2008 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions
April 10, 2008 | Press Release | MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions

Expanding on its tradition of encouraging individual creativity and building effective institutions to help address some of the world’s most challenging problems, the MacArthur Foundation selects a group of small non-profit organizations around the world for this prestigious award each year. Those with operating budgets of $1 million or less are awarded a $350,000 grant. Those with operating budgets between $1 - $2.5 million receive a $500,000 award.
Read more about the award.

The 2008 award winners are:

Juvenile Law Center

Building a Fairer and More Effective Juvenile Justice System

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the juvenile death penalty in Roper v. Simmons. The decision affirmed principles that Juvenile Law Center (JLC) had upheld for three decades and marked a watershed moment in children’s rights. 

Since the 1990’s, the tendency in America’s juvenile justice system had been to impose increasingly severe sanctions. Most states passed laws to treat juvenile offenders as adult criminals rather than delinquents, and cut back on rehabilitation and treatment. But a movement for reform was also gathering strength, calling for a system that would recognize the real developmental differences between juveniles and adults – and be fairer, more rational, and more effective. Roper v. Simmons showed that the tide was turning. 

Established in 1975, JLC has been at the forefront of this movement for change. Its goals are to hold the child welfare and juvenile justice systems accountable for both for their performance and the outcomes they produce, to advocate for fair treatment and access to high-quality services, and to include young people in the legal decisions that affect them. One of America’s oldest and most respected public interest law firms devoted to children, JLC’s expertise is now sought by child advocacy groups nationwide.

In its early years, JLC concentrated on individual cases. As its expertise and reputation have grown, the Center has focused increasingly on broader issues of child welfare and juvenile justice reform: high-profile class action suits and appellate work, participation in state and national boards and commissions, model legislation and standards, influential publications and scholarly law review articles.

JLC’s influence is particularly evident in its home state. Pennsylvania’s laws and policies favor rehabilitation over jail sentences. Professionals in the state who deal with young people in trouble with the law are trained to recognize their special needs. The Center recently won lawsuits that enabled minors in the justice system to return to regular public schools, to live with their relatives while in foster care, and to receive appropriate mental health care while in detention.

Throughout its history, JLC has attracted students and young lawyers as interns and fellows; many of them are now leaders who work for positive reform in universities, activist organizations, or the legal profession.

JLC is a model for other legal child advocacy groups across the nation. Its efforts have helped change the conversation about juvenile justice, using evidence, reasoned discourse, and targeted legal advocacy to show that the harsh treatment of young people is both unjust and ineffectual in promoting successful outcomes.

Juvenile Law Center will use its $500,000 grant to upgrade its technology, implement a more effective communications strategy, strengthen its national policy work, and build its operating reserve.

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Kazan Human Rights Center

Defending the Rule of Law in Russia

Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russian Federation

In 2006, the Kazan Human Rights Center signed a joint declaration with the police ministry of Tatarstan on the application of human rights in police work, and an agreement with the Tatarstan Prosecutor’s Office that allowed the Center to provide legal representation to victims of police torture.

These landmark documents were the fruit of five years’ determined advocacy by the Center in its mission to strengthen the rule of law, combat human rights violations, raise rights awareness, and strengthen civil society.

Using a strategy of targeted litigation, the Center has brought the issue of police abuse to wide attention. Through scrupulously detailed investigations and the pursuit of compensation in the civil courts, the Center has created important legal precedents and compelled Russian authorities to comply with international standards for the treatment of detainees and prisoners. Each year, the Center helps set up to 15 precedents and takes two or three cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

Recently, the Center has taken up a wider range of rights violations, including administrative injustices and poor conditions in Tatarstan’s prisons, and abuses in orphanages, special schools, psychiatric hospitals, and the military.

The Center’s influence is felt throughout the region, where it has built constructive relations with local and federal bodies, including the regional president’s administration; police, prison, and military officials; the ombuds office; and collaborative links with other human rights organizations.

Its methods have been widely imitated by other Russian NGOs, including Public Verdict in Moscow and groups in Chita, Chuvashia, Marii El, and Samara.

The Kazan Human Rights Center calls the Russian legal system to observe the spirit of the law, defends the vulnerable, and is helping to build civil society as Russia undergoes an historic transition.

The Center will use their $350,000 grant to purchase property that will provide office space and facilities for training and outreach.


