“It is so critical to identify and invest in these rare entrepreneurs who see true human capacity in all people and are working on ways to unleash it.”
– Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of Acumen Fund & author of The Blue Sweater
Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of Acumen Fund, brings the voice and eyes of human dignity to the process of alleviating global poverty. Jacqueline, once an international banker working for Chase Manhattan, took her aptitude for business and combined it with her deep values of human respect and integrity to create a new kind of philanthropy.
Jacqueline calls this form of philanthropy “Patient Capital.” What’s different about this from the old way of looking at philanthropy (aka you give away money to help people and don’t expect it back), is that you are investing in businesses that can help the poor become self-sufficient and improve their own lives. In other words, it applies the principles of capitalism with a soulful, human heart. “Our aim in investing patient capital is not to seek high returns, but rather to jump-start the creation of enterprises that improve the ability of the poor to live with dignity,” according to staff at Acumen Fund.
While Jacqueline is driven by huge compassion and the extraordinary capacity of the human spirit, she is not a fan of handouts. She explains that after more than 20 years of working in Africa, India, and Pakistan, she has learned that solutions to poverty must be driven by discipline, accountability, and market strength, and not easy sentimentality. “I’ve learned that many of the answers to poverty lie in the space between the market and charity and that what is needed most of all is moral leadership willing to build solutions from the perspectives of poor people themselves rather than imposing grand theories and plans upon them,” she says in her bestselling book, The Blue Sweater.
What’s so inspiring about Jacqueline is that she combines cool-headed business analysis with an equally warm heart. She won’t invest in businesses that don’t work well because she is always looking at the bigger picture and the greater good. “The world will not change with inspiration alone; rather, it requires systems, accountability, and clear measures of what works and what doesn’t,” she says.
Since Jacqueline started Acumen Fund in 2001, tens of millions of people around the world have been able to improve their lives. She has stood by her philosophy to provide those living in poverty with opportunities to solve their own problems. Jacqueline’s commitment to her approach to alleviating global poverty reminds us that incredible possibilities can be created when we stay true to doing work that is bigger than ourselves.
Jacqueline is currently spending the summer working out of Acumen Fund’s India office. Among their projects in India, Acumen Fund has invested in LifeSpring hospitals, which provides maternal care to low-income women. In nearby Pakistan, Acumen Fund is working with the microfinance organization, Kashf Foundation, whose borrowers are primarily women. To learn more about the Acumen Fund and how you can get involved, visit www.acumenfund.org.
Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed., is a writer, editor, and reporter dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls. Her work has been featured by The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NPR, and other national media. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post on women’s issues and reports on the inspiring work of women changemakers. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.