How a lifelong philanthropist aided some of the world’s poverty-stricken populations with a shrewd economic plan.
In 2001, the author founded a nonprofit venture-capital firm aimed at reinvesting charitable funding via focused entrepreneurial endeavors. The Acumen Fund’s successes include the development of clean water and irrigation systems in India and a bedding-net manufacturer in Africa. She’s aspired to change the world since she was young, writes Novogratz, who assembles engaging and insightful stories about her journey toward effective philanthropy. Traveling in Africa in her 20s, she saw a boy wearing a cherished blue wool sweater she had donated to Goodwill 11 years earlier; this example of life’s interconnectedness energized her efforts to help those less fortunate. After graduating from college, the author went to work for Chase Manhattan, flying around the world to analyze the bank’s portfolios in troubled economies. Her employers didn’t share her belief that loans to the poor might actually be better risks than the bad commercial debts they were writing down, so she moved to a Bangladeshi bank that was pioneering the field of microfinancing. (It later won a Nobel Peace Prize.) Novogratz wasn’t always greeted with open arms. In West Africa, a local woman explained her hostility: “The North comes to the South and sends a young white girl without asking us what we want, without seeing if we already have the skills we need.” Learning from this reception, Novogratz subsequently rallied Rwandan women around the idea of microcredit by persuading them that it connected with their dreams of owning a bakery, bookstore or restaurant. She personally witnessed the Rwandan genocide and the demise of several businesses she’d helped establish, but persisted in her mission, acquiring additional valuable lessons about humanity and humility. Novogratz transports readers directly to the landscapes she travels by describing with intimate urgency her experiences when immobilized by malaria, chased by muggers or inspired by a business owner’s success. “Humbled by the strength of individual women,” she continues to believe that “we can end poverty.”
An empowering, heartfelt portrait of humanitarianism at work.