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Legal Defence and Assistance Project

Reforming Nigeria's Criminal Justice System

Lagos, Nigeria

Almost 65 percent of Nigeria’s prisoners are detained awaiting trial. Some spend a decade in jail – trapped by poverty, a lack of legal representation, or paperwork lost in an overstretched bureaucracy. 

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) offers hope. Established in 1997 by a group of human rights lawyers who had been detained without charge under the military government of General Sani Abacha, LEDAP at first offered support and legal assistance to political prisoners. Since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999, LEDAP’s mission has expanded to defending human rights for all, promoting the rule of law, and improving both the nation’s criminal justice system and its legal framework for protecting human rights.

Based in Lagos, but with four regional offices across Nigeria, LEDAP has now attained national prominence. It has a membership approaching 2,500 and has enlisted 750 lawyers who assist more than 6,000 indigent clients pro bono each year. Over the last six years, it has trained almost 4,000 lawyers, 2,250 prosecutors, and more than 1,000 police staff on human rights norms.

Since LEDAP began its work with the States’ Ministries of Justice, 45 percent more cases are adjudicated. The organization also provides legal assistance to indigent criminal defendants and other victims of human rights violations.

LEDAP was a key part of the National Working Group on the reform of criminal justice in Nigeria which called for sweeping changes to the administration of the justice system to increase efficiency, improve education, and instill a deeper respect for human rights.

In reforming the administration of criminal justice, training government officials, and instilling a respect for the law as a positive element of a healthy democracy, LEDAP is making a vital contribution to Nigeria’s aspirations for a society that respects the rule of law.

LEDAP will use its $500,000 grant to establish a resource center for law and human rights in the Federal Capital of Nigeria, Abuja. 

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Project Match

Supporting and Encouraging Self-Sufficiency

Chicago, Illinois

When Project Match began its work as a community-based employment program in 1985, there was little data on how people with a sporadic attachment to the labor force worked their way to year-round employment. The reality, now extensively documented over decades of research, is that most people will have many jobs over a number of years before their work life becomes more stabile.

Project Match’s findings have changed the fields of welfare and workforce development. In showing the complexity of job seekers’ experiences, marked by setbacks as well as incremental gains, Project Match has made the case for programs that support and encourage individuals all along the multi-year trajectory to increased self-sufficiency. Once a local welfare-to-work program in Cabrini Green, the organization is now a national authority on workforce issues.

In Chicago’s New Communities Program (NCP), a sixteen-neighborhood revitalization effort, Project Match has been working with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago and the MacArthur Foundation to establish employment programs modeled after Project Match’s. As NCP’s employment programs have evolved into Centers for Working Families (CWFs), Project Match’s employment tracking and data management methods have been expanded to include the CWF financial services and income supports.

Over more than 20 years, Project Match has developed several interventions for low-income families. The most recent initiative, Pathways to Rewards (PtR), is intended to help stabilize public housing families that have moved from the now-demolished Henry Horner Homes to Westhaven Park, the new mixed-income development that is part of Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation. All household members are helped to set quarterly goals in areas of employment, lease compliance, academic and extracurricular achievement, and community involvement. As family members meet their goals, they earn points (like frequent-flyer miles) toward rewards of their choosing such as DVD players, assistance with utility bills, and gift cards. Every three months, families in the community are invited to a catered event to publicly celebrate and applaud each other’s accomplishments.

As in the employment program, each family member’s goals and progress are carefully tracked and each change in job situation logged into a central system. Pathways to Rewards has received national attention as a community-based variation of New York City’s conditional cash transfer program (CCT); in fact, it was implemented three years before CCT.

In giving us a fuller appreciation of the challenges faced by adults trying to become steady workers, and finding ways to encourage and support those in the process, Project Match has helped change the urban landscape and make individuals and families more self-reliant and secure.

Project Match will use their $500,000 grant to establish an Institutional Development Fund that will help it focus more deeply on research, consulting, and technical assistance.

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Public Radio Exchange

Reinventing Public Media for a Digital Age

Cambridge, Massachusetts

The digital revolution has radically changed how information is produced and consumed. Public media, with limited funds, must find ways to meet the challenge of the new and engage effectively with contemporary discourse.

Public Radio Exchange (PRX) is equipping public broadcasting for this era of rapid change. It gathers and distributes original programming, uses technological innovation to speed transactions and expand choices, and is leading public radio to become more interactive and participatory.

