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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  6,336 ratings  ·  615 reviews

For the first 5,000 copies of The Blue Sweater purchased, a $15 donation per book will be made to Acumen Fund, a nonprofit that invests in transformative businesses to solve the problems of poverty.

The Blue Sweater is the inspiring story of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by Rodale Books
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Lit Bug
This is a thought-provoking, intense memoir by Novogratz as she recounts leaving her high-profile First World banking job in order to travel to the Third World to seek the causes and solutions of extreme poverty, eventually spending years in Rwanda, Pakistan and India, while intermittently taking up further training back in the USA.

It all started with the Blue Sweater that she gave away to Goodwill, a charitable institution – 11 years later, she spotted the same sweater on a little, poor boy in
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
2.5 out of 5 stars.

This book reminded me a lot of Unbowed by Wangari Maathai--non-fiction, set in Africa, strong woman changing the world, but writing...not so great. Which is a real shame about the not so-great writing because the subject matter is important. Jacqueline Novogratz is inspiring, Acumen Fund sounds amazing, Novogratz's journey of discovery about herself, the world, and how to change it is interesting. But oooh, girlfriend needed to focus. She needed an editor to help her focus. A
Aug 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: global-health
I had high expectations for this book: I read it alongside Muhammad Yunus'"Banker to the Poor", thinking that Yunus could be the representative of the beginnings of micro-credit, and Novogratz of the more recent direction of the movement.

However, this book, in the end, is more autobiographical than informational. Novogratz has undoubtedly lived a fascinating life, but in the end much of the book felt more like fluff than substance.

My sense is that she'd have been better served by focusing more t
Adam Gossman
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!
Emily D
Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: advocacy
The prologue opens with:

"They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I took mine and fell flat on my face. As a young woman, I dreamed of changing the world. In my twenties, I went to africa to try and save the continent, only to learn that Africans neither wanted nor needed saving. Indeed, when I was there, I saw some of the worst that good intentions, traditional charity, and aid can produce...

I concluded that if I could only nudge the world a little bit, maybe that would
Jan 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ms. Novogratz is a big dreamer and a bigger doer. This book--which reads alternately like a novel, a memoir, a diary, or a lecture--chronicles her development from a 20-something idealist to a 40-something optimist, well-grounded and well-schooled in the ways of a complex world.

The author jump-started a bakery in Kigali where her friends and colleagues, in years to come, were both victims and perpretrators of the Rwandan genocide, was assaulted on the shores of Tanzania, climbed a volcano in Za
Aug 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Antof9 by: Scotty
This is basically two books (sort of like "Under the Banner of Heaven"), and the 3-star rating has to be a balance of the 4 stars I'd have given the first half with the 2 stars I'd have given the second. The first half is a riveting story that I literally did not want to put down. The second half is just information on either how-to or how-we-did set up a fund to fund microenterprise. And that, frankly, was not that interesting. Sure there were some things in the second half that caught my inter ...more
Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone that wants to make a difference
Recommended to Nemo by: It's required reading for my Intro to International Poli Sci cla
This book illustrates the problems with the charity and relief organisations of the 3rd (developing) world. The emphasis of this book is on the economic field, with especial stress put on the value of accountability and the value of a person doing something for themself, rather than having it done for them or given to them. The stories of people in this book cover from the mid 1980s through today, including the impact of the Rwandan genocide and the need for clean water, mosquito nets and access ...more
Apr 20, 2011 rated it liked it
This book drew me in in the beginning with the author's desire to help impoverished women of the Third World obtain low-interest financing to begin profitable businesses. However, once she established herself as proficient in her field, her overseas trips dwindled and she began teaching and performing more executive-level jobs. The book doesn't intrigue me at that point. The first 1/3 of the book 4-4.5 stars, the last 2/3rds only a 2 as it was hard-going with the exception of a few trips intersp ...more
Elevate Difference
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 t ...more
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It always seems to me that with all the brilliant minds, money, technology, and energy devoted to conquering poverty, we should be able to make at least make a dent in it. This book explains why traditional charities have so frequently fallen short of the mark despite our best intentions. The author is an absolutely brilliant woman who chose 20+ years ago to leave a high-paying career in banking in NYC specifically because she wanted to change the world. She lived in Africa, India and Pakistan, ...more
Heidi Cuppari
Jun 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
So far I’m in love with this book. Not only because I worked closely with Jacqueline for a couple years at Acumen Fund which on its own was a wonderful journey and learning experience, but because this a truly inspirational story about a woman who had a vision and was determined to learn how to approach poverty problems in a different way. She believed strongly that treating the poor like ‘customers’ and not ‘charity cases’ would grow local economies and give pride to people in their lives, and ...more
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
I recommended this book to my book club with a bit of trepidation...would it dive too deeply into the technical intricacies of micro-finance? are these types of "save the world" stories really only my cup of tea? The book came highly recommended to me by two trusted sources, so recommend it I did. And in the end, I was deeply moved upon reading this book and found it was well received within the club, too, phew! Above all, I think it was Jacqueline's personal story and the raw honesty with which ...more
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
My main takeaway: Novogratz is a pretty amazing person. She seems pretty endlessly energetic, and unbelievably resilient. Trying to change global distribution and economic patterns is hard work, even if you don't throw in language difficulties, personal assaults, and brushes with genocide. I can imagine that if I were faced with one hundredth of the resistance, complication, bureaucracy, negativity, corruption, and depressing logistical difficulties that Novogratz has faced, I'd give up and walk ...more
Jul 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Blue Sweater is a first-person account of Jacqueline Novogratz' experiences, starting as an idealistic investment banker in Africa, and evolving to the founder of the Acumen Fund. She believes in "patient capital" -- investments that can take time to mature -- and in capturing the energy and information from markets to establish sustainable endeavors.

