Rachel’s Network
Catalyst Award

At Rachel’s Network, we know that elevating women of color results in a healthier, safer, and more just world, and we are committed to investing in them.

About the Award

The application period for the 2019 Catalyst Award is closed. Please check back in early 2020 for our next application cycle.

This program will provide women leaders of color support and recognition for their commitment to a healthy planet, and will award up to five winners each year with:

A $10,000 prize

Mentorship and networking opportunities

National recognition within the environmental, philanthropic, and women’s leadership communities

Who is This Award For?

Women of color from all kinds of professional and advocacy backgrounds are encouraged to apply, but we will be prioritizing women at the midpoint of their career. While the list below is not exclusive, potential awardees might be:

  • Writers and poets documenting the beauty of our natural world
  • Organizers defending their communities, neighborhoods, and land
  • Educators nurturing young advocates
  • Farmers creating a just food system
  • Documentarians and journalists covering environmental injustice
  • Faith leaders communicating the moral imperative for change
  • Lawyers working to protect our air, lands, water, and wildlife
  • Champions of good nutrition, wellness, and health
  • Scientists, researchers, and academics helping us better understand our planet
  • Entrepreneurs creating social and economic change

This award will celebrate women who devote themselves to securing a thriving planet for us and future generations, but who may not have yet received recognition for their valuable achievements.


To qualify for the Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award, applicants must:

  1. Identify as a woman of color
  2. Live in the US or US territories

Applicants will be evaluated on their:

  1. Commitment and service to create and sustain a healthier natural world
  2. Proven ability to positively impact communities, policy, research, public opinion, and more
  3. History of collaboration, mentorship, and leadership
  4. Catalyzing potential, defined as how influential the award – prize money, network connections, leadership and mentorship opportunities – would be to a candidate

Priority will be given to women in the midpoint of their careers


Why this award?

Since Rachel’s Network was founded in 2000, we have seen growing attention to women’s leadership in the environmental movement. However, the essential representation of women of color—particularly in decision-making positions—lags behind. That’s why we created the Catalyst Award.

We want this award to be the connective tissue between the wide landscape of existing fellowships for emerging leaders of color and executive leadership. We hope our investment catalyzes not only individual women’s career trajectories, but the environmental movement as a whole in becoming more representative and just.

Why focus on mid-career women?

Our network elevates women leaders at all stages, but we are prioritizing the award to women at the midpoint of their careers (between 5 and 20 years of experience). We found no formal pathways for mid-career women of color to advance to leadership positions. Many are overlooked for promotions, hitting a “green ceiling.” Many leave the environmental movement entirely. Many have their work not considered “environmental.” As funders, we want as many people as possible working to protect our planet and we want to help women of color feel like they can thrive.

What if I'm not mid-career?

We encourage you to apply. Career length is just one of several factors in our evaluation of each applicant.

If you’re just starting your career, you may want to also check out the Switzer Fellowship Program, the Ray Conservation Fellowship, the Environmental Fellows Program, the Momentum Fellowship, 500 Women Scientists’ Fellowship for the Future, the Educator Development Program, the Emerging Leaders Program, and the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program.

How are you defining and evaluating “women of color”? Are mixed-race women eligible?

We are trusting the self-identification of award candidates regarding their race, ethnicity, and heritage.

I’m not a US citizen. Can I apply?

Yes, however, you must be a resident of the United States or US Territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands).

I’m a trans woman. Can I apply?


I’m an elected official. Can I apply?

We are so grateful for your commitment to environmental stewardship through your public service. But, as a 501(c)(3), Rachel’s Network cannot provide prizes to elected officials.

Who will be evaluating my application?

Your application will be reviewed by Rachel’s Network staff and our judges committee, comprised of Rachel’s Network members, liaisons, and advisors, and leaders working on diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice. For more details, see Review Process below.

Are there limitations for how I use my $10,000 prize money?

No. This gift is for you, not your organization, and there are no restrictions on how you can spend the funds.

Are there expectations for award winners?

We expect award winners to attend our award ceremony in Washington, DC in March 2020 (expenses covered by Rachel’s Network). Details will be shared with the winners once they are notified of the prize.

Awardees may also be expected to participate in program evaluation, to improve the experience and impact of this award.

I don't know, there are so many other women... should I even bother applying?

Yes. We see you.

I want to nominate someone. How can I do that?

Please send their name and email address to catalyst@rachelsnetwork.org and we’ll send them a personal invitation to apply.

How can I support this program?

We welcome contributions to our program and award winners. Email catalyst@rachelsnetwork.org for information on getting involved.

Review Process

After the submission deadline closes, applications will undergo two rounds of review, receiving multiple reviews from multiple judges. Applicants will be evaluated on their:

  1. Commitment and service to create and sustain a healthier natural world;
  2. Proven ability to positively impact communities, policy, research, public opinion, and more;
  3. History of collaboration, mentorship, and leadership; and
  4. Catalyzing potential, defined as how influential the award – prize money, network connections, leadership and mentorship opportunities – would be to a candidate

In the spring, final candidates will participate in video interviews with our judges and references will have the opportunity to share comments about the candidates.

In early fall, our judges will convene to choose our award winners. Staff will notify awardees of their prize shortly thereafter.

By January 2020, Rachel’s Network will publicly announce award winners. Awardees will be expected to attend our award ceremony with leaders in the environmental field in March 2020.

Rachel’s Network is committed to the promotion of diversity, equity, inclusivity, and justice, and our award process aims to be respectful, transparent, and fair. Rachel’s Network celebrates the diversity of backgrounds and experiences among our applicant pool.

Photo credits, top to bottom: Aravind Kumar (Unsplash), Kaia Rose, Nicole Honeywill (Unsplash), and Julian Hochgesang (Unsplash)


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