A Message from CNT Leadership

Dear CNT Friends,

In the year 2020 our most vulnerable communities suffered a double punch. First: COVID-19, acting as a spotlight that illuminated the corners of our society that have been ignored, forgotten and systematically under-resourced. The devastatingly high numbers of Black and Brown people that died because of the pandemic has been directly linked to lack of affordable medical care and many underlying health conditions like asthma and diabetes. Many of these conditions were caused by the environmental issues that CNT has been on the forefront of combatting.

As these communities buried their friends and family members and continued to work jobs deemed essential, blow number two happened. The Civil Unrest in June of 2020 was not a singular moment. George Floyd’s murder was not an isolated incident. It was a catalyst. It was an explosion of pain and a demand for change, change that CNT has been working for the last 40 years to help bring about. Toxicity in our land, air and water are irrevocably connected to the pain of the people, damage to the places we live and inequity in the policies that govern us. CNT has been deeply rooted in equity before it became a word on the tip of everyone’s tongue. It has always been and will always be at the center of our mission.

Please read on for a summary of our accomplishments in 2020, our commitments for 2021, and acknowledgment to all our generous supporters.

In solidarity, the CNT Team

Photo grid of CNT's accomplishments in 2020

Accomplishments in 2020: Environmental Justice and Climate Justice

Racial disparities in climate impacts

Climate change affects us all but causes most serious harm in the most vulnerable communities. These disparities have begun to attract broad media attention, validating CNT’s foundational work on this topic over the past decade, with citations of our work on urban flooding by National Public Radio, the New York Times, and ProPublica. In 2020, CNT's flood equity research assessed disparities of urban flood risk for households of color in Chicago. We mapped racial disparities in flooding by Chicago zip code and found that neighborhoods that flooded most were predominantly Black and Latinx communities. In fact, our analysis shows that 87% of Chicago flood damage insurance claims were paid in communities of color.

In a deep dive in one of Chicago’s most impacted neighborhoods, Little Village, we investigated links between COVID-19 infection, air pollution, drinking water shutoffs, and urban flooding. The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) partnered with CNT to research disparities in environmental and health burdens and develop policy recommendations for action by the City of Chicago. Our interactive map starkly illustrates Chicago’s disparities in health, water shutoffs, and flooding.

Green stormwater infrastructure

CNT has long advocated for green infrastructure as a solution to flooding. In 2020, using real-world data on rain gardens, pervious pavement, swales, planters, and property sales, CNT and SB Friedman Development Advisors found green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) adds to property values. Our analysis shows statistically significant higher sales prices of homes near GSI in two cities. This adds to a growing body of research on the many benefits of nature-based solutions to stormwater management, such as improved health outcomes and economic development opportunities, summarized in the Green Values Strategy Guide. Our report also describes best practices for green investment without displacement of neighborhood residents and businesses. We are now working with cities and community groups in three cities to put these findings into action.

Example of green infrastructure

photo credit: Philadelphia Water Department

Accomplishments in 2020: Transportation

Transportation Equity Network

Passenger train at rail stop

photo credit: Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

CNT works to improve transportation that anchors walkable, affordable communities – but extensive research has shown that the benefits and harms of transportation are inequitable across race, income, and geography. In 2020, we launched the Transportation Equity Network (TEN), bringing together 30 community-based organizations and civic partners to embed racial equity and mobility justice into transportation decisions and investments. TEN has quickly become a critical part of how transportation agencies are addressing equity, forming relationships with most of the region’s transportation providers in its first year of existence. CNT is proud that transportation equity has long been a central part of our work. Jacky Grimshaw, a national leader in this field, reflected on her personal history as an advocate for equitable transportation in this blog.

Stranded analysis

A person sits stranded at a transit stop.

Last year, the prolonged fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic put public transit on the verge of a financial breaking point, threatening millions across America who rely on public transit as their lifeline to work in essential industries like healthcare and meet essential needs like grocery shopping. Working with TransitCenter, CNT analyzed the potential effect of service cuts in ten cities using AllTransit, finding that 3 million people, most of them Black and Latinx, could lose access to frequent transit if service cuts came to pass. Armed with this information, advocates and transit agencies successfully pressured Congress to include substantial funding in COVID relief bills for transit, providing much-needed resources to keep service operating.

Accomplishments in 2020: Community Development

Climate and Cultural Resilience

In 2020, we worked with community organizations, artists, designers, landscapers, and residents to install public art and green stormwater infrastructure in four Chicago neighborhoods through the Climate and Cultural Resilience (CCR) program, supported by Elevated Chicago. The installations are as distinct as the neighborhoods they serve and each project is a local expression of what resilience means in a time of climate change and cultural change in Chicago neighborhoods.

Accomplishments in 2020: Mission and Principles

In 2020, we did what we have always done: center equity in our work. But the world has changed in the past 40 years. Gaps are even wider, and disparities are more severe. For CNT, equity is not static, but a living and growing concept. To be leaders and agents of change, we need to continue to challenge ourselves and grow in the way that continued inequality demands us to.

As the world shut down, we did not. We doubled down on the work that we do for communities every day, and reflected on what we do, how we do it and most importantly, why. We committed to putting community groups’ voices and needs first, and we made difficult decisions to ensure that our work will always be aligned with our principles.

