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What It Does



ACCION International

CEO: María Otero
Winner's Statement
Trains banks around the world to be microfinance partners, making small loans (averaging $674) to help poor people start businesses. Eventually, these microlenders become self-sustaining. ACCION has recently developed new services—home-improvement loans, insurance, and savings vehicles. In the past 10 years, ACCION's partners have made 14.3 million loans totaling nearly $10 billion to 4 million borrowers, 65% of them women. A+

A Fighting Chance

Director: Melanie Carr
Winner's Statement
Provides staff investigators to indigent defendants in high-profile cases that most likely will result in death sentences. Operating in four Southern states, it also trains investigators and litigates for increased funding to fully research such cases. Since 2002, AFC has helped represent 74 people facing the death penalty. Eight have been released outright and 32 have avoided death; the other cases are still pending. B+

Aspire Public Schools

CEO: Don Shalvey
Winner's Statement
Builds and operates small public charter schools in underserved neighborhoods with a curriculum that constantly reinforces the possibility of college for all students. The indirect effect: pressure on public-school systems to reevaluate ineffective practices. In 2004 and 2005, every Aspire school exceeded California's testing targets—a 100% achievement rate compared with the state average of 65%. No wonder they have wait lists. B+

BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life)

CEO: Earl Martin Phalen
Winner's Statement
Provides after-school and summer tutoring for underperforming, low-income elementary students. The sessions, led by public school teachers, professional mentors, and BELL's own staff, focus on basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Enrichment activities and community service get parents involved. BELL educated more than 7,500 children at 44 school sites in four cities last year. Of these students, 81% improved literacy scores to "proficient." A

Calvert Social Investment Foundation

Executive Director: Shari Berenbach
Winner's Statement
Connects financial markets to social markets by raising capital from private and institutional investors, then lending it to more than 200 socially oriented organizations. Borrowers repay at a 99.8% rate, and investors get their capital back with interest, less a slice to fund Calvert's operations. Since 1995, Calvert's investments have created 146,000 jobs, built or rehabilitated more than 8,000 homes, and financed 8,400 nonprofit facilities. A+


President: Mindy Lubber
Winner's Statement
Has forged a network of 70 companies committed to publishing sustainability reports and improving environmental and social performance. Its Global Reporting Initiative, launched in 1997 with the United Nations Environment Program, is now the de facto standard used by 850 companies. After joining Ceres's network, Nike disclosed names and locations of its 700-plus contract factories. Dell agreed to support legislation to require electronics recycling. B+

Citizen Schools

CEO: Eric Schwarz
Winner's Statement
Recruits more than 2,000 professionals to provide after-school apprenticeships to low-income middle-school students. During 11 weeks, kids work with these volunteers to create professional-quality projects, from a solar-powered fountain to a mock trial. Citizen Schools serves 3,000 students in 15 cities. In a longitudinal study, 72% of its eighth graders enrolled in college-track high schools, more than double the norm. A-

City Year

President: Michael Brown
Winner's Statement
Recruits and trains young adults for a year of full-time civic service in 16 U.S. sites and one in South Africa. Corps members serve as tutors and mentors in after-school programs and summer camps, and engage in physical projects, too. Since 1988, more than 9,000 corps members have worked 14.5 million volunteer hours. City Year alums are 45% more likely to vote and 65% more likely to volunteer than peers. A+

Civic Builders

CEO: David Umansky
Winner's Statement
Develops affordable charter schools in New York's poorest neighborhoods, including the first under a massive new city initiative. Uses GIS mapping software to evaluate geography and demographics for optimal school locations. Since 2002, Civic Builders has completed two charter schools in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn, serving a total of 1,400 students. Two more schools are in the works. B

Civic Ventures

President: Marc Freedman
Winner's Statement
Engages older adults in social action through work and service. Its Experience Corps includes 2,000 people over the age of 55 who volunteer as tutors and mentors in public schools. Its Purpose Prize, started in 2006, recognizes social entrepreneurs and innovators over 60. Experience Corps has served 20,000 students in 19 American cities since 1995. Civic Ventures' national surveys on aging get wide attention. B+

College Summit

CEO: J.B. Schramm
Winner's Statement
Aims to raise college enrollment among students from low-income neighborhoods. Trained Peer Leaders, who are applying for college themselves, serve as "influencers" to help others with applications. Students are paired with teachers and counselors to ease the transition from high school. College Summit should serve 7,300 students in the 2006/2007 school year, a 100% increase over two years ago. Eighty percent of Peer Leaders graduate from college. A

