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Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World

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Jacqueline Novogratz, author of the New York Times bestseller The Blue Sweater and founder and CEO of Acumen, shares an original short-list of essential leadership tools for the 21st century.

In 2001, when Jacqueline Novogratz founded Acumen, a global community of socially and environmentally responsible partners dedicated to changing the way the world tackles poverty, few had heard of impact investing—Acumen’s practice of “doing well by doing good.” Nineteen years later, there’s been a seismic shift in how corporate boards and other stakeholders evaluate businesses: impact investment is not only morally defensible but now also economically advantageous, even necessary. Still, it isn’t easy to reach a success that includes profits as well as mutually favorable relationships with workers and the communities in which they live. So how can today’s leaders, who often kick off their enterprises with high hopes and short timetables, navigate the challenges of poverty and war, of egos and impatience, which have stymied generations of investors who came before?

Drawing on inspiring stories from change-makers around the world and on memories of her own most difficult experiences, Jacqueline divulges the most common leadership mistakes and the mind-sets needed to rise above them. The culmination of thirty years of work developing sustainable solutions for the problems of the poor, So You Want to Change the World offers the perspectives necessary for all those—whether ascending the corporate ladder or bringing solar light to rural villages—who seek to leave this world better off than they found it.

272 pages, Hardcover

Published May 5, 2020

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Jacqueline Novogratz

14 books183 followers

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5 stars
411 (53%)
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229 (29%)
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99 (12%)
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24 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 117 reviews
Profile Image for Katie Erickson.
13 reviews3 followers
July 22, 2020
I started listening to this audiobook because of a review that said that it gave concrete ways to rebuild the world to promote social and environmental justice. I was very misled about how radical this book was. I kept up listening because I hoped it would get better and more radical as it went on, but it didn’t and I just had to stop about halfway. Jacqueline grossly tried to equate identities like “book lover” to “black trans women” in terms of their ability to make one feel like an outsider or disadvantage them. The book pretends like it is envisioning a new world system to address the issue of poverty, yet its core message to be capitalists and imperialist but also a good listener. The author speaks many times about the importance of profit and bottom line when creating markets in underdeveloped countries without addressing the legacy of imperialism, colonization and exploitation in the global south. Then she berates other financial institutions for doing the same. This book did not include enough dissection of how the author’s and her company’s privilege and whiteness influence their work, while it worked to praise and uphold globalization and capitalism at all costs. Save your time and read some Angela Davis.
May 15, 2020
I am lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book and in the spirit of full disclosure, work with Jacqueline. Despite my obvious bias to the topic, and the author, I want to share why this book was so meaningful to me, in this moment.

All around us we see the gap between government and market provision get wider and wider. Politics on one side and maximized corporate profits on the other, making this gap bigger and bigger. And as they move wider apart, so more and more people fall into that gap between government benefits and the ability to afford what for-profit businesses provide. In America, the 6 million people who just signed up for unemployment and the small business owners who are desperate for loans and financial support through COVID 19, just found themselves falling into this gap.

This 'gap' is the realm of the "social entrepreneur" - just like other entrepreneurs they invent new businesses and try to grow these businesses. The social entrepreneurs' metric for success is different to that of other entrepreneurs, rather than power, money or fame for themselves, they strive to enhance the health and wellbeing of the people they serve, the communities they live in and the planet. These businesses are financially sustainable but the wealth and value they create flows 'down' to customers, employees and community not 'up' to a few, already wealthy shareholders.

This book takes us into that world. A world where we learn that there is a different way of running a successful business that benefits all of us, not just shareholders. It tells the stories of intrepid entrepreneurs all over the world, in every imaginable community, who have created businesses that serve everyone. This book shares their challenges and triumphs, grit and determination; failures and learning. Jacqueline's moving and descriptive prose is very different from books written by CEO leaders (even other Female CEO leaders), its language and poetry is fresh, and the core principles feel very different from any you were taught in business school. What conventional institutions think of as soft skills, turn out to be some of the hard skills of more compassionate, empathetic, human centric models for business. As corporations and institutions reimagine themselves for a future filled with climate, health and economic crisis, these 12 principles might well be the new skills they need to learn to flourish. For any entrepreneurs out there, who want to create the business of the future, these 12 principles might just help you come up with solutions for humanity's toughest challenges.
Profile Image for John Stepper.
510 reviews19 followers
August 23, 2020
I devoured this book. After reading and loving The Blue Sweater years ago, I wanted to learn about what she learned since then. (I'm grateful to Seth Godin fro recommending it in his blog.)

