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Marketplace
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Dec 11, 2019

Habitat for Humanity’s Jonathan Reckford on the business of helping

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In his new book, the CEO talks about the valuable lessons he’s learned while leading one of the largest housing nonprofits in the world.

Since Jonathan Reckford became the CEO for Habitat for Humanity in 2005, the nonprofit housing organization has grown to help nearly 30 million people improve their housing conditions.

With a mission to create affordable homeownership, Habitat utilizes so-called “sweat equity” and countless volunteers to build homes for families around the world. 

“An interesting hybrid between a global corporation and a denomination,” Reckford calls it.

But as the world faces a growing affordable housing crisis, his work faces the same barriers as many people trying to find shelter. He spoke with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about some of the challenges to building affordable housing in a for-profit world.

“We really had to think about how markets worked and change the way that markets work so that low-income families could actually improve their own housing,” Reckford said. “And that led us into advocacy and property rights and housing microfinance.”

In his new book “Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues That Will Change Your Life and the World,” he reflects on the gracious volunteers and humble homeowners he’s met on the job, and shares the values he’s gained from building with them.

You can read an excerpt about his experience building homes in India with former President Jimmy Carter here.

The team

Nancy Farghalli Executive Producer
Bridget Bodnar Producer
Daisy Palacios Producer
Sean McHenry Associate Producer
Maria Hollenhorst Assistant Producer