Corporation for Supportive Housing

CEO: Carla Javits
Winner's Statement
Makes loans and grants and provides expertise to developers of supportive housing—affordable homes with services targeting the poor, ill, and addicted. Works to dispel public perceptions of homelessness as intractable and to streamline government funding for supportive housing. Since 1991, CSH has raised more than $221 million—and made nearly $119 million in loans and grants to help create more than 17,000 housing units. B+


CEO: Charles Best
Winner's Statement
Links donors with school projects in need of funding. Public-school teachers submit proposals for materials and experiences tailored to students' needs—from books and art supplies to field trips and therapeutic horseback-riding lessons. Donors search an online database and select projects to fund. has channeled nearly $8 million worth of resources to more than 470,000 students in four cities. B

EcoLogic Finance

Executive Director: William F. Foote
Winner's Statement
Offers affordable credit and financial education to enterprises in developing countries. By supporting coffee co-ops until their harvests, the arrangement allowed the growers to negotiate higher prices. A partnership with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has led to others with companies including Starbucks. Foote envisions similar partnerships to empower communities that produce cashews, cocoa, and bananas. Ecologic has lent $18 million to coffee growers in 12 countries. In Veracruz, Mexico, its programs have helped keep growers on their farms. And higher bean prices have allowed the local co-op to offer scholarships to members' children and launch a preventative health program that supports 1,200 women. B+

Endeavor Global

Executive director: Linda Rottenberg
Winner's Statement
Helps entrepreneurs across Africa and Latin America build and fund successful businesses, creating jobs and vibrant communities. After rigorous screening, promising entrepreneurs are linked with experienced professionals who give feedback and guidance, and are exposed to potential investors. Endeavor Entrepreneurs have created 38,418 jobs in 140 companies, 96% of which stay in business longer than 42 months. Endeavor plans to expand into 26 additional countries. B+

First Book

Executive director: Kyle Zimmer
Winner's Statement
Focuses on the distribution problem behind the literacy problem: 80 percent of pre-school programs serving low-income kids don't have age-appropriate books. Initially, Zimmer enlisted publishers to donate their unsold children's books. That led to a special catalog of discounted books for literacy organizations. Now, First Book is testing an online marketplace venture that aggregates the buying power of community-based literacy organizations to secure special print runs of children's books from publishers. First Book has put more than 40 million books in kids' hands since it was founded in 1992. The marketplace brings in new revenue to First Book. And it exposes publishers to an audience they otherwise would not reach. A+

Global Fund for Women

CEO: Kavita Ramdas
Winner's Statement
Makes grants of $500 to $100,000 to organizations advancing women's human rights—promoting economic independence in Africa, say, and fighting "honor killings" in the Middle East. A network of advisers—regional and global experts and activists—provides grantees with perspective and guidance. Since 1987, Global Fund has awarded 5,135 grants totaling more than $50 million to 3,123 organizations in 163 countries. B+

Grameen Foundation

CEO: Alex Counts
Winner's Statement
Creates a chain reaction of lending between large banks, its 52 microfinance partners, and poverty-stricken individuals seeking to start businesses. Its goal: to move 50% of recipients out of poverty within five years of getting their first loan. Grameen's network of microfinance partners works with 2.2 million families. Its Technology Center has helped create 6,000 telecom businesses in Rwanda and Uganda. B

Hands On Network

CEO: Michelle Nunn
Winner's Statement
Links national corporations and local nonprofits to fuel volunteer efforts in community service projects. For big companies, Hands On Network can provide the employee-service equivalent of an IT contractor or office-supplies vendor—a partner that delivers consistent service to multiple locations under a single contract. Hands On volunteers coordinate work on the ground, make sure things happen on schedule, and report back on results—including data on which employees volunteer most. Last year, Hands On marshaled 168,000 employee-volunteers from 51 companies to work more than 1.4 million hours, valued $TK million, at 48,538 projects—a 65% increase from 2002. A

Heifer International

CEO: Jo Luck
Winner's Statement
Supplies livestock and training to help farmers in 50 poor countries thrive. Recipients "pass on the gift" by sharing the offspring of their livestock with others. Heifer also gets involved in community development, addressing HIV/AIDS, gender equity, and environmentally sound farming practices. Heifer has served more than 7.5 million families since 1944. In fiscal 2004, it placed 384,000 animals; 203,000 livestock offspring were passed on to other families. A+

Housing Partnership Network

Executive Director: Thomas Bledsoe
Winner's Statement
Makes construction loans at below-market rates, bringing creativity and speed to the layered work of affordable housing development. With Merrill Lynch, it has created an insurance company and a securities firm that offers mortgages financed through tax-exempt bonds, and started up an informal venture reserve fund. The network's 87 member organizations have created 11,000 affordable homes, insure 37,000 rental units, and improve the lives of 150,000 low- to moderate-income people. A-


