Surely you care about poor people. You may pray for them. You may send some money.
If you are an unusual person, you also serve poor people directly. If you are very caring and unusual you go to where most people are very poor and devote your life to helping them.
In the process, you can discover the joy of giving of yourself . . . and the wisdom to understand how to actually help.
Ms. Jacqueline Novogratz provides a compelling series of stories well designed to explain how she has traveled along that path of contribution and learning . . . and to explain what she now knows.
It makes for compelling reading, even if the lessons aren't nearly as concentrated as they might be.
As the book opens, she recounts the synchronicity of jogging in Rwanda and seeing a sweater she had given away 25 years earlier on a child there. The world is more interconnected than we think, and we each can make a difference: That's the message.
In her early days, the African women she wanted to help didn't want her help. Eventually, she was able to help found and develop a microfinance organization in Rwanda and a bakery before the genocide. In heartbreaking detail, she recounts the before and after . . . including what happened to many of the people she worked with . . . as well as the fate of the microfinance operations and bakery.
Eventually, she shifted focus to providing patient capital through the Acumen Fund whose equity investments and loans could either help fund innovations or speed expansion of worthy business models to help the poorest of the poor . . . on their own terms and from their own perspectives. She recounts the learning experiences and challenges that the organization has faced and makes a convincing case for a new type of philanthropy that emphasizes carefully considered social impact on poor people as the marker rather than implementing the vague compassionate notions of the donors.
There are really three books here: Ms. Novogratz's autobiography (so far), the story of Rwanda's genocide and how it affected the country from one person's perspective, and connected tales of learning how to lift very poor people up from the lowest rungs of poverty. It's difficult to turn such a book into one that tells each book's story equally well. The book's main weakness, as a result, is that it tells a little too much memoir at the expense of getting across the bigger and more important message of how each reader can make a contribution to eliminating the worst instances of poverty.
You'll come away from this book with great respect for Ms. Novogratz. She personifies patience and perseverance in unremitting commitment to lifting people out of extreme poverty. Brava, Ms. Novogratz for the masterpiece of your life!
on 25 March 2011
Following watching a short video on TED about Jacqueline Novogratz - I was intrigued to find out more. The account from the early days in Rwanda to the development now of a multinational global organisation is fascinating and inspiring. Not only does this portray factual and detailed information but woven between the lines is the story of a person committed to bring about a change in the world. Regardless of your interest in philanthropy or Microenterprise, The Blue Sweater is a fantastic read, thoroughly recommended.
on 30 March 2014
This is one of the most inspiring books I have read. Jacqueline Novogratz gives an incredibly honest and humble insight into her experiences of working with people living in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. From her work in Africa setting up organisations to provide the means to empower local women, to her role in founding Acumen Fund which supports social enterprises and leaders in developing countries across the world, Jacqueline rights as someone who has witnessed the best and worst of human nature. Through the book, Jacqueline gives a detailed and eye-opening account of her work with communities in developing countries including the many mistakes and lessons she's learnt along the way.
I recommend this book to any one who is interested in social impact and international development. I also believe this should be mandatory reading for any course on Leadership, as Jacqueline Novogratz puts forward a compelling case for why values such as humility, vulnerability, empathy and dignity are the pillars of true leadership.
A great read!
on 2 October 2013
This is an incredible story of a life lived outside the boundaries of current socio-economic thinking. It's an inspirational tale of a woman who teaches an incredibly important lesson about learning to listen, being open to cultural learning, and having the confidence that one person can changed the world when they connect to other like-minded people.
I grabbed every spare minute to devour this in a couple of sittings. Highly recommended if you've ever wondered about sustainable philanthropy models or just daydreamed about being part of something really, really important.
on 20 April 2009
I can understand why some people would think that capitalism is the wrong way to go about changing the world, but this book has compelled me to think again. Its a book about the nature of being human in the worse conditions possible, with all the pitfalls and strengths and unexpected kindness that brings. What J Novogratz has done, with the help of many others is working, and is making a difference. Because it utilities human nature for the betterment of itself.
The book itself, and each of the stories within it made me stop and think, i kept wanting them to have happy ending, like in the movies... but this is a book about real life and so sometimes, there was not. I personally like the authors writing style, it helps make the book feel more like real life again, this is not a fantasy story book! All in all i thoroughly enjoyed this book, both as a story and as a commentary on developing nations, aid, and personal improvement of those trying to help others do something about it all. I would recommend this to anyone.
on 18 May 2010
I loved this book.
In fact, I'm not the only one - I discussed The Blue Sweater (in detail) with a few friends who also enjoyed it. We thought the crux of our discussion might be worth sharing here...
1. Personal resonance: The book had a striking resonance for all of us. Interestingly, different chapters resonated more for some than for others, clearly a function of our age, experience, etc. For example, some really enjoyed Jacqueline's earlier experiences in Africa whilst others were struck by the power of patient capital and where she is taking Acumen Fund.
2. Listening & Learning: We noted Jacqeuline's emphasis on the importance of listening. In particular, wherever possible, be an active rather than a passive listener, which also helps us learn and develop. It is also critical to listen to what does not get said (and by whom) and this is where moral imagination, empathy and leadership all play a role.
3. Changing mindsets: We were invigorated to read about leaders catalysing what feels like a paradigm shift in the mindsets of communities and economies everywhere.
I rate it 5 stars.