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Center for Civic Innovation Celebrates Atlanta’s Unsung Heroes

by Holly Beilin

Motivation is easy to come by when your efforts are reaping something for yourself, but it takes a special kind of person to hustle for the benefit of others. Last Thursday, leaders from the Atlanta business and nonprofit community gathered at the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) in downtown Atlanta to celebrate the champions of those who often can’t speak for themselves. The winners of the 2016 Civic Impact Awards are defining success not by profitability or revenue, but the impact they have made on the lives of others.

“These organizations and individuals are shining examples of dedicating themselves to this unsung work [of social impact]. Social impact is an industry, contributing to the economy just like any other. The more we celebrate it as such, the more we bring attention to the work,” says Rohit Malhotra, CCI’s executive director and founder.

The nomination process for the Awards, which are in their second year, involved a dozen judges from the business, entrepreneurial, and nonprofit community. This year, Malhotra said they received over 200 applications for winners in seven categories.

Civic Impact Award Ceremony

“We learn about — and need to celebrate — all these people flying under the radar,” Malhotra says. “Jessica Caldas (Creative Impact winner) has won a number of awards as an artist, but it was amazing to honor her as an activist and as someone who does her work to improve the lives of others.”

“For other winners, we’re bringing attention to them in the context of Atlanta. Jon Rapping, for example, won a MacArthur Award, his work is making a difference across the country. But you don’t realize that these people are right here in Atlanta and call this city home.”

Rapping, founder of indigent defense training organization Gideon’s Promise, received the Impact Award for “Good Troublemaker”, recognizing him as an advocate for those whose voices go unheard.

“People who we now celebrate, who pushed for civil and human rights, were considered troublemakers,” says Rapping. “Public defenders fit the mold of advocates throughout our history who have been seen as troublemakers, who have gotten in the way of a system that wanted to move forward and disregard the rights of vulnerable populations.”

The full list of winners is:

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