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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.

By 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?


2 Responses

  1. My own life has been touched as I had an opportunity to participate with a Boy Scout group involved in a habitat building project down here in Austin. Truly remarkable!

    You ask some hard questions.
    “How do companies foster a cooperative spirit when they are struggling to survive?” I believe you have this answer, at least to some degree. Competitive intelligence helps to promote differentiation. I find the cooperative spirit is strengthened when differentiation is high. In today’s market place, social media isn’t required, survival isn’t mandatory. As companies struggle for survival, they reach out in a spirit of cooperation, not because they’re nice people, but because they have to. The social media they’re depending on requires cooperation. Open innovation is maturing and driving even more motivation for the spirit of cooperation that is found in many not-for-profit organizations.

    “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.” I understand what you mean here. But instead of hard work, maybe want is needed is that cooperative spirit that you asked about earlier. I see social media playing a larger role here as companies embrace communities. At the TOC conference this week, http://www.toccon.com/toc2009 a lot of time was spent on community management and the leverage that a community brings to the marketing dollar. As employees learn their role in these community efforts we find the motivation your asking for begin to develop naturally.

    “What steps can you take to build up your company’s cooperative intelligence “trust” fund?” Now here you’ve got me. I need some help from the community. Tell me what can I do?

  2. Hi Val,

    Those are meaty comments you share. The TOC conference looks great, and I can only imagine the discussion around the publishing community when social media and on-line channels like Amazon make the distribution of self-published books easier. I have one on the way on cooperative intelligence which I’ll probably self publish since I imagine a traditional publisher won’t want to risk a first time author on a topic that’s not that well known in this tough market.

    Building a cooperative intelligence trust fund…while social networking is cooperative I don’t see corporations embracing it widely. I read about the same successful case studies like Dell Computer. However, I talk to many company’s competitive intelligence managers who are skeptical of social networking. And even more surprisingly a PR firm who wanted to continue satisfying their client’s brand share of market analysis through print media, while ignoring the on-line media share of market.

    I’m also thinking about cooperative trust within a company, which I think is a huge challenge in these trying times. Companies that can engender a culture of trust and cooperation among their employees will have a competitive edge since these people will look forward to coming into work. Thanks, Ellen

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