I had assumed from the title that it might be a more abstract presentation of principles, but it is much, much more than that. Rather than just telling what should be done, she shows what can be accomplished and how through many examples of change agents around the world.

Reading it you can't help but be inspired to act. Story after story after story, Jacqueline Novogratz shows you a path to making a difference. And she does so with a candor and personal humility that is endearing and motivating.

I'll be recommending and gifting this book for years to come.
Profile Image for Rachel.
9 reviews291 followers
August 1, 2021
A beautiful book which I highly recommend for anyone driven by the desire to love this world and its inhabitants, wanting to learn how to best do so, and wishing for a friendly reminder that you are not alone in questioning your choices or feeling your battery run low. This book is a welcome jump-start to propel on that journey.
1 review
April 16, 2020
In this unsettled and anxious time, we have endless questions about the shape of our future. I am especially interested in two aspects of the economic future. One, how will millions of people find productive work in the changing world. Two, how do we improve lives of the poor now that we see even more clearly their struggle within the narrow confines of our modern world.

As if on cue, Jacqueline Novogratz’s new book Manifesto for a Moral Revolution provides some of the answers and it is a perfect moment for this thoughtful call to action. After working more than twenty years to redefine philanthropy and lead a fresh approach to economic and human capital development, she shares 14 critical lessons of that work. In clear prose, this book tells wonderful stories about engaging people building new businesses to help change the world.

Her work began with a new concept—Patient Capital, philanthropic money invested in local entrepreneurs. With eloquent writing, the lessons are supported with stories of those building businesses around the world aimed at providing goods and services to the poor. The investments, combined with leadership training, are delivering life-changes to millions of people around the world.

The lessons of this work provide an inspirational path for those who want to make the world a better place by their own actions, for those who want to support those actions and for those who seek economic leadership characterized by ethical, moral behavior.

There have been rumblings about capitalism’s failures. However, this book supports capitalism for its fluid distribution of economic energy and its effective measure of people’s wants and needs. Capitalism can build sustainable businesses, but leadership is the magic element that allows it to provide rewards for all people, not just the few. Going forward, we need these lessons to be embraced by people seeking change led by people of character, moral imagination and human compassion. It is an exciting world view.
Profile Image for Emily Close.
19 reviews
July 16, 2020
12 principles every leader, friend, person should consider when moving through life. Practices often deemed as “soft skills,” but are becoming essential as we find ways to build more inclusive, sustainable systems that serve us all. This book offers wisdom about how each of us can start in small ways, telling incredible stories of people across the world who did just that!

This book is not self-help, blind optimism or idealism. The author offers lived examples, with an understanding of the dangers of rapacious capitalism and the importance of centering businesses around environmental sustainability and human dignity over shareholder & short-term profits. While also asking individuals if they’re willing to define success by metrics beyond money and power to work toward collective wellbeing.

This book would be a great gift or gentle nudge to all the people screaming at each other right now, trying to prove who’s right and who’s wrong.
1 review
April 17, 2020
This book spoke to me so powerfully about how each and every one of us can be part of the rebuilding of our world in a way that will serve the needs of all and care for our planet. It is packed with personal, compelling true stories which inspire and illuminate, showing how to grow a business for human flourishing rather than one which exploits. I was particularly touched by the call to tell stories that matter as the stories we tell shape who we become. Jacqueline Novogratz's narrative from twenty years of hard won experience offers profound spiritual wisdom from various traditions. We need a framework for moral leadership now more than ever as we reflect and plan for our world post corona virus, so this Manifesto for a Moral Revolution could not be more timely.
Profile Image for meghan.
18 reviews2 followers
May 8, 2020
You might be surprised to find that Novogratz's revolution isn't about what is 'right' overthrowing what is 'wrong.' Instead, it's about choosing and fighting for - in ways that are both beautiful and difficult - our collective well-being, a replacement for today's model, where only a fraction of us wins, at the incredible expense of the rest.

