Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford with fellow Hult Global Case Challenge judge Muhammad Yunus
By Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO
We have made friends with thousands of the world’s best upcoming business minds, and they have given us some great ideas for how we can dramatically increase Habitat for Humanity’s impact around the world. Winners in the Hult Global Case Challenge were announced last week in New York, and students from Hult International Business School, Boston, learned that their proposal was the winning idea for how Habitat could serve dramatically more families.
The Hult Challenge has become one of the world’s top platforms for social change. It brings together the top graduate business school students from all over the globe to generate solutions to the world's most pressing problems. This year, the challenge presented to students focused on alleviating global poverty, and students were to develop solutions along three tracks: affordable education, affordable energy and affordable housing.
Finalists from among online applicants and from regional competitions in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai attended the final competition in New York where a winning team was announced for each track. Benefactors — which included One Laptop per Child (for the education track), SolarAid (for energy) and Habitat for Humanity (which levied the housing challenge) — will share the $1 million prize to pilot the winning ideas.
I wanted to bring all these students back to Habitat with me. They were incredibly passionate about poverty and about affordable housing, in particular, and neither apprehension nor failure was in their lexicon. They were energized by responding to a colossal challenge, and I kept hearing these incredibly bright minds say, “Oh, yeah. We can do that!”
Certainly this was a great opportunity for us to hear new ideas that ranged from tweaking our model to changing the whole way we approach affordable housing. This kind of “no boundaries” thinking is invaluable and allows us to put everything on the table before we start looking seriously at ideas that will work with our new strategic plan. I am very excited about talking with our board of directors and leadership about how we can implement the winning idea.
The core concept of the proposal relies on empowering communities with new skills and knowledge that will enable people to pull themselves out of poverty. By combining partnerships with microwork providers and local microfinance institutions, communities can access job opportunities and financial services.
We believe another big win for Habitat, however, will be in 5-10 years when these thousands of students will be business leaders around the world. We hope to be able to go to them, and to the Fortune 500 executives who volunteered their time as competition judges, to seek their support and have them recall their very positive experiences with Habitat at the Global Case Challenge.
We are grateful to the Hult International Business School for including us in the project and to the Clinton Global Initiative, which is also a partner in the competition. I was honored to serve as a judge alongside amazing people such as Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize Winner and founder of Grameen Bank. Former President Bill Clinton, who served as the keynote speaker, presented awards to the winning teams. We appreciate their commitment to alleviating global poverty and look forward to working together in other ways to create a world where everyone has a decent place to live.