PRX is operated by the Station Resource Group (SRG) – an alliance of 40 leading public radio organizations focused on strategy, policy, and national initiatives. PRX was launched in 2002 as a collaboration of SRG and Atlantic Public Media, an innovative public radio production and training organization whose work also includes Transom.org.

The core of PRX’s operation is to provide independently-produced audio programming to public radio stations for broadcast and online use. It has built and maintains a growing catalogue of more than 20,000 nonfiction audio pieces – the largest selection in existence. Using a simple interactive Web platform created by PRX, stations may sample, purchase, and download for broadcasting pieces that range from short commentaries to in-depth documentaries.

Almost 1,000 independent audio producers have sold (licensing rights to) their work through PRX, earning more than $650,000. PRX has created public radio’s first podcasting application and other custom tools for stations. And it has spurred the world of public broadcasting to develop new models for doing business.

To identify and nurture new talent, PRX ran an online national contest sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Radio Talent Quest, in 2007. More than 1,400 entries were submitted and three finalists selected; each of them is now developing a pilot program for public radio. At least one of the pilots will be produced by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

PRX has more than 44,000 registered users, including radio professionals, amateur producers, and members of the general public who listen and respond to the audio pieces in the catalogue. Together, these members have written 7,000 reviews, making it the most extensive collection of writing about public broadcasting.

PRX is taking public radio in new and stimulating directions, giving a larger dimension to one of America’s most important intellectual resources.

PRX will use their $500,000 grant to establish a cash reserve fund, a content venture fund, and to develop new technologies.

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Transforming Community Health and Mental Health Programs

Goa, India

India has 350 million people aged between 10 and 24 whose well-being is crucial to the future of the subcontinent. Sangath’s mission is to carry out innovative research to promote their health, and to directly provide services, counseling, and models of healthcare to serve those who live in Goa. Ultimately, its goal is to enable children and adolescents to make a successful transition to adulthood.

Sangath believes that health concerns more than the individual; it grows from families, communities, and social structures that are fundamentally sound and nurturing. This holistic and multidisciplinary approach sets Sangath apart and has made it a leader in child development, adolescent and family guidance, and behavioral and mental health.

Founded in 1996 with a staff of seven, Sangath is now the largest and most successful health-related NGO in Goa, with more than 80 employees providing services, conducting research, and running training programs. Its managing committee includes a lawyer and writer, a psychiatrist, a medical epidemiologist, an educator, a child rights author, and a leading journalist — testimony to the breadth of its vision.

Sangath’s strategy is threefold: it runs projects with children and youth in schools, in the community, and through its clinical services; it conducts research on the factors that affect children and young people’s health outcomes, including their families, schools, communities, and service providers; and it assists individuals and institutions to conduct projects and research.

Sangath has run training programs on child and youth physical and mental health, designed for both health workers and academics. The training for health workers is designed to impact children and youth affected by developmental, emotional, or behavioral health problems; training for academics is designed to equip researchers. The programs have proved robust and popular in both urban and rural settings in Goa.

Landmark research studies include work on the link between maternal depression and child malnutrition. These findings, and other research carried out by Sangath, have led to policy change at the World Health Organization and other UN agencies concerned with maternal and mental health; they also influenced health policy in India, Pakistan, Brazil, Cambodia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and South Africa. Sangath’s intervention program for families affected by domestic violence was subsequently incorporated by the Goa State Commission for Women. Its research on child development, adolescent health, and mental health has been cited in three recent series of The Lancet, and Sangath staff and managing committee members were involved as authors and editors of The Lancet’s recent Global Mental Health series, Adolescent Health series, and a forthcoming series on Universal Health Care in India.

Sangath is equipping a new generation for healthier and more responsible lives and generating evidence for improving health care practices in India and across the developing world.

Sangath will use its $350,000 award to build a new center for its clinical, training, and research work.

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Tany Meva Foundation

Balancing Conservation and Human Needs on the "Eighth Continent"

Antananarivo, Madagascar

Madagascar, sometimes called “the eighth continent,” has a remarkable ecosystem, home to five percent of the world’s plant and animal species. The island has 12,000 native plants; 90 percent of them are found nowhere else on earth. Almost 20 million people live on Madagascar, most of them in poverty.

Tany Meva, created in 1996, is the nation’s first environmental foundation. One of its principal goals has been to generate consistent funding for community conservation. It seeks to increase sustainable use of the environment, to educate and empower communities, and to save threatened forests. The Foundation helps local people manage their natural resources, promotes development, and encourages the use of renewable energy sources.

Almost all families in Madagascar use firewood and charcoal to cook and to heat their homes, putting the island’s forests under extreme pressure. Using microcredit loans, Tany Meva has helped hundreds of families acquire better energy kits that enable them to use solar, ethanol, and fuel-efficient wood stoves, and hydroelectric battery chargers for lighting. These kits save money and improve the quality of air within houses. The loans also bring broader access to credit and banking services to areas that have had almost no access to financial institutions.

Based in the capital, Antananarivo, Tany Meva works in all six provinces and fourteen regions of Madagascar, with a particular focus on the province of Toliara in the southwest. Toliara is the island’s poorest region, with a weak infrastructure and distinctive culture that separates it from the mainstream. The climate is largely arid and the landscape dominated by the spectacular spiny forest and its endemic species, including the ring-tailed and sifaka lemurs. Vulnerable to desertification, the effects of climate change, and a loss of biodiversity, Toliara is one of the top conservation priorities in the country.

Tany Meva is making conservation part of life in Madagascar, giving it reliable funding, consistent administration, and relevance to the lives of ordinary people. Its work is helping to preserve life on earth’s rarest treasures.

Tany Meva will use its $350,000 award to establish a regional training and information center in southwest Madagascar, and to create a revolving energy fund that assists poor households to purchase renewable energy kits.

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Tlachinollan, Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña

Protecting the Rights of the Vulnerable in Mexico

Guerrero State, Mexico

The state of Guerrero, in southwestern Mexico, is best known for Acapulco and other famous tourist sites. But it is also home to some of the nation’s poorest people, many from indigenous groups (Tlapaneco, Nahua, and Amuxgo).

The region has a violent history. Guerilla activity in the 1970’s spurred an aggressive military intervention and, through the 1990’s, Guerrero had the highest number of forced disappearances of any part of Mexico. The recent expansion of opium-poppy cultivation and the drug trade has led to renewed militarization and repression.

Thirteen years ago, a group of academics and activists came together to combat the exploitation of indigenous people and systematic abuse of human rights in the region. Tlachinollan, the Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña, is now one of Mexico’s leading human rights organizations.

Tlachinollan takes an integrated and strategic approach to its advocacy work. It offers leadership and administrative services, educates local people about their rights, provides legal assistance, runs a national communications campaign, and collaborates with national and international rights organizations.

Tlachinollan litigates high impact cases to promote the reform of abusive practices by the army, police, or government authorities and thereby the well-being of local people. Access to justice, territorial rights and natural resources; and the social and economic rights to healthcare, education, and housing are persistent themes. In 2006, Tlachinollan intervened in more than 1,300 such situations with legal assistance or strategic counseling. Where possible, the organization promotes constructive engagement with the authorities to promote change through dialogue and negotiation.

Many of Tlachinollan’s cases have received widespread publicity or been referred to regional bodies. The case of Felipe Arreaga Sanchez, an environmental activist accused of murder, was championed by international conservation and human rights groups, and Sanchez was honored by both Amnesty International and the Sierra Club. In 2007, Tlachinollan presented the case of two Tlapanecan women raped by soldiers to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; the case will likely be heard by the Inter-American Court.

Communication is a key part of Tlachinollan’s work. It publishes a weekly column in El Sur, the region’s leading newspaper, runs a weekly radio program, and receives coverage in national papers. Each year, Tlachinollan produces an annual report covering the human rights situation in Guerrero and documenting the cases it has investigated and litigated.

Tlachinollan has helped build alliances to promote human rights and was a key player in establishing Red Guerrerense de Organismos de Derechos Humanos (the Guerrero Network of Human Rights Organizations), made up of six peer groups and now the most influential rights coalition in the region.

By defending indigenous minority communities and bringing the violators of human rights to justice, Tlachinollan is strengthening Mexico’s civil society and making it more truly inclusive.

Tlachinollan will use its $350,000 award to build new advocacy campaigns grounded in litigation, expand its work to additional states in Mexico, and build partnerships with state and local government.

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