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Foundation awards $1 million grants to five nonprofits

Published: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO (AP) – The MacArthur Foundation has chosen seven nonprofits for grants of as much as $1 million to recognize their success and future potential in work ranging from promoting the rights of Nigerian women to researching anti-crime programs in Chicago, the foundation announced Thursday.

The groups chosen for the 2014 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions – whose annual grants range from $750,000 to $1 million – are all previous recipients of the Chicago-based foundation’s largest. They were chosen for this award after foundation staff reviewed how well each was run, MacArthur Foundation President Robert Gallucci said.

“These are stars in my view – organizations that stand out in the work that they do,” Gallucci said. “In every case, getting this award from the MacArthur Foundation, I’m told, helps them in their work and it adds to their effectiveness and their credibility.’”

Five groups will receive $1 million each. They are the Washington-based National Housing Trust, which preserves and improves affordable housing; NatureServe, an Arlington, Va.-based group that promotes environmental conservation; New York-based investigative reporting group ProPublica; the Citizen Lab of Toronto, which helps monitor political activity that could affect human rights; and the University of Chicago Crime Lab, whose focus is on urban crime rates.

Grants of $750,000 each were given to Nigeria’s Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, which promotes and protects the rights of women, and the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, which seeks to reduce the influence of money in politics.

Crime Lab executive direct Roseanna Ander said she was “very excited” about the award. She said the lab uses scientific research to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of strategies used to combat violence and crime, with the ultimate goal of providing facts that inform policymakers on which programs do the most good for the dollars spent.

The grant, she said, will help make the laboratory nimble and able to expand its reach beyond Chicago and a few other cities.

“What’s helpful about the money is that we will be able to turn on a dime and move on a project immediately,’” she said. “We won’t have to find a funding source before taking on a project.’”

The Citizen Lab of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto helps other nonprofits monitor governmental political activities in cyberspace and the human rights violations that could result. The organization gained prominence in 2009, when it issued a report documenting cyber espionage that targeted and compromised computer systems in the Offices of the Dalai Lama. The espionage was linked to China’s hacking community.

Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert said he was blown away by the MacArthur award.

“We look in places where government and companies don’t always want us to look,” Deibert said. “To remain impartial, we don’t accept funding from the state. ... We seek out research grants, which come and go and are finite. Something like this helps us create an endowment which can offset core operating costs.”

Gallucci noted that he recently visited the offices of ProPublica, calling it an extremely well-run organization whose goals are to “shed a light on accuracy and fairness in the media and exposing fraudulent business practices and improve the democratic system.”

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent group that hands out about $230 million in grants annually. It may be best known for its “genius grants,” $625,000 no-strings-attached fellowships that have gone to hundreds of people since 1981.

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Online:

MacArthur Foundation: http://www.macfound.org/

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