I’ve known the founder of the Acumen Fund, Jacqueline Novogratz, for many years and she’s one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. If you’re in the social entrepreneur space, you know her as a pioneer in giving people stuck in poverty the financial, economic and social tools to build their own way out. But Jacqueline is also an amazing writer and she has a brilliant book out, The Blue Sweater, that will make you cry as it makes you think.
Much happy talk has surrounded the advent of non-profit, for-profit philanthropy. It’s the kind of evangelism you hear in Silicon Valley and indeed, many ex-Silicon Valleyers have moved into the social entrepreneur area. It makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is the lack of realism and authenticity surrounding much of their work. In the rush to metrics and measurement, there has been a major failure in understanding local cultures and conditions. In their boosterism for their new style of philanthropy, many new social entrepreneur folks are failing to see the realities confronting their efforts. So they are failing.
The Blue Sweater does none of this. It is a tough, realistic, heartbreaking, truthful book about Jacqueline’s efforts and education in Africa as a social entrepreneur. Her own personal evolution is a much a part of the narrative as the work she attempts. Parts of it are horrifying. African Women Jacqueline worked with for many years turn out to be participants in genocide—and other women their victims. But she is not afraid to confront this terrifying “cultural context” as she analyzes her journey to and through social entrepreneurship.
This is a brave, honest book about one of the most important socio-economic movements of our day. And it is a beautiful window into one of the most creative and distinguished women of our time.
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