Andrew's Reviews > The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World

The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz
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Jan 01, 10

it was amazing
Read in December, 2009

Excellent, very recent book by Jacqueline Novogratz, the CEO of the Acumen Fund, a non-profit devoted to making investments in effective and sustainable local solutions for tackling poverty. The first three quarters of the book details Novogratz's life story coming out of college that contributed to her founding of the Acumen Fund and the last quarter details what the Acumen Fund has done since in 2001.

Certain other books written by development "experts" have a pompous, "I knew this all along" tone, but Novogratz instead writes in a humbled, non-pontificating tone. She is equally reflective and acknowledging of her blunders, as she as of her successes. She sheds light on the frustrations and slow pace of working with local entrepreneurs to help them help themselves, but she demonstrates how effective these approaches can be. Novogratz provides numerous examples of how traditional aid approaches have failed miserably due to top-down management and misunderstanding of local customs. Novogratz illustrates how a true partnership with local entrepreneurs is necessary for the installment of a successful and sustainable program to tackle the needs of the developing world, whether it is access to clean water, access to drip irrigation, or access to bed nets.

Novogratz convinced me that arguments such as free bed nets versus selling bed nets are moot. The actual question should be: how to best eliminate malaria? The answer to this is BOTH free bed nets (to reach the children and women that are recipients of the free programs) and the sold bed nets (distributed via companies and local stores to reach the rest of the population that will not be covered). There is a space for investments to work beside philantrophy. Also, Novogratz drills the point home that what is needed is not simply a good heart, but also diligence and accountability.

Novogratz honestly addresses the small questions (from her perspective) that are overlooked in the fervent debate of development, such as:
How does one reconcile coming from/living a privileged life when working with those in abject poverty? How does one set up systems to recognize the potential of "evil" in people (ie. theft), while still working with their better traits to help them? How does one balance personal safety and personal life when working in distant, foreign, and potentially risky lands?

Novogratz is a talented, engaging writer and the book moves fluidly. I recommend this book to all interested in development and global health.
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