05/02/2012 10:21 am ET | Updated Jul 02, 2012

Hult Global Case Challenge Brings New Ideas, Solutions to the Struggle Against Poverty

It's a challenge great enough to be daunting but vital enough to demand action: How do we find a decent and safe place to live for the 1.6 billion people around the world who struggle to survive each day in conditions that should be considered unlivable?

Hult Global Case Challenge teams presented some bold strategies to create affordable housing opportunities that could lift tens of thousands of families out of poverty.

Hosted by Hult International Business School, the competition brought 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.

The lack of affordable housing is a problem that every country in the world must grapple with, even in the U.S. Look at any major city, and there you'll likely find families living and raising children in unhealthy homes not suitable for habitation. In developing nations where poverty is rampant, slums and shanty towns dot the landscape with conditions so deplorable that it's difficult to even consider them homes.

For 36 years, Habitat for Humanity has strived to make the issues of poverty and substandard housing a matter of moral action. As a ministry, Habitat strives to help build a world where every person -- regardless of nationality, race or religion -- has a decent place to call home. We've been blessed to have the help of thousands of highly enthusiastic volunteers who have been willing to travel around the world to help us with this cause, as well as the aid of many generous donors who see the value in building communities.

But building homes is only one step in meeting this lofty goal. It will take innovative ideas, new technology and significant changes to government policy to create the environment necessary to truly address this issue on a global scale. In the ideas department -- the Hult Global Case Challenge students have delivered, and finalists from among online applicants and five global competitions gathered in New York for the selection of the winner in each of three tracks. The team from Hult International Business School-Boston was selected as the winner of the housing track.

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 work alongside some amazing people such as Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Prize Winner and founder of Grameen Bank, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton for the final judging in New York City. 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.

Jonathan T.M. Reckford brings to his role as chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International a passion for serving those in need and the business skills required to lead an effective international nonprofit organization. After graduating from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, he spent a number of years in the for-profit sector, including executive and managerial positions at Marriott and the Walt Disney Co. Always active in his local faith community, Reckford found an avocation helping to coach pastors in dealing with the management side of church life. Eventually, in 2003, that volunteer service turned into full-time ministry as executive pastor of a 4,300-member church in Edina, Minn., where he was working when contacted about the CEO job at Habitat for Humanity in 2005.

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