Originally envisioned as a research, consulting and capacity building firm for providing high quality management services to diverse organisations, CMS primarily engaged in market research, feasibility studies, and training in both business and social sectors. However, it became quickly evident to the founding members that to have significant impact, in addition to services, two other streams of work are critical:
- Have an own lab to test theories (to practice)
- Invest in range of individuals / leaders and organisations in transforming them to scalable organisations or ideas or solutions
To tend to the first one, Catalyst Development Initiatives (CDI) a not-for-profit society that serves as an incubation vehicle for development ideas, was established in 2002. Ideas, capital (in terms of time and money) and incubation services were led by CMS through its three nominated Directors in CDI, which eventually incubated three key organisations – Bangalore Juvenile Diabetic Support Group Society, Swasti Health Catalyst, Vrutti Livelihood Resource Centre and Fuzhio Health and Business Services Pvt. Limited. Further incubation did not need a platform, so Vrutti was incubated, found a home in CDI, with a change in name.
For investing in people, ideas, organisations, CMS used the revenues from services to cross subsidise its efforts. This part of the work has been largely pro-bono. These relationships provided CMS an opportunity to focus on results, in areas of mutual interest, while providing a significant learning experience for the staff.
All three – solutions, own incubation and investments were providing core learning (which improves the depth of knowledge of the sectors) while feeding into each other in terms of work. This also helped diversify CMS in a range of sectors – starting initially in livelihoods and health to Disaster Risk Reduction, Migration, Governance, WASH, climate change among others.
CMS was set up as a Private Limited Company. Its objective remains charitable and its actions aligned with its objectives. Over time, CMS has evolved both in terms of internal structures as well as kinds of areas of work.