Since 1983, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity has served communities across the city through a comprehensive revitalization approach to affordable housing. Rolling out had the pleasure of speaking with Alan Ferguson, the CEO of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity.
How do you apply innovation to what you do? How is it part of what you require of yourself?
I consider myself a career learner. It’s also about the diversity and the variety of people that you meet through the course of your lives, what you can glean from them, and possibly what you can embark [on together] as well. That’s where I feel kind of true innovation and creativity occur, with people that you normally would engage in your industry.
For those who’ve never sat through a board meeting, knowing the kind of governance that comes with that, what can you share about the value of having a board for a CEO?
The relationship you have with the board as CEO is more precise than any relationship. It’s conversation and dialogue that goes back and forth. You need to lean into your board for those board members who seem a little bit less engaged, and you need to make the extra effort to pull them in to get them involved. It’s great to have that vigorous dialogue for those who may tend to overstep their core responsibilities as well.
You have to think about how you integrate technology and learning into your organization. How do you create that culture?
You have to take care of your team and your team members that are currently in the organization — providing a safe place where they could speak, chat confidently, and share their thoughts and ideas, aspirations. There were particular pain points or sources of annoyance that really kind of disrupted their day and disrupted productivity. Out of that, I’m developing responses, to address their needs, and one of those needs is around opportunities for skill, development, and professional development.
Let’s talk about home buying. It is intergenerational and all about the idea that wealth begins with a home. What should people know about the journey to acquire a home, and how Habitat is there for them when they’re starting their journey?
We employ a model that relies upon volunteer labor, corporate and individual donations to create the opportunity for homeownership. Because of that unique model, we’re able to offer homeownership to people with meager incomes that the traditional market or conventional market, quite frankly, really can’t touch. Your home is probably going to be your most significant investment, and you hope that home appreciates. It’s a much better opportunity and a much better prospect for them over the long run.