CNT is well known for our expertise in spatial analysis – making complex, interactive, and understandable maps. So we created a map for ourselves, to guide us on our journey to racial equity, by revising CNT’s mission. Our mission update involved not just discussions among staff and Board but also expert consultation and internal review by our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) group. In short we did the work to revise our mission so that it points to our north star of centering equity and calls out our commitment to community-based organizations:

CNT delivers innovative analysis and solutions that support community-based organizations and local governments to create neighborhoods that are equitable, sustainable, and resilient.


An overview of our finances in 2020 are below. You may also view CNT's 2020 Audit here.











What's next: Plans for 2021

2021 brings huge opportunities to push further on CNT’s accomplishments. The Biden administration is prioritizing equity and sustainability, giving us an opportunity to advance our goals in climate resilience, transportation equity, and housing affordability. But we also face huge threats: the increasingly visible damage of climate change, severe long-term funding shortfalls for public transit, widening inequality in income and wealth, and many others. In this context, we can continue to be the bridge between marginalized communities and solutions that make an impact with CNT’s unique blend of analytics, community engagement, and innovation.

Supporters & Funders

Thanks to all of the funders and supporters who worked with us in 2020! We were generously funded by the following organizations and individuals:

Significant Funders, Clients, and Sponsors ($5,000+)

  • Anonymous
  • Appalachian Regional Commission
  • Center on Wisconsin Studies
  • Chicago Community Trust
  • City of Bloomington, IN
  • City of Chicago, IL
  • City of Detroit, MI
  • City of Evanston, IL
  • City of Phoenix, AZ
  • Cook County, IL
  • Crown Family Philanthropies
  • C.S. Mott Foundation
  • Divvy
  • Elevated Chicago
  • Energy Foundation
  • Enterprise Community Partners
  • Evanston Community Foundation
  • Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities
  • Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
  • Great Lakes Protection Fund
  • Illinois Department of Transportation
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Joyce Foundation
  • JPB Foundation
  • Kresge Foundation
  • Metropolitan Transportation Commission
  • Mid America Regional Council
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • National Science Foundation
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • New Visions Foundation
  • Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation
  • Prince Charitable Trust
  • Sally Mead Hands Foundation
  • Spalding County, GA
  • Thanksgiving Fund
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Town of Carrboro, NC
  • TransitCenter
  • Transportation Research Board
  • Tucker Summit Community Improvement District, GA
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Village of Oak Park, IL

Individual, Family, and Corporate Donors ($500+)

  • Lucy and Peter Ascoli
  • Big Cat Foundation
  • Brian Chang
  • Christopher B. Burke Engineering
  • Kathryn Devine and Jon Trowbridge
  • Environmental Consulting and Technology
  • Dale and Ruth Fast
  • Bernard J. Ford
  • Greenprint Partners
  • Randy Gunn
  • Anne Hallett
  • Julie Hamos
  • HNTB
  • Jan Feldman
  • Jocarno Fund
  • Bennett Johnson III
  • Johnson Research Group
  • Nancy Juda and Jens Brasch
  • Bo and Eunice Kemp
  • Mark Ladd
  • Jeremy Liu
  • James Mann
  • Paul Marcus and Kitty Juda
  • Clark and Sari Maxfield
  • Microsoft
  • Muse Community + Design
  • Mary O’Connell
  • Margaret H. O’Dell and Alexander E. Sharp
  • Nelson \ Nygaard
  • Ellen Partridge and Ed Tanzman
  • Julia Parzen and Daniel Johnson
  • Lindene Patton
  • Jeanne Rattenbury and Geoff Grove
  • Eleanor and Bill Revelle
  • Sharon and Louis Rosenthal
  • Lise Ross
  • Molly Rutzick
  • Sam Schwartz
  • SB Friedman Development Advisors
  • Steve Schlickman
  • Ellen Seidman
  • Charles and Kathryn Shenk
  • Simply Smart Technology
  • Site Design Group
  • Judith Shepelak and George Vinyard Charitable Fund
  • Valerie S. Kretchmer Associates
  • Marie and Bob Weissbourd

Board of Directors

  • Margaret O’Dell, Chair
  • Robert C. Henderson, former Chair
  • Bennett Johnson III, Vice Chair
  • Steve Schlickman, Secretary
  • Louis F. Rosenthal, Treasurer
  • Kirk Chamberlain
  • Obinna Ekwueme
  • Bernard J. Ford
  • Anne Hallett
  • Ann P. Kalayil
  • Bo Kemp
  • Mark J. Ladd
  • Jeremy Liu
  • Ceasar McDowell
  • Dick Munson
  • Mary O’Connell
  • Lindene Patton


  • Cyatharine Alias, Project Associate
  • Marcella Bondie Keenan, Director, Climate Planning and Programs
  • Rebecca Cook, Manager, Outreach and Public Engagement
  • Robert Dean, Chief Executive Officer
  • Paul Esling, Senior Application Developer
  • Jacky Grimshaw, Vice President, Government Affairs
  • Peter Haas, Chief Research Scientist
  • Jon Kuta, Senior Web Developer
  • Jen McGraw, Director, Sustainability Innovation
  • Heidy Persaud, Director, Transportation Equity
  • Preeti Shankar, Manager, Transportation and Urban Analytics
  • Bridget Torres, Vice President, Talent and Culture
  • Drew Williams-Clark, Managing Director, Urban Resilience
  • Anna Wolf, Program Director, Water Equity
  • Linda Young, Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director, Urban Analytics

CNT is a member of EarthShare and 1% for the Planet.