CEO: Rob Waldron
Winner's Statement
Addresses dual problems: a shortage of adults working in preschools and the lack of early education in low-income communities. It recruits college students to work in preschools nationwide, giving children thousands of hours of individual and group attention. Jumpstart has grown by 30% per year. Its 3,100 college students will teach 12,000 preschoolers this year. Twenty percent of graduating corps members become full-time teachers. A


CEO: Martin Fisher
Winner's Statement
Fights poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by selling low-cost technology that dramatically raises farmers' crop yields and incomes. Irrigation pumps—the $95 Super MoneyMaker and the $35 Hip Pump—account for 90% of sales. Farmers earn $4 for every $1 they invest in pumps, lifting average income to $1,100 annually, from $110. As a result, 225,000 people no longer live in poverty. A+

New Community Corp.

Executive Director: William J. Linder
Winner's Statement
Broad-based community program in Newark, New Jersey. It owns $500 million of real estate, housing 45,000 residents. Training for auto technicians and nurses, among others, as well as a Gateway to Work program for welfare recipients, make it the ninth-largest employer in the city. NCC has helped more than 5,000 residents find jobs and get off welfare. Nursing and automotive graduates increase incomes by an average of 270%. B+

New Leaders for New Schools

CEO: Jon Schnur
Winner's Statement
Trains and places principals and administrators to work in troubled urban schools. It selects just 6% of applicants, providing 230 fellowships to people who commit to yearlong residencies shadowing experienced principals. Three-quarters of schools led by New Leaders principals show increases of at least 4% in academic performance in only two years. A+

Nonprofit Finance Fund

CEO: Clara Miller
Winner's Statement
Aims to create a new standard for nonprofit funding and financial management. It strives to help organizations develop secure and sustainable business models by providing individualized financial planning and analysis, asset-building programs, and loans of up to $2 million. NFF has served more than 10,000 nonprofits nationwide since 1980, lending close to $150 million and helping to mobilize $750 million in investment. B+


President: Christopher Elias
Winner's Statement
Creates and distributes low-cost health-care solutions, typically with technology partners. It has devised one-time-use syringes for cost-effective vaccinations, delivered relief kits to people living with AIDS, developed an improved women's condom, and distributed birth delivery kits tailored to local traditions. In the past year, PATH, working with the WHO and UNICEF, supported the vaccination of 12 million people in India and Nepal against Japanese encephalitis. A+

PeaceWorks Foundation

President: Daniel Lubetzky
Winner's Statement
Via workshops, town-hall meetings, and college tours, PeaceWorks emphasizes tolerance and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians—and trains young people to serve as youth leaders who promote nonviolence. In 2005, 180,000 people participated in its programs. Eight hundred Israeli and Palestinian youth were trained in leadership and negotiation, and young leaders organized 30 events. B+

Pioneer Human Services

CEO: Michael Burns
Winner's Statement
Offers ex-offenders, addicts, and the homeless employment and training services, counseling, and safe housing. Its 10 enterprises—including a factory that makes cargo liners for Boeing—employ people on the margins of society. Pioneer's recidivism rate is only 6%, compared with the national average of 20% to 30%. Since 1963, it has assisted 120,000 individuals. B+

Population Services International

Acting CEO: Peter Clancy
Winner's Statement
Works with donors and the private sector to subsidize health products and services in developing countries. Employs mass-media and community-sponsored marketing—such as paying clinic nurses for each mosquito net they sell—to create demand for its products and encourage healthier behaviors. In 2005, PSI prevented an estimated 212,000 HIV infections, 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 117,000 child deaths from malaria and diarrhea, and 21 million malaria episodes. A-

Raising a Reader

Executive Director: Carol Welsh Gray
Winner's Statement
Encourages reading among children in poor families. Early-childhood-development specialists work with kids in classrooms and at home visits, providing bright red bags filled with four books a week. Once children leave the program, they are given their own library cards and introduced to the public library system. Head Start children assisted by Raising a Reader tested twice as high as the national Head Start norm—and parents report spending 471% more time reading with their kids. A-


CEO: Brett Jenks
Winner's Statement
In more than 40 countries, Rare protects wildlands from destruction through social-action projects and ecotourism programs that both revitalize protected areas and foster local business. Its "spread the word" radio-soap-opera campaigns promote continued conservation of threatened ecosystems. Rare has developed more than 60 campaigns, raising environmental awareness among half a million people annually. It has helped revitalize 150 state parks and recreation areas. A

Room to Read

CEO: John Wood
Winner's Statement
Builds schools and libraries in seven countries. Raises funds globally but requires villages to pay a portion of the costs, and hires residents as librarians and mentors—encouraging locals to take ownership. Offers the poorest girls full scholarships for their primary-school years. More than 1 million children now use Room to Read facilities. It has published 150 storybooks in 23 languages and has trained more than 1,000 librarians. A

Rubicon Programs Inc.

