Elevate Difference

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and the Poor in an Interconnected World

Would you give up a promising career in international banking to pursue a lifetime of attempting to understand and eradicate global property? Jacqueline Novogratz began her career as an international banker at Chase Manhattan Bank. As a member of the Credit Audit team for Chase Manhattan Bank, Novogratz was responsible for reviewing the quality of the bank’s loans in other countries, especially in troubled economies. As time went on, Novogratz began to explore the possibilities of working with the poorest people. As her interest grew in helping the impoverished, she found a New York City based microfinance organization that focused on lending to women. The Blue Sweater tells the story of Novogratz’s career from international banking to philanthropy.

After leaving her job at Chase Manhattan Bank to work with the microfinance organization, she was sent to Africa to work with women. Novogratz had never imagined herself working in Africa. She was unprepared for the hostility she experienced from the African women and the amount of corruption and lack of credibility in some of the programs. Although she began her trip to Africa as a naïve idealist, she began to learn that she needed to listen to program participants to truly understand what was needed. While in Rwanda, Novogratz participated in the founding of Duterimbere, a microfinance organization that would lend exclusively to women. She also assisted in setting up a successful bakery operation for single women. The Rwandan genocide had a devastating effect on the organizations she helped to establish.

After spending time in Africa, Novogratz had the opportunity to attend graduate school for business administration and to work with other international organizations. Novogratz directed the Philanthropy Workshop and the Next Generation Leadership program for the Rockefeller Foundation. During this time, Novogratz also founded the Acumen Fund, an organization based on “patient capital.” Patient capital is a combination of venture capitalism and traditional charity that focuses on lending to social entrepreneurs. The programs sponsored by Acumen Fund are also based on the idea the poor will pay for goods and services, instead of the model of traditional charity.

I thought Novogratz’s story was inspiring and instructional. The Blue Sweater is accessible to those who do not have a background in international finance. Her commitment to helping people living in poverty in a meaningful way is based on the idea that all people are interconnected.

Written by: Rekesha Spellman, May 23rd 2010

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