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Habitat for Humanity University Teams Up With Harvard University for Leadership Conference

AMERICUS, Ga., July 1, 2003–Habitat for Humanity University (HFHU), an emerging global learning initiative of Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), held a conference at the Harvard Business School (HBS) for Habitat leaders from around the nation. The Habitat for Humanity (HFH) Leadership Conference was one of the first initiatives directed at HFHU’s goal of enhancing leadership throughout the Habitat for Humanity organization, focusing mainly on its grassroots volunteers who serve as executive directors and board presidents. In addition to conferences such as this one, HFHU will offer seminars, online learning and a scholarly research journal in order to share knowledge and best practices throughout the global organization.

As one of its first efforts, HFHU sponsored a custom executive education program on leadership at Harvard Business School from June 29 through July 2. The program was provided by Harvard Business School Interactive (HBSi), which is responsible for all the School’s custom programs, and the HBS Initiative on Social Enterprise, a collaboration of Harvard Business School faculty, students, alumni and staff that leverages the School’s core strengths to promote excellence in the leadership of nonprofit, private and public-sector enterprises.

Nearly 400 leaders from Habitat’s U.S. affiliates gathered on the Harvard Business School campus for an interactive classroom experience taught by over 20 HBS faculty members. This program represented the largest customized executive education program ever hosted by HBS. Using Harvard Business School’s famous case study method, Habitat for Humanity affiliate leaders will have the chance to take new ideas and skills they learned from the conference and apply them to realistic situations depicted in cases specially chosen for their relevance to the key challenges facing their organizations.

“HFH has been and always will be a volunteer-driven ministry,” says David Williams, executive vice president and COO of Habitat for Humanity International. “In the United States, three-fourths of our 1,600 affiliates are entirely volunteer led. We are thrilled to be able to develop these leaders through HFHU and through relationships with such prestigious institutions as Harvard. People often think Habitat’s greatest need is funding or land, but in fact, effective leadership is Habitat for Humanity’s greatest need. HFHU programs like this conference make big steps towards addressing that need.”

The HBS-HFHU relationship also includes Harvard Business School Publishing, whose e-learning for management and leadership development will provide core content for HFHU. To ensure that participants receive maximum benefits, HBSP and HBSi are collaborating to link the classroom topics with supporting e-learning programs from HBSP’s eLearning division. This will reinforce the classroom discussions and readings, and will support Habitat participants in their efforts to transfer those new ideas and practices back to their affiliate workplaces.

“The online learning relationship with Harvard Business School Publishing will provide all Habitat staff–employees and volunteers–with a quick, easy and well-informed reference source for handling the complex tasks that constitute our work,” said Stephen Seidel, executive director of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity in Minnesota and part of an “early adopter” group for HFHU’s e-learning initiative. “Additionally, HFHU will provide Habitat with a shared framework through which we can carry out our common responsibilities and more easily share important knowledge.”

“As HFHU begins to take shape, this relationship with the Harvard Business School represents a critical building block,” comments Nicolas P. Retsinas, member of Habitat for Humanity’s International Board of Directors and director of The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. “Habitat for Humanity International is pleased to be working with the world’s premiere business school to build and sustain leadership among the diverse staff and volunteers that constitute Habitat for Humanity.”

About Habitat for Humanity University

Habitat for Humanity University (HFHU) is a learning resource dedicated to leadership development through innovative and practical academic research; computer-based teaching and information sharing; in-person seminars and lectures; networking and mentoring. HFHU will offer a dynamic knowledge network to address Habitat’s greatest need: to identify and nurture the next generation of leadership necessary to fulfill the mission of eliminating poverty housing worldwide.

About Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. Founded by Millard Fuller, along with his wife, Linda, Habitat for Humanity International and its affiliates in more than 3,000 communities in 89 nations have built and sold more than 150,000 homes to partner families with no-profit, zero-interest mortgages. http://www.habitat.org/.

About Harvard Business School Publishing

Harvard Business School Publishing (HBSP) is a wholly owned, not-for-profit subsidiary of Harvard University. The HBSP eLearning division provides online leadership and management programs to a growing list of over 500 corporate eLearning clients. Combining premier content with flexible technology, HBSP eLearning is transforming the way that important management ideas are shared in the workplace. The eLearning programs include Harvard ManageMentor ®, Leadership Transitions, Managing Change, Decision Making, Coaching for Results, Influencing and Motivating Others and more. http://www.elearning.hbsp.org/.