President: Rick Aubry
Winner's Statement
Offers housing, job training, and substance-abuse counseling to thousands of poor, homeless, and/or addicted San Francisco Bay Area residents. Funds more than half its budget with profits from its own enterprises—including a gourmet bakery that sells nationally through Costco and Williams-Sonoma. Rubicon has served more than 40,000 families since 1973. Its workers are convicted of fewer crimes, get stable housing, and are more likely to stay employed. A-

Scojo Foundation

Director: Graham Macmillan
Winner's Statement
Provides eye exams and reading glasses to people in developing nations. Its mobile clinics eliminate the need for long trips to expensive city doctors—and identify patients who need more intensive care. It also trains local entrepreneurs, many of them women, to sell glasses and accessories in rural kiosks. In four years, Scojo has sold more than 100,000 pairs of reading glasses in seven countries. B

SEED Foundation

Managing directors: Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota
Winner's Statement
The world's only public urban prep and boarding school. Its 320 students in Washington, DC—90% of whom enter seventh grade three years behind the national academic average—make a six-year commitment to change, with a curriculum focused on both academic and social development. Some 97% of SEED's graduates go to college, and 85% of those graduate. It plans campuses in Baltimore and New York in the next five years. B

Springboard Forward

Executive director: Elliott Brown
Winner's Statement
Counsels entry-level workers so they can move toward more fulfilling, better paying work and become more productive workers—at once breaking a cycle of poverty and solving a persistent employer problem. Has offered training and counseling to 101 clients in projects with Home Depot, Stanford University, and the City of Palo Alto, among others. It's partnering with Kenexa to devise surveys that will assess performance. A-

Teach for America

President: Wendy Kopp
Winner's Statement
Recruits top college graduates to teach at troubled rural and urban schools. Its 3,600 teachers in 22 cities reach more than 300,000 students a year, leveling the educational playing field for academically at-risk children. Half of TFA teachers effect first-year gains in student performance equivalent to 1.5 academic years. And 60% of TFA alumni still work full time in education. A+

TransFair USA

CEO: Paul Rice
Winner's Statement
Certifies fair-trade coffee and other developing-nation crops, then works with certified growers—who otherwise lack access to market information—to get higher prices. In the United States, it promotes awareness of fair-trade products and enables retailers and distributors to buy direct from producers. TransFair has supported 1.1 million farmers and producers worldwide, certifying 150,000 growers in 2006 alone. A-


CEO: Geoff Davis
Winner's Statement
Helps microfinance institutions become sustainable by providing financial support and consulting, drawing on practices from venture capital, investment banking, and microfinance. In March, it launched the Unitus Equity Fund L.P., expected to total up to $30 million, to invest in microlenders in Asia and Latin America. Unitus serves 860,000 people with $62 million in loans through microlenders in India, Kenya, Mexico, and Argentina. Those partners are growing an average of over 100% annually. A


Executive director: Gillian Caldwell
Winner's Statement
Trains human-rights organizations to document abuses on camera, and to use the video in advocacy campaigns. In 2007, it will launch the Human Rights Video Hub, allowing anyone anywhere to upload footage from handheld devices or computers—a YouTube for human rights. Based on video from AJEDI-Ka/PES, a Witness partner, the International Criminal Court arrested Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for war crimes in Congo, including conscripting children. B+

Working Today

Executive director: Sara Horowitz
Winner's Statement
A sort of union for independent workers. At its Web site, people can post profiles, network, and browse targeted ads. It offers members low-cost health, life, and disability insurance—and, soon, retirement plans and tax and financial services—and fights for changes in unemployment and tax laws. The Freelancers Union has 33,000 members nationally, 13,000 of whom take advantage of health insurance. A

Year Up

Executive director: Gerald Chertavian
Winner's Statement
Helps bridge the "opportunity divide" in urban areas by training urban youths in Web design and help-desk support, then placing them in jobs. More than 350 people in four cities participate in the intensive one-year program. Some 85% of graduates find relevant work, with average starting pay of $15 per hour. Year Up expects to expand to 25 cities by 2016. B+

A version of this article appeared in the December 2006/January 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.