In one of many artful pleas for nuance, Novogratz writes: "A modern moral revolution demands that all of us hold contradictions...For each of us, the first step is to reach across the wall of either-or and acknowledge the truths that exist in opposing perspectives."

So many of us (this reviewer included) are caught up in how 'right' we are and how very 'wrong' the other side is, with a white-knuckled grip on our own truth. This book offers a gentle nudge that encourages us to: loosen that grip, learn from role models among us, and reflect on the work we will be required to do on ourselves and in the world, to design for collective success.

With the right mix of captivating live examples and powerful sense-making, Novogratz offers a welcome alternative to digging in our heels and shouting into our echo chambers, and then some. Here for it.
Profile Image for Gwen.
169 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2020
I heard Jacqueline on an episode of On Being where she talked to Krista Tippett about moral imagination and the need for a big shift in how we use markets to better serve the most vulnerable in the world. The idea they discussed that really struck me, and prompted me to read this book, was that we know our current system of capitalism doesn’t work. And yet we are living in a moment where we don’t know what comes next. We are actively searching and iterating a new way of circulating and providing goods and services. Jacqueline’s approach is “patient capital” and the book is full of advice and stories to support how this concept can be put into action. I’ll be chewing on these ideas for a while and how they might apply to my work domestically in the arts/non-profit sector.
Profile Image for Michael Austin.
19 reviews
June 15, 2020
Never before have I finished a book and immediately wanted to start it again, quite as much as now.

I want it to remain pristine, but also want to highlight and scribble throughout. This is a book for life, and so I will scribble as I wish, and simply buy friends copies rather than lend it.

Get it now, read it now, hold it dear.
Profile Image for Angela Chai.
24 reviews3 followers
July 22, 2022
I have been planning for a long time to move into a career with greater purpose. But it has always been a daunting task, as is any situation where you leave a defined path to a less trodden one. Novogratz's manifesto acts as a backpacker's guide. In it, Novogratz recounts the decades of her life spent in uplifting the poor, creating purpose in her work. She shares important lessons from economics to character.

Her manifesto tells those like me that it is possible, that she was once in our shoes. It is also a hopeful reminder that poverty is a complex creature and can be tackled in many ways, that there is still so much that can be done.
154 reviews24 followers
May 23, 2020
I’m afraid this will be far from eloquent.
But. I just loved this book. I love Jacqueline and what she does. I’m beyond impressed by her audacity to describe failures as well as successes and her clear eyed outlook of the world. We are all broken, no one a clear cut success with no mistakes behind them and we are all stronger for that.

The same humanity in us that sent us to the Moon is the same one that urges us to not to ruffle any feathers and keep the status quo. It’s good to be aware of all that makes us, us. And strive for better.

Jacqueline and everyone at Acumen show us that we can and must do just that. In whatever small or big ways, wherever we are.

I don’t know how will this book change me and what I will or won’t be able to do. But I know it’ll be something. That in this (waves hands in general direction of the pandemic) frightening time, out of the cracks, beautiful, green life will spring.

