MacArthur honors local nonprofits for work on green innovation, low-cost loans

Two local nonprofits are being honored internationally for their efforts to make Chicago a more livable, affordable and workable city.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Chicago Community Loan Fund were chosen by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for the 2009 Creative and Effective Institutions Award. The two Chicago groups are among eight nonprofits chosen from across five countries.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology was founded in 1978 to promote urban sustainability. The organization brings cutting-edge research directly to Chicago neighborhoods, helping homeowners and community leaders make smart decisions about energy efficiency and innovation.

"CNT recognized early on that neighborhood revitalization can be cost effective while enhancing the urban and broader environment," said Scott Bernstein, CNT president and founder, in a press release.

The group started I-GO, the popular car-sharing program in the Chicago metro area. It also piloted the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, an online tool that helps cities quantify how transportation costs impact housing affordability.

MacArthur gives the award to organizations that are addressing challenging problems through innovation and creativity.

"These organizations may be small, but their impact is tremendous," said Jonathan Fanton, MacArthur's president. "They are blazing new paths and finding fresh solutions to some of our most difficult challenges."

CNT will receive $650,000 from MacArthur, which the organization says it will use to expand its research and reach a wider audience.

"We are truly grateful to the MacArthur Foundation for recognizing the importance of our issues and for enabling us to build our capacity to respond to the growing interest in our work," said Kathryn Tholin, the nonprofit's CEO.

The Chicago Community Loan Fund will get $500,000 to continue its work, according to MacArthur's web site.

Founded in 1991, the loan fund provides low-cost financing for nonprofit and for-profit community development organizations, providing capital to ventures too small for most banks. The $500,000 would be used to enhance lending in low-income communities.

Other awardees include Access to Justice, a Nigerian nonprofit that seeks to eliminate police abuse and torture, and the Caribbean Natural Resource Institute, which champions conservation and biodiversity.

All eight awardees will be honored at a ceremony at MacArthur's Chicago headquarters June 11.

Staff Writer Megan Cottrell covers public housing for the Daily News. She can be reached at 773-362-5002, ext. 12, or megan [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.