Continuing its tradition of encouraging creativity and building effective institutions to help address some of the world’s most challenging problems, MacArthur announced  that eight organizations in six countries will receive the second annual MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. 

These nonprofit organizations have diverse missions – from environmental conservation in the Himalayas to reducing maternal mortality in India to producing award-winning documentaries in the United States.  Still, they have much in common.  All are highly creative and effective organizations that have demonstrated significant impact in their fields, and each manages to effect significant change on a modest budget.  Each organization will receive up to $500,000, a large sum given that their annual budgets are all under $1.6 million.  The organizations will use their new funding for a range of purposes, including training facilities, technology upgrades, and reserve funds. 

“In creating this award, we wanted to make a strong statement that the institutions of civil society matter,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton.  “These eight extraordinary organizations empower ordinary citizens to shape their own destinies, and they accelerate our collective journey toward the highest aspirations of human dignity, security, and opportunity.  While they have already made a huge difference in the world, we believe that they are poised to have an even greater impact.” 

The 2007 recipients of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions are:

  • Action Health Incorporated – Lagos, Nigeria
    Action Health Incorporated is a prominent force in addressing sexuality health in Nigeria, a country experiencing significant rates of HIV and AIDS, and where nearly half of teenagers are sexually active.  The group helped bring about adoption of a national policy mandating universal access to sexuality education for young people and the establishment and implementation of the federal government’s Family Life and HIV/AIDS Education curriculum.
  • Institute for Security and Democracy (Insyde) – Mexico City, Mexico
    In the midst of the worst public safety crisis in 50 years, the Institute for Security and Democracy is helping to strengthen Mexico’s law enforcement, serving as the country’s most prominent non-governmental watchdog for public security.  Insyde works with police to improve performance and respect for human rights, supports organizations working on public security issues, and trains journalists to cover such issues more accurately and thoroughly.
  • Institute of Law and Public Policy – Moscow, Russia
    Born a year after the Soviet Union’s dissolution and a year before a constitutional crisis in 1993, the Institute of Law and Public Policy is Russia’s leading non-governmental research, policy, and training institution in the field of constitutionalism and law.  The Institute serves as the most prominent independent advisor to Russia’s Constitutional Court and, in 2006, partnered with the Court in holding a landmark forum exploring the integration of Russia’s international human rights commitments into the country’s constitutional system.
  • Kartemquin Educational Films – Chicago, Illinois
    Started in 1966 by three University of Chicago graduates, Kartemquin Films has become internationally recognized, producing such award-winning documentaries as Hoop Dreams and The New Americans.  Kartemquin envisions the documentary “as a vehicle to deepen our understanding of society through everyday human drama.”  Their documentaries are supported by civic engagement efforts to spur discussion and build support for social action.
  • National Housing Law Project – Oakland, California
    Over four decades, the National Housing Law Project has become a nationwide leader in legal advocacy for some of the lowest-income Americans—those living in federally-assisted housing.  The organization provides legal assistance for tenants, trains attorneys in the intricacies of housing law, monitors and engages in precedent-setting, housing-related court cases, and analyzes federal policy and pending legislation for its affordable housing implications. 
  • Resources Himalaya Foundation – Kathmandu, Nepal
    Biodiversity in the iconic Himalayas is greatly threatened by poverty, tourism, and population growth. The Resources Himalaya Foundation works with local scientists to build skills and knowledge to help protect biodiversity.  The group offers training in geographic information systems, remote sensing analysis, mapping, field survey methods, and conservation management planning.
  • Society for Education, Welfare and Action – Jhagadia, India
    The Society for Education, Welfare and Action has been improving the health of Gujarat’s primarily tribal population for nearly three decades.  SEWA Rural has developed and is replicating a community-based approach to preventing maternal mortality, providing health education and training to families, communities and frontline health workers.  The group’s efforts ensure more institutional deliveries and professional involvement in home deliveries.
  • Woodstock Institute – Chicago, Illinois
    By broadening access to responsible credit and well-priced banking, financial and insurance services, Woodstock has expanded economic opportunity for individuals and strengthened low-income communities, both in Chicago and nationally.  Woodstock research and policy recommendations have helped to preserve a strong Community Reinvestment Act, even as regulators and financial institutions attempt to weaken it, and increased consumer protections against abuses in lending and financial services industries.

The MacArthur Foundation is known for the MacArthur Fellows Program, which celebrates individual creativity.  Each year, 25 people in diverse fields receive a phone call out of the blue granting them a $500,000 no-strings-attached grant.  MacArthur also has a long history of building institutions – from Human Rights Watch, now the largest U.S.-based human rights organization, to the World Resources Institute, the environmental think tank, to Creative Commons, which has changed the way we use and think about copyright. 
 
In making these awards, the Foundation does not seek or accept nominations.  To qualify, organizations must demonstrate exceptional creativity and effectiveness; have reached a critical or strategic point in their development; have budgets of less than $2.5 million per year; show strong leadership and stable financial management; have previously received MacArthur support; and engage in work central to one of MacArthur’s core programs.  Approximately 1,000 organizations worldwide are eligible for the Award. 

Winners will be honored at an awards ceremony in Chicago on June 7.  In conjunction with this ceremony, the Foundation will host a series of seminars on the work of these organizations that will be open to other nonprofit institutions, providing an important opportunity for mutual learning. 

MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions