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The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

The Blue Sweater

by Jacqueline Novogratz

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2921038,453 (3.9)13
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    Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus (espertus)
    espertus: Both are inspiring accounts of the growth of organizations that harness market forces to empower impoverished people to improve their own lives.

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Novogratz had a solid middle-class upbringing but dreamed of doing more with her life. This book is about her journey to implement the principles she held dear. As she was about to graduate from the University of Virginia she felt at loose ends, not sure what or where she wanted to work, feeling she really wanted to take a year off to “tend bar and ski and figure out how I would change the world.” But to appease her mother she went on the round of interviews scheduled by the school for graduating seniors. Much to her surprise she landed a job with Chase Manhattan Bank, travelling the world to review the quality of the bank’s loans, especially in troubled economies. It was the start she needed, though she didn’t quite fit in with the bank’s conservative culture. So she left her well-paying job on Wall Street to join a nonprofit microfinance organization for women, and went to Africa to “make a difference.” To say she was naïve is an understatement. Even those who were supposedly welcoming her help were suspicious and frequently sabotaged her efforts. But she didn’t give up, and today is the CEO of Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture capital firm for the poor.

Novogratz relates stories of impoverished women on two continents that are uplifting, humorous, horrendous and heartbreaking. The stories from Rwanda are particularly distressing. But I didn’t connect emotionally with the book. It seemed more like an annual report or business plan. I’m sure my F2F book club will have a lot to discuss – mostly about the issues of poverty and human rights – but I don’t think the book is a great one. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 19, 2016 |
I opened this book and could not put it down. It had everything: it was very well written, was the perfect mixture of story, factual data, memoir and one of those books that makes you want to sell all you own and go out to conquer the world.

I cannot recommend this one enough! ( )
  aegossman | Feb 25, 2015 |
This is a book I picked up from my alma mater's campus-wide reading initiative for the year. I heard it was a good book, but I'm still determined to read it myself.
  AnigL | Feb 17, 2015 |
A wounderful book to share with everyone interested in global poverty. The book offers unique solutions to the problems. Jacqueline is founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture capital firm for the poor that invests in sustainable enterprises. ( )
  marient7 | Jul 28, 2011 |
Jacqueline Novogratz was twenty-five years old and living in Kigali, Rawanda when she saw something that would form her philosophy of connectedness: a young boy walked down a dirt road in Africa wearing the blue sweater Novogratz had donated to a charity in America when she was just a teen. The idea that our actions (or inactions) may have an impact on others which we may never be aware of, was a powerful one for Novogratz who had come to Africa wanting to understand what stood between wealth and poverty. Educated as an international banker, her journey to bridge the global gap between the very poor and the very rich would eventually lead her to create The Acumen Fund – a nonprofit organization which raises charitable monies – not to give away, but for careful investment in entrepreneurs who have the vision to deliver essential services to the poor: a man who built a company which provides safe water to more than a quarter of a million of India’s rural poor, an agricultural products designer whose ability to sell drip irrigation systems to small-holder farmers has enabled them to double their yields and income, and a malaria bed net manufacturer in Africa whose business employs more than 7,000 people (mostly poor women) while providing bed nets to 16 million people a year.

The Blue Sweater is a memoir of sorts – a journey of one woman who believed she could make a difference in the lives of poor people which would be sustainable. Jacqueline Novogratz began her incredible journey at the age of twenty-five when she traveled to Africa under the auspices of a nonprofit microfinance organization for women. The years which followed allowed her to meet amazing individuals who had vision and strength of character, people who were eager to lift themselves out of poverty if only given the tools to do so. One of Novogratz’s first projects was to create a bank for women which would enable them to open savings accounts and get small loans to start and nurture businesses in Rawanda…not a simple process given a culture which had supported laws like the Rawanda Family Code – a law which was especially detrimental to women who had few rights and were the property of their husbands. Bride price was still in effect in the mid-80s when Novogratz arrived in Africa and it was a tradition which would prove difficult to change.

Novogratz shares the lessons she learned and the mistakes she made in her book with an honesty and warmth that is hard not to admire. The basic idea of dignity and self-worth being important to ALL people, is a strong theme in the book. Poverty steals an individual’s ability to make choices, and Novogratz demonstrates this idea over and over in The Blue Sweater.

Novogratz is an amazing writer. She brings to life the people, culture and geography of Africa, and shows her journey from a naive twenty-something into a woman with the wisdom and confidence to build a million dollar business tackling the issue of global poverty in ways which are revolutionary. I loved her descriptions of not only Africa, but also India and Pakistan. It is easy to see where an idealistic young woman would be drawn to these countries.

Novogratz brings to life the people she has met – the villagers, her mentors, the entrepreneurs who have impressed her, and those who have joined in her efforts to elevate people from poverty. She shares their wisdom and their philosophies in a seamless narrative that at times reads like a novel. The section of the book where she returns to Africa after the horrific Rawandan genocide, were riveting and moving.

The personal stories in the book are balanced with facts about poverty, finance, and economics which are written in such a way to be understandable to those without an economics background. For example, when Novogratz writes about the investment style of patient capital (‘not traditional charity, not traditional business investment, but something in-between‘), she takes the confusion away from the concept and pares it down in human terms.

I loved this book. I loved that I learned something about poverty I didn’t know. I loved that the book offered optimism and hope for a problem that far too often makes one want to turn away because of the vastness of it. The Blue Sweater is a captivating book written with passion and knowledge. It is a book which really is a must read…because, after all, we are all connected.

Highly recommended. ( )
  writestuff | Jul 18, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I am not so sure I could honestly tell you to rush out and get this book. I read it from cover to cover, but it took me several weeks to finish. I was struggling with it. It was not written in a fashion that "sucked me in." I was initially intrigued by the story of "the blue sweater" which gave this book its name, and also serves as a true story creatively used to entice book sales. The endearing "we-are-all-connected" story about Jaqueline's charity sweater she finds being worn several years later by a young boy in Africa is told in the first four pages of the book. It is not mentioned again until page 243. The totality of the book didn't feed my spirit like I was anticipating. In the end (in the middle of the book actually) I was left asking myself "Is this all I get?" And in the end I felt there was no real pay off for me muddling through to the end.
The Blue Sweater tells the story of Novogratz’s career from international banking to philanthropy.
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My family helped make me who I am...and they join me in dedicating this book to our larger family, those countless millions around the world who lack money and security but possess dignity and an indomitable spirit. For their time is coming, and this story is for them.
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They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I took mine and fell flat on my face.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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