CNT Receives Prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions
CNT was recognized as one of only eight organizations from around the world to receive the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. CNT has pioneered new approaches to urban problems that use resources more efficiently, reduce costs for households and communities, and improve the environment. The award recognizes organizations that are “highly creative and effective, have made an extraordinary impact in their fields and are helping to address some of the world’s most challenging problems.”
“The MacArthur Foundation has a long history of supporting organizations around the world like these that demonstrate the creativity, drive, and vision to make the world more just and peaceful,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton. “These organizations may be small but their impact is tremendous. From protecting human rights to improving urban neighborhoods to conserving biodiversity, they are blazing new paths and finding fresh solutions to some of our most difficult challenges.”
“The Center for Neighborhood Technology is an innovative and creative organization that has maintained a strong focus on sustainability for over 30 years,” said Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. “The new technologies and ideas CNT has developed have kept Illinois at the forefront of green innovation, and this award is a fitting tribute.”
Many of the priorities in President Obama’s stimulus package, including green infrastructure, residential energy efficiency, use and development of a smart electricity grid, are based on innovations developed by CNT and similar organizations.
CNT has grown from its beginnings in 1978 as a small storefront operation into a nationally recognized organization with over 50 employees. Today, CNT is a creative think-and-do tank that combines rigorous research with effective solutions that promote more livable and sustainable urban communities and contribute to national urban policy. Its research and programs focus on climate change, energy, transportation and community development, and natural resources.
Pioneering practical innovations
“CNT recognized early on that neighborhood revitalization can be cost effective, while enhancing the urban and broader environment,” said Scott Bernstein, President and Founder. “This award enables us to continue to demonstrate that being resource-efficient—tapping the many assets urban neighborhoods provide—can actually lower the cost of living and increase household and community wealth.”
“CNT demonstrates a unique combination of vision, high-quality analysis, and the ability to implement effective programs,” said Adele Simmons, President of the Global Philanthropy Partnership. “Rarely do you find all three in one organization.”
CNT is driven by the notion that making cities work—for the benefit of the people who live in them and for the health of the planet—is particularly critical at this time. Livable, workable, efficient cities are a key part of the answer to climate change. Because of their transportation networks and density, cities are already environmentally efficient, though there is room for improvement—through transportation and communication networks that reduce the need to drive, buildings that are energy efficient and growth that is connected to transit. And each of these measures reduces the cost of living for residents.
Using its extensive research capabilities, CNT developed the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, an online tool that for the first time quantifies the impact of transportation costs on housing affordability for 54 metropolitan areas across the country. Both U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cited CNT’s Index recently during their Congressional testimony to support a new interagency partnership between their departments.
“CNT’s role is unique and its impact is pronounced,” said Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director of The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, which supported CNT’s work on the Index. “It has successfully bridged the gap between innovative practice and smart policy on transportation, housing, energy, climate and a host of other domestic policies. This is a well-deserved honor for decades of quality, provocative, effective work.”
CNT has taken its research and analysis on urban sustainability from Chicago to around the world. In 2008, CNT prepared a first-ever study of location efficiency for Greater London which Prince Charles termed “definitive.”
“Its roots in Chicago region have allowed it to beta test new sustainability tools on the ground that have then gone on to have national and international impact. In this urban century, CNT’s insistent focus on a sustainability rooted in community engagement and place is vital,” said Hank Dittmar, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment. “The strong partnership that The Prince’s Foundation for the built Environment has had with CNT has been one of mutual learning and reinforcement. The recognition by the MacArthur Foundation will enable CNT to build on its strengths, and will address the critical need for a solid platform from which to launch its social ventures and game changing tools.”
Advancing affordable and efficient communities
“Building a green city takes more than leadership from city government—it takes strong partners in the community,” said Sadhu Johnston, Chief Environmental Officer for the City of Chicago. “CNT has been and continues to be a valuable partner in the development and implementation of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan. Their in-depth analysis, along with their experience in implementing programs in transportation and energy, effectively demonstrate how and why cities are the solution to climate change.”
“CNT understands and practices the notion that environmental sustainability must be tied to the economic health of low-income communities,” said Steven McCullough, President and CEO of Bethel New Life, Inc., a nonprofit organization revitalizing communities on Chicago’s West Side. “Its partnership with Bethel New Life over the past 30 years has enabled cutting-edge investments in neighborhoods like West Garfield Park.
“CNT has been with us as we worked with community residents in educating, planning and implementing projects, like transit-oriented investment, that sustain our community’s environment, economic and social base.”
CNT’s programs in sustainable development have had considerable impact:
- I-GOSM, a car-sharing program that serves 30 neighborhoods in Chicago, Evanston and Oak Park, has attracted 12,000 members since it was launched in 2002.
- CNT Energy’s Energy Smart Pricing Plan, which helps residential consumers cut energy costs and reduce their peak energy use through hourly price signals, was adopted by ComEd and other electricity providers in the Midwest.
- The Energy Savers Program offers a one-stop shop for energy audits and loans to finance improvements that substantially reduce natural gas and electricity use in multifamily buildings. Reductions in energy consumption lower the operating costs of rental properties, keeping them affordable for the long term.
“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,” Kathryn Tholin, CNT’s Chief Executive Officer. “As energy efficiency, housing, and sustainable development move to the center of national attention, CNT will continue to provide reliable analysis, creative research, and innovative ideas that have been tested in practice to build more livable and sustainable urban communities.”
CNT will use the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions to expand its research capacities, reach a wider national audience, and build its operating reserve.