems who had experienced the incredible energy and applied wisdom that Aleksandra embodied, we thought that it would be so very hard to carry on. And it was. Yet, we found our way as an organization, as a team, and we added to that team the capacities that were missing and, soon enough, began once again to thrive and grow while embracing the memory of Aleksandra to spur us on.

And so it is again, on the cusp of our 10th anniversary, that Catalyst Balkans finds itself at yet another catalytic moment, one that feels difficult on the surface but that we know will generate a positive and cathartic result that will better the ecosystems and organizations that we serve. This moment involves a transition in leadership, a reshuffling of the organizational structure, and a review of our programmatic priorities.

As of 31 July 2023, I will be stepping down as Director of Catalyst Balkans and will be transitioning to the role of President of the Board of Trustees. Miloš Janković will be taking on the role of Acting Director while the search for a new Director is conducted. The existing middle and senior leadership of the organization will shift, and responsibilities will be adjusted to allow for an increased level of engagement in the day-to-day operations and strategic decision-making by the management team. I will continue to support the Catalyst Balkans team and the rest of the reconfigured Board of Trustees dedicated to backstopping and providing strategic guidance and financial accountability to the new Catalyst Balkans' Director and Management Team.

Transitions and changes can sometimes shock the system. Still, the Catalyst Balkans team intends to embrace this as an opportunity to improve our effectiveness, double down on our passion, and engage and add value to an even wider audience of organizations and companies building off of the incredible accomplishments achieved in its first decade of work. While celebrating the hundreds of organizations and companies that have gained increased know-how, applied best practices, and raised funds, Catalyst Balkans now looks forward to having a catalytic impact on thousands of organizations in the coming decade.

The team at Catalyst Balkans continues to carry on, pushing forward on each of the priority areas it has been dedicated to all along for the last ten years. When new ideas are incubated, they will be based on the learning and data of the past. When new products are developed, they will be built based on the collective experiences, both successes and failures, encountered by the Catalyst Balkans team as it experimented, tried something new, adapted something old, and charted a course for 'getting it done'.

It is my fervent hope and strident belief that Catalyst Balkans continues for many years to come to build value, create impact, and make a difference in the lives of the tens of thousands of fellow believers from the Western Balkans who strive to catalyze social good in their communities.

To those of you that I have had the pleasure to interact with over the years in my role as Director at Catalyst Balkans, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for believing in our crazy ideas, for allowing yourself to be persuaded to try out something new, for choosing to partner with Catalyst Balkans financially and programmatically, and for taking the risk in the face of our over-confidence that the latest idea would work. Your reaction to our catalyst has made the first ten years of Catalyst Balkans as memorable and significant as they have been. 

Imagine what the next ten years will bring for us all if we continue to work together to build up and make sustainable and resilient the domestic philanthropy and nonprofit ecosystems that we are all an inextricable part of. 


Nathan Koeshall