We have done amazing things (we can fly, cure a huge number of diseases, build skyscrapers, rescue baby birds), and we can do so much better.
Every single newborn baby deserves the whole of the world. One day, we will give it to them.
47 reviews
June 16, 2021
I didn’t know how starved I was to know about entrepreneurial frameworks that put people over profit and sustainability over production. Jacqueline Novogratz speaks from the heart, yes, but also from a lifetime of experience supporting and building companies that change the world, aiming always to stand with the poor. Her manifesto is a steadfast battlecry against cynicism and toward moral imagination. She invites us to reject toxic status quos and live instead according to our deepest values. This book provides a hope that feels more courageous than naïve.
Profile Image for Karen P.
1 review1 follower
May 20, 2020
A timely and timeless book for anyone seeking transformative change in the world. Jacqueline Novogratz makes the case for thinking boldly and compassionately about building a better future and provides a toolbox of operating principles to get started. She is an exceptional storyteller. I was riveted by the accounts of remarkable leaders she met in cities and villages all over the world – her inspiration for the book. I will read it again.
Profile Image for Mandy.
434 reviews31 followers
February 3, 2021
I’ve known about and admired the author since I read her book The Blue Sweater over 10 years ago. While this book didn’t have any revolutionary ideas in it, I enjoyed hearing about Jacqueline’s and various other people’s experiences trying to run ethical businesses. I think the values this book promotes are so needed in today’s world: honesty, kindness, caring for others, and putting people before profits.
Profile Image for Nicole DePace.
47 reviews30 followers
August 20, 2020
If this were really how capitalism and market driven solutions worked, I could support it. This book provides grace, humanity and the necessary conversation about morality being a guiding principle of economic development. I would have liked to see more introspection, analysis and critique of colonization and imperialism as she defended capitalism.

8 reviews1 follower
September 18, 2020
The book is a good reminder of how each of us can fight against the hopelessness and apathy, guided by the ideas of a more equal world. It tells stories about real people that are supporting voices that are usually not heard and challenges us to do the same. It aims to be inspirational and at times seems like it’s doing quite a bit of sugarcoating, however it is definitely worth reading
Profile Image for Cory Jones.
141 reviews1 follower
June 10, 2020
Not my favorite book. Novogratz has an insane amount of wisdom and experience, but every chapter has two or three stories that loosely tie to the chapter topic, and after a while it gets hard to bounce from story to story to story to story.
June 25, 2020
This is an exceptional book, written by an exceptional woman, Jacqueline Novogratz. It could not be more timely--her manifesto is a call to action, and a reminder that hope resides in the darkest of times and in the darkest of places, and yet, reasons for hope exist all around us.
1 review1 follower
May 29, 2020
Game changing read! So delighted to be able to borrow Novogratz's exquisite vocabulary on how to help evolve our mindsets and cultures towards broader & more meaningful inclusion and equality.
Profile Image for Ietrio.
6,614 reviews25 followers
June 11, 2020
People are too stupid to rule their own lives, somehow we need prophets coming out of nowhere, like Novogratz to tell the poor idiots how they should be ruled.
389 reviews4 followers
June 20, 2020
Can I possibly grant this beautiful work 7 or 8 stars?

It delves so deep and offers so many great examples of how we CAN change this world-shared by us all.
Profile Image for Barb Cherem.
149 reviews1 follower
August 29, 2020
This was such a fresh book in that it married such high minded change in developing societies with the idea of justice and compassion, as opposed to mercy and philanthropy.
Unlike many who have the smarts, interest and hard work in making money in banking of various sorts, Jacqueline Novogratz's story is different from her Stanford grad. beginnings with the typical money-making bank. She has wider purposes and motives than sheer greed and personal comfort, though doesn't dismiss any of these motivations, just not exclusionary to all others. She has proportionality and humility, quite a combination!
Novogratz's work is so different than the typical finance star graduate, and her examples of the businesses they've funded give wonderful concrete businesses from electricity to waste product toilets that are so vital, life enhancing and important. Not only is life enhanced in these communities, but local persons take on dignity and jobs that have meaning. And they ultimately turn a nice return for the investment; it's just a more patient timeline than what today's American banks would endure.

Loved Jacqueline's story of risks that were learned from, and the difficulty of growing into the wisdom from old lands, who were now poor but didn't necessarily need to be, due to having markets and the ability to grow and get connected. And most of all, having access to long term capitol to grow a business of meaning and importance on many levels.

