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Build Cooperative Trust: Learn from Millard Fuller, Habitat for Humanity Visionary

creativitycentralmariacharlie1I just had the privilege to attend my friends, Maria and Charlie Girsch’s 40th wedding anniversary celebration which started with a renewal of their vows.  Maria and Charlie are toy inventors who lead Creativity Central where they teach people how to be creative based on their 25 years of creativity with toys.  Their list of toy inventions numbers over 200!

Their celebration service was led by The Very Reverend Peter Eaton of Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado.   He gave a stirring homily as he recounted the life of Millard Fuller, the visionary whose ideas and tireless work created Habitat for Humanity in 1976 who died on Feb. 3, 2009. How fortunate for Millard Fuller that President Jimmy Carter publicly supported Habitat in its early days which gave the organize a huge PR boost!  He has been an active volunteer in building Habitat homes and endorsing Habitat.

millardfuller-2By Habitat’s 25th anniversary, tens of thousands of people were volunteering with Habitat and more than 500,000 people were living in Habitat homes.  “Millard Fuller’s drive and relentless commitment to affordable housing captured people’s imagination and changed lives around the world,” said J. Ronald Terwilliger, chair of Habitat’s International Board of Directors. “His inspiration lives on in Habitat’s work and through its employees, volunteers, partner families and supporters.”

Today more than a million people live in Habitat built, reconstructed or revamped homes, which are in more than 100 countries. Former President Jimmy Carter said: “He (Fuller) was an inspiration to me, other members of our family and an untold number of volunteers who worked side by side under his leadership.” Former President Bill Clinton has also volunteered on Habitat projects. When he presented Fuller the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, Clinton said, “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Millard Fuller has literally revolutionized the concept of philanthropy.”

Millard Fuller’s leadership of Habitat for Humanity is an example of cooperative intelligence in the non-profit world, which continues to thrive.  It is a hugely successful cooperative effort by many people to restore or build homes for the less fortunate around the globe.

In our tough economic times, leadership needs to engage in cooperative intelligence and build support systems among employees, customers and suppliers like Miller Fuller did for Habitat. Many employees feel fear, and that they’re beaten up by their company’s management to do more with less.  How will companies foster a cooperative spirit when they are struggling to survive? It is more important than ever that the remaining employees in companies feel valued and are motivated to work hard, not just to keep their jobs, but because they want to.

What steps can you take to build up your company’s cooperative intelligence “trust” fund?

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