Catalyst Funding

Institute awards for members proposing projects and research

Special Catalyst competition: Systems Approach for Socially Vulnerable Populations

The Institute received a grant in 2020, A Systems Approach to Optimizing Resources for Vulnerable Populations: Data Management and Collaborative Action” built on the work and outputs of the Research Program for Vulnerable Populations and newly launched Social and Structural Vulnerabilities program.

The goal of this grant is to enable researchers and trainees, in partnership with respected community agencies, to take a systems approach to build an effective pipeline that channels community need through research-informed assessments and interventions toward policy changes and action. Projects will aim to improve the integration of tools, management and sharing of data, increased mobilization of research-informed knowledge, and broadened “reach” of those working in this sector.

Improved services dedicated to serving socially and structurally vulnerable populations, informing decision-makers, community engagement, networking and policy influence are mechanisms that will support the “Systems Approach”.

A portion of the grant will be used to fund new research and research translation Catalyst awards, in alignment with the criteria outlined below. To request this special Catalyst funding, please complete and submit the dedicated Catalyst Request Template, along with a short-form CV (5 to 10 pages) for the project lead, to . 

The competition deadline for 2021 is April 22, 11:59pm MST

Systems Approach themes

Improving collaborative and coordinated service delivery for individuals experiencing social and structural vulnerabilities.

Projects funded under this theme will enable organizations to better serve clients through improved coordination of services, including data collection, management, and integration for populations that face social vulnerabilities. 

The research will focus on agencies, workers, data, and tools dedicated to interacting with and tracking those members of our communities facing systemic vulnerabilities.

Research-informed action to address social vulnerability

Projects funded under this theme will focus on families, groups or individuals vulnerable due to social structures and use research to affect change through policy, advocacy, knowledge mobilization, and program evaluation.

Projects will ensure that consistent, evidence-informed messaging is created for and effectively communicated with decision-makers to create a shared understanding of issues and to facilitate scale-up and sustainability of successful interventions.

Objectives of the Systems Approach

To improve the long-term outcomes of socially vulnerable populations by:

  • increasing sector effectiveness through the use of shared data systems to inform efficiencies and improvements in service delivery;
  • stimulating evidence-based research and the involvement of new researchers and trainees;
  • producing and distributing policy recommendations that are ultimately implemented by municipal, provincial or federal governments; and
  • promoting shared knowledge and fostering collaborative partnerships between academic researchers, government and social service providers through the publication of research papers and the hosting of events and other collaborative opportunities that ultimately lead to the development of new, evidence-based programs and broader systems change

Eligibility and Alignment

Successful proposals will:

  • initiate team-based, pilot research projects. Funded projects should provide preliminary data for larger-scale initiatives that will lead to additional external research funding. Applications should clearly specify how the catalyst funds will be used to inform a future external funding application.
  • build and sustain necessary and appropriate cross-sectoral collaborations with community agencies and programs. Applications should clearly identify community partners or provide a description of community engagement activities that will be undertaken.
  • clearly align with Systems Approach themes and objectives
  • be led by a PI who is an O’Brien Institute member

PIs holding a catalyst grant from the 1st iteration (2017-2019) of the special catalyst competitions for socially vulnerable populations should acknowledge previous funding, as well as the relationship between the previous project and this request. An updated outcome report of the first project should also be submitted to

Download the Systems Approach Catalyst request template

Reporting requirements

Toward building the Program, and as part of the considerable reporting requirements to secure the award, Institute staff will be helping to track various metrics from the Catalyst-funded projects. 

Progress reports (outcome and financial) will be required annually by August 31st.

We understand that the first report will be interim and limited in scope since funding will just have been distributed.

Download the Systems Approach Reporting template

Field-specific Catalyst opportunity:

Dr. Derrick Thompson Fund in Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health

The fund was created through a generous donation from the Calgary Foundation. Funds were raised by Derrick’s family and former colleagues who wish to celebrate his unique contributions and make a tangible contribution to the lives of Albertans.

Derrick was a teacher, innovator, and a caring physician who touched the lives of many in Calgary’s medical and business communities. He was an early promoter of preventive medicine and his passion inspired many of his patients to make life-changing health decisions. He also pioneered changes to the way that many corporations address employee health when he formed Foothills Health Consultants in 1978, resulting in a broad and lasting effect on the health of many Albertans.

Outside of medicine Derrick drew inspiration from the landscapes of southern Alberta. He believed that maintaining the health of these landscapes and the ecological services they provide were integral to human health. Later in his life he became active in conservation efforts to this end.

Derrick’s family and colleagues feel that the best home for the Fund is with the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the University of Calgary. The Institute’s interdisciplinary approach aligns with Derrick’s own approach throughout his medical career. And, its emphasis on public health supports his passion for health promotion and prevention. In addition, Derrick taught at the UofC Medical School for much of his career.

The fund will remain open to contributions from other sources.

Purpose of fund:

Derrick was a mentor to and strong supporter of many of the people around him during his career. He was also, however, an innovator and pushed new ideas in health prevention and promotion. To this end, the purpose of the fund will be:

  • to provide stipend support to graduate and/or post-doctoral trainees pursuing research in health promotion/prevention or environmental health under the supervision of Institute members.
  • to support catalyst grants for research initiatives in the fields of health promotion/prevention or environmental health.

Use of funds:

Funds available will be at the discretion of the Institute Scientific Director, to a maximum of $10,000 per year.  

Allowable expenditures include the following:

  • salary support –support for graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, trainees and, if appropriate, faculty salary support to expand capacity in health promotion/prevention or environmental health.
  • research – support for research projects related to health promotion/prevention or environmental health. This includes consumables, travel, equipment and other relevant costs
  • capital, equipment, administrative costs
  • other reasonable expenses as approved by the Advisory Committee


You can apply (at any time) to the O'Brien Institute for catalyst funding (see above) and mention that your request fulfill the criteria for the Dr. Derrick Thompson Fund in Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health.