Acumen and Novogratz's work seemed so different from more typical financial managers, due to their deep understanding and trust in their businesses and the folks associated to them---and the longer time frame it often took to have "payoff" from these businesses.
This attitude is so counter-cultural in that the "quick profits" at all exclusion of all other values, is shown. Novogratz is no strict bleeding heart, but actually has a combinations of hard and soft skills and business acumen.
Seems that hedge fund managers and other loaning entities' often have an exclusive motive in the past 3-4 decades.
I'd perhaps have given it a 4 star except I had to read it thru "I-books", not my favorite medium, and struggled over time to get back to it often enough, as for me it's "out of sight out of mind", in reading these days of Covid19! She reminds me of Darren Walker, head of the Ford Foundation, who has such an innovative concept of non-profits, philanthropy and the like, a true mind-bender of non-dual thinking, as one can help create community benefit, dignity for the impoverished, AND a profit/
living. It doesn't have to be an "either/or" dual sort of decision. It can be all of it, and not a scarcity mentality at all. Thanks Novogratz for your broad mind, extra-ordinary vision and creative work efforts in this refreshing documentation of a life's work.
53 reviews3 followers
June 10, 2020
The book I wanted to write while quarantining but found out its already here ;) Its not only a book for changemakers of all sorts but for all people who want to live fulfilling happy lifes and dont want to go to therapy ;) This book is a story of everyone who knows that values driven life is a life worth living.

I felt like Jacqueline has been inside my brain and now is putting everything out of it on paper in a beautiful way. I was like yess oh yess, of course! yes! so true! omg i know that feeling! i know people like that and like that! Except for the part about corps: I find it almost impossible to believe there are honest corporations out there ;) Even Jacqluine's mom who was worried about her marriage and leaving banking. My mom was absolutely the same, though Ive never entered bank in first place and went straight to places aimed at changing lifes for better.

Its amazing how we can experience same thoughts, develop same mind constructs and feelings and come to same conclusions out of very different life settings. I have been involved with change making projects of very different kinds in very different (and slightly richer but non Western) parts of the world, I am coming from a very different and less priveleged background but the conclusions I made about life, values and what we are here for and how we can amplify our presence is absolutely the same.

I kept prinscreening parts of the text to come back to them later and use on social media for common good promotion.

Its a must read book! By the end though it became a bit repetative and slightly boring but no one is perfect. Thank you Jacqueline for taking your time and investing time and effort into creating of this masterpiece.
17 reviews
November 26, 2020
I so appreciate Jacqueline Novogratz's voice, both in the economic development space and more generally in thinking about moral leadership and building systems that reflect what we truly value. I am grateful for how much of herself she shared in this book and admire her openness in sharing both successes and failures that led to growth in her life and career. I really identify with her idea of hard-edged hope: without ignoring present reality we have to be able to see and hold onto possibility.

I thought this book was very well-written. It is deeply personal but also broadly relatable. There is great need for moral leadership in public as well as in our personal spheres, and I think this is a really helpful framework for thinking about ways we can make the world work better for all of us.
1 review
May 5, 2020
It’s easy to see what needs changing (extreme inequality, climate change, etc), and all too common to feel stuck when it comes to actually making that change happen. I love this book because it puts forward a productive, solutions-oriented response for how we can make the world a better place from someone who knows how its done.

Jacqueline Novogratz has witnessed and accompanied the most successful leaders and companies who have seen what needs changing and successfully built solutions. Their stories not only inspire us to pick up and take action but also to learn from their hard-won lessons and start a few steps ahead.
Profile Image for Emily Shearer.
210 reviews1 follower
July 2, 2020
Novogratz is an inspiration! She is accomplished without being boastful, modest and humble with a wealth of experience, and a guiding light for the next generation of do-gooders who are out to save the world. I would recommend this to anyone whose job is in philanthropy or serving the underserved, or who just wants to know how they can make their mark in an economy where it seems good people with best intentions get overlooked. Reading this book teaches you that that just isn't true. It IS possible to build a better world, and Novogratz has the ideas to make it happen.
Profile Image for Joe Kurtek.
119 reviews
June 15, 2020
This was one of the most inspiring and best books I have read this year. The Acumen Fund has really changed the fight against global poverty for the better and Jacqueline Novogratz truly is an inspiration to me. This was a great book.
2 reviews2 followers
July 15, 2021
Insightful and inspirational. This book beautifully captures the change in mindset needed for there to be real, sustainable global development. A thought-provoking read using real human stories that challenge us to be better humans.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 117 reviews

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