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

Though these nonprofit organizations have diverse missions — from defending equality in the Nigerian legal system to transforming low-income Chicago neighborhoods to advocating for conservation of natural resources in the Caribbean — they have much in common. All are highly creative and effective organizations that have made a remarkable impact in their fields, driving significant change on a modest budget. Each organization will receive up to $650,000, a significant sum considering their annual budgets range from just $200,000 to $4.5 million. Groups will use their awards for a range of purposes, including development of training and research facilities, technology upgrades, and the purchase of new office space.

“These organizations may be small but their impact is tremendous,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton. “From protecting human rights to improving urban neighborhoods to conserving biodiversity, they are blazing new paths and finding fresh solutions to some of our most difficult challenges. The MacArthur Foundation has a long history of supporting organizations around the world like these that demonstrate the creativity, drive, and vision to make the world more just and peaceful.”

The 2009 recipients of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions are:

  • Access to Justice Lagos, Nigeria 
    Access to Justice seeks to prevent police abuse, eliminate torture, and promote accountability for extra-judicial killings in Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy. The organization defends the right to equal access to courts of law, attacks corruption in the administration of justice, and supports legal struggles for human dignity. Its groundbreaking research exposed the systematic use of torture in criminal investigations and its advocacy efforts resulted in the resuscitation of moribund coroner laws and procedures to ensure that deaths in custody or suspicious circumstances are properly investigated.
  • Caribbean Natural Resources Institute Port of Spain, Trinidad 
    For over 30 years, the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute has championed participation in the cause of biodiversity conservation, built alliances among the region’s diverse island nations and organizations, and sensitively harmonized the needs of people and the health of their coastal environment. It has protected watersheds, ensured a role for civil society in managing threatened natural resources, designed innovative training programs and provided clear-sighted analysis in community-based tourism, sustainable fisheries and forestry. It is currently playing a leading role in helping governments and civil society in the Caribbean deal effectively with the extraordinary challenges of the climate crisis and economic turmoil through efforts to resolve conflicts between environmental and development goals.
  • Center for Neighborhood Technology Chicago, Illinois 
    The Center for Neighborhood Technology uses cutting-edge research to develop transformative approaches to improving the environmental sustainability and economic health of urban areas. The Center works with cities and regions to analyze greenhouse gas emissions and identify mitigation strategies. Other current projects include the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index; I-GO, a membership-based car sharing organization; and the Preservation Compact Energy Savers Program, which offers energy audits and low-cost loans to retrofit affordable rental housing.
  • Centre for Independent Social Research St. Petersburg, Russia 
    Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s social scientific disciplines remain underdeveloped. The Centre for Independent Social Research is an independent think tank that helps reinvigorate the field of sociology by unleashing the creative and entrepreneurial energies of dozens of younger scholars, who produce original, policy-relevant research. The Centre recently launched a high-quality, peer-reviewed, independent, and bilingual journal of sociological research published three times yearly — the first of its kind in Russia.
  • Chicago Community Loan Fund Chicago, Illinois 
    The Chicago Community Loan Fund is a leading resource for small and mid-size real estate developers and nonprofits in metropolitan Chicago, providing low-cost, flexible financing and technical assistance, including the promotion of sustainable building practices and good design. Its clients revitalize low- and moderate-income communities by increasing access to affordable housing, promoting job creation and economic development, and delivering social services. In 2008, the Fund celebrated the opening of Phase I of the Whistler Crossing redevelopment, a 132-unit, environmentally-friendly affordable housing development, at a time when the area faced a 13 percent unemployment rate.
  • Mahila SEWA Trust Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India 
    Mahila SEWA Trust works for the welfare of members of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), a trade union of poor, self-employed women workers that organizes women in India for employment and social security, including income, food and health security. Recently, SEWA launched a pilot community-based health program that operates in 106 villages of Ahmedabad district of Gujarat. A cadre of over 400 community health workers educates women on health insurance, diagnoses risks during pregnancy, ensures safe home delivery, and provides health education for pregnant women and new mothers.
  • National Housing Conference & Center for Housing Policy Washington, DC 
    These two affiliated organizations work in collaboration to address the nation’s housing challenges, which are particularly pressing during these difficult economic times. For more than 75 years, the National Housing Conference has advocated for policies and legislation that promote affordable housing. The Center for Housing Policy specializes in research and analysis designed to understand better America’s housing problems and to identify promising solutions that can be adopted at the national, state and local levels.
  • Women of the Don Region Novocherkassk, Russia 
    Women of the Don is a leading regional human rights organization in Russia with special expertise in combating police abuse. The organization also works on issues ranging from promoting women’s rights to providing humanitarian aid in the conflict regions of the North Caucasus. It builds dialogue with local authorities and an atmosphere of trust between authorities and civil society organizations in the Rostov region.


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 $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.

The Foundation is well known for the MacArthur Fellows Program, which celebrates individual creativity. Each year, 25 people in diverse fields receive an unexpected phone call awarding them $500,000 with no strings attached. MacArthur also has a long history of strengthening 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 copyrights.

Winners of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions with operating budgets of $1 million or less receive $350,000. Those with operating budgets between $1 and $2.5 million receive $500,000. And those with operating budgets between $2.5 million and $5 million receive $650,000.

On June 11, 2009, awardees will be honored at a ceremony at MacArthur’s headquarters in Chicago. 

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