MacArthur honored the nine inaugural winners of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions at a ceremony in Chicago.  Representatives of the nine winning groups gathered for a two-day symposium to share ideas, strategies and experiences with each other and representatives of the regional non-profit community.  The event culminated in the award ceremony on Thursday night.  These awards expand on the MacArthur Foundation’s tradition of encouraging individual creativity and building effective institutions to help address some of the world’s most challenging problems.

The non-profit organizations honored have diverse missions – from finding permanent jobs for ex-offenders in Chicago to promoting police reform in Nigeria to saving the lives of mothers and their babies in India.  Still, they have much in common.  All are highly creative and effective organizations that have demonstrated significant impact in their fields. 

“The MacArthur Foundation created this award because we wanted to make a strong statement that institutions of civil society matter deeply,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton. “The 21st century will be viewed as a tipping point when a new balance between nation states and global citizenship was struck.  These nine extraordinary organizations empower ordinary people to shape their own destinies.  In honoring them, we pay tribute to creative organizations everywhere working toward the highest aspirations of human dignity, security, and opportunity.”

Each organization will receive up to $500,000, a large sum given their operating budgets of under $2.5 million.  The nine winning groups, which were announced in late August, are –

  • The Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (Lima, Peru), which uses legal expertise to protect its nation’s natural resources.  The $325,000 MacArthur Award will help provide regional training, technical assistance and legal services for natural resource management and conservation.  In presenting the award, Fanton said, “You have steadily and fearlessly built a national movement uniting intellectuals, businesses, government officials and local people to protect healthy landscapes and defend the rights of the marginalized.”
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  • The North Lawndale Employment Network (Chicago, Illinois), which helps formerly incarcerated residents in one of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods build a better future.  The $400,000 MacArthur Award will help the Network retire debt and create a cash reserve.  “Your irrepressible spirit of hope motivates ex-offenders to take advantage of another chance to make their families more stable and establish their economic independence. You offer hope that it is possible to turn a life around, reaffirming our collective commitment to individual redemption and human progress,” said Fanton.
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  • Fundar: Centro de Análisis e Investigación (Mexico City, Mexico), which applies independent research and analysis to improve public policy in Mexico. The $500,000 MacArthur Award will be used to purchase and equip a permanent office in Mexico City.  At the ceremony, Fanton said, “By asking hard questions and demanding good answers, you give Mexicans new hope that the vices of corruption and impunity can be countered with transparent institutions and the rule of law.”
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  • Knowledge Ecology International (Washington, DC), which advances the public interest in intellectual property policy.  The $500,000 MacArthur Award will support start-up costs associated with becoming an independent nonprofit organization, as well as the creation of a cash reserve fund.  “Thanks to your commitment to the principle that innovation should ultimately benefit the common good, medical advances in the treatment of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria are now more available in the developing world,” said Fanton.
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  • Independent Council of Legal Expertise (Moscow, Russia), which promotes the rule of law and international human rights standards in Russia.  The $250,000 MacArthur Award will help fund a permanent office in Moscow.  Presenting the award, Fanton said, “You have been unflinching in your commitment to the incorporation of individual human rights standards in Russian law and practice. You celebrate the universality of human rights and Russia’s capacity to be a strong, prosperous, and democratic nation.”
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  • RealBenefits (Boston, Massachusetts), which harnesses the efficiency of technology to help low-income families access government services.  The $500,000 MacArthur Award will provide expansion capital for sales and marketing, administrative and product support, and technology maintenance and upgrades. RealBenefits has helped thousands of low-income Americans on the verge of poverty start down the path to self-sufficiency and self-respect,” said Fanton.
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  • Society for Education, Action and  Research in Community Health/SEARCH (Gadchiroli, India), which tailors community-based health care to address the unique challenges of India’s rural poor.  The $300,000 MacArthur Award will help support a new research center to study maternal morbidity and young people’s sexual and reproductive health in India.  Fanton said, “Your path-breaking research has been a potent catalyst for change, first by uncovering shocking statistics, and then by proving with sound evidence that local solutions work. Your program is a model of community healthcare that is influencing the government of India and the international development community.”
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  • Chicago Rehab Network (Chicago, Illinois), which is one of Chicago’s leading voices for affordable housing.  The $350,000 MacArthur Award will help the organization create an operative reserve.  “With evidence that stable and low-cost housing is crucial for community vitality and individual opportunity, you fight for local, state and federal policies that make housing available at a price people can afford. You have taught us that housing matters, that it is the critical path to our collective commitment to a fair and secure life for all,” said Fanton.
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  • CLEEN Foundation (Lagos, Nigeria), which builds trust between the police and the people in Nigeria through improved police accountability.  The $300,000 MacArthur Award will be used to establish a training facility to expand its reach. Fanton said, “Grounded in the belief that democracy cannot prosper if ordinary people do not trust the face of government they most frequently encounter, you fight for the dignity and security of all Nigeria people. Your moral voice and practical wisdom reach beyond Nigeria.”

In making these new 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 a year; show strong leadership and stable financial management; and have previously received MacArthur Foundation support.

MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions