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Local nonprofits win MacArthur awards

Two local nonprofits are among organizations in fifteen countries announced Wednesday as recipients of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

The Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University and the Southwest Organizing Project will each receive a $750,000 award from the MacArthur Foundation.

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Nonprofit innovators

Two Chicago nonprofits on the cutting edge of creating green communities are among eight organizations from around the world receiving a MacArthur Foundation award for creative and effective institutions.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology will receive $650,000 and the Chicago Community Loan Fund will get $500,000 with the award.

“These organizations may be small but their impact is tremendous,” said MacArthur president Jonathan Fanton in a statement.

An innovator in research and practice on urban sustainability for over three decades, CNT is now seeing many of its ideas emerge as policy proposals under the administration of President Barack Obama — who once served on CNT’s board of directors.

The administration’s stimulus bill included money for energy conservation, for greening water infrastructure, and for a smart electric grid, all areas where CNT has been a pioneer, said Nicole Gotthelf.

CNT’s work since it helped found the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership in 1990 is reflected in new federal support for high-speed rail, and the recent announcement that HUD and the U.S. Department of Transportation will work together on transit-oriented housing development cited CNT’s groundbreaking Housing and Transportation Affordability Index.

CNT projects which promote urban sustainability include the I-GO car-sharing program and the Energy Smart Pricing Plan. An Energy Savers Program provides energy audits and financing to reduce energy use (and maintain affordability) in multifamily buildings — a CNT effort that goes back more than two decades.

The Chicago Community Loan Fund promotes sustainable building practices by nonprofit and for-profit development groups — a focus it took up several years ago, when spiraling energy costs challenged affordable housing developers and tenants, said executive director Calvin Holmes.

Founded in 1991, CCLF provides low-cost financing and technical assistance to nonprofit community development organizations for affordable housing, economic development, and social service initiatives. The Fund backs small and emerging groups in low-income communities, providing predevelopment financing not generally available from banks.

Now CCLF helps clients achieve greater energy efficiency and utilize environmentally-friendly building materials. The group publishes a guide to Building for Sustainability, sponsors an information exchange working group of affordable green builders, and holds an annual workshop on sustainable development for community development corporations, contractors, and others.

With the MacArthur award, CCLF plans to expand its technical assistance and add resource fairs and more targeted workshops, in order to help community development groups, contractors, and architects stay on top of rapidly-advancing green building technology, Holmes said.

“We want to be part of the knowledge transfer, to keep our clients current on what’s new, what’s best-in-class, and what’s becoming obsolete,” he said.

The awardees will be honored in a ceremony at the MacArthur Foundation’s Chicago office on June 11.

MacArthur Honors Creative Nonprofits

Two Chicago groups are among nine from around the world being honored by the MacArthur Foundation’s first annual Awards for Creative and Effective Organizations.

The Chicago Rehab Network and the North Lawndale Employment Network are being recognized as “highly creative and effective organizations that have demonstrated significant impact in their field,” with large cash awards from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Other awardees include groups in Nigeria, Mexico, Russia, Peru, and India. An awards ceremony will be held in Chicago on October 8.

The new award parallels the well-known MacArthur Fellowship Program, which recognizes individual creativity with large unrestricted grants.

“These awards recognize nine extraordinary organizations and, we hope, allow them to unleash their imagination and inspiration on a larger scale,” said MacArthur president Jonathan Fanton.

The groups, all with annual budgets under $2.5 million, will receive awards ranging from $250,000 to $500,000.

Chicago Rehab Network, now over 25 years old, is a coalition of neighborhood-based development groups in over 60 communities and “the leading voice for affordable housing in Chicagoland,” according to the foundation’s announcement. The group offers training programs for affordable housing developers and monitors the expiration fo federal housing assistance contracts to help tenants and advocates develop strategies to preserve affordable housing.

North Lawndale Employment Network, founded in 1999, works in a community where the poverty rate is three times as high as the city as a whole, and where it’s estimated that over half of adults have spent time in prison. Each year the Network places hundreds of residents – mainly ex-offenders – in jobs. NLEN’s urban bee-keeping program trains residents in retail sales and business development and management, and has launched its own product line, Beeline Honey.

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