Novogratz has witnessed a lot.

The book's title comes from a great "coincidence" that highlighted her sense that our lives are profoundly conne
Leanne Hunt
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this book enormously satisfying for a number of reasons. First, the author has a proven track record of helping poor people to build businesses. Second, she writes with authority about large donor organisations such as the Rockefeller Foundation, explaining how old models of philanthropy are necessarily giving way to new, more effective models. And third, her writing style is both colourful and deeply honest, giving very real insight into the hopes, dreams, disappointments and failures o ...more
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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" t
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
The Blue Sweater is a guidebook for what not to do in global aid. The author honestly tells her story of one failure after another. She deserves credit for admitting her errors and for continuing to try new things, but it is frustrating that she never takes a step back to ask what has worked in countries that have moved out of poverty. Instead she keeps reinventing the wheel and repeating proven mistakes (not listening to locals, etc.). This is especially frustrating because she does seem to hav ...more
May 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book! I really encourage everyone to read it. I am sure you will find it inspiring. The title comes from an amazing story of a sweater the author was given as a child that she improbably enough finds years later being worn by a small boy in Africa. That interconnectedness is the theme she carries through the book. Essentially a memoir of her working life (so far) Novogratz has done an amazing job of relating her successes and failures in international aid work in a way that i ...more
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific book. It made me feel good to know that there are such people as Jacqueline Novogratz (JN) in the world. If you liked "Three Cups of Tea," you'll also like this book. In one respect, it's better - the author doesn't get lost in the middle of the book; the narrative continues in a straightforward manner.

JN's desire, from a very young age, was to make a difference in the world. When she began a successful career in the financial world, she still longed for a job that would make
Jun 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this book because I was instantly intrigued by the short story of the blue sweater that I read about inside the front cover. I had no idea the depths to which this book would go and the energy I would obtain from it! I learned so much from reading this that I now want to get an MBA after the Pharm D because I think I will really be able to make an impact with them both together. I really appreciated the way Jacqueline structured this book because she described in a good amount of detail t ...more
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I had the good fortune to attend in person a lecture at my workplace by the amazing Jacqueline Novogratz. She is the kind you want to keep listening to as her message is so full of hope and she has walked the talk. The overarching theme I take away from it is that the financially poor are no different from us in that they value dignity and choices over and above charity or "help". Furthermore, there is no one silver bullet way of healing the world - traditional charity, aid, self help free marke ...more
Nov 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
I think I really want to give this book 3.5 stars. I started it on a plane ride and when I got back from the trip, with it not yet finished, I set it down on the coffee table only to completely forget about it for a week or more. So obviously it didn't completely enthrall me. On the other hand, once I started reading it again, I did find the information very thought-provoking.
This book is about philanthropy, but not the kind that only makes the giver feel good. It talks about how to use philanth
Mar 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Loved this! Though she is a friend/colleague I have known for over 10 years, I had not fully understood Jacqueline's early experiences in Africa working to empower women and their impact on her current work at Acumen Fund. Not only is the first half an incredible personal narrative about a 20-something trying to do good in the world, and how she learns from her mistakes, but I think this might follow 3 cups of tea as the next social entrepreneurship best seller! Kudos to Jacqueline. Acumen rocks ...more
Jul 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
I've only read about 30 pp of this book and don't plan to go further. There is a great story somewhere in here, of a new way to do development aid, to achieve poverty reduction--but it is lost in Novogratz' self-preoccupation. I really don't need to learn what she's wearing in every scene, or be told at the end of each encounter with an African what she learned, and thinks I should have learned, from the interaction. The writing is clunky and mannered, and the insights nothing new. Read Mohammad ...more
Makinsey Manning
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Imagine someone driven by the need to make a difference. She travels to even the poorest parts of the world, working with outstanding individuals living in poverty, helping empower them through investment, consultation, and trust. The The Blue Sweater was written by and told through the eyes of Jacqueline Novogratz. Jacqueline started her financial career at Chase Manhattan Bank doing international banking but wasn’t content, she wanted to change the world. She then moved to an aid type job in A ...more
Chan Oga
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am biased because technically Jacqueline is my movement’s CEO.

I’ve met her twice and spoke to her thrice. Each time, she never failed to pass on valuable lessons to me.
1. Navigating the gray- on partnering with big organisations who do not exemplify what we represent.
2. On knowing the best story tellers don’t necessarily make the best changemakers.
3. On how being harsh on myself but not having that same strictness on other makes everyone lose rather than win:

I wondered what made her who sh
Melissa Ruley
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Two thought provoking excerpts from this book:

"Moreover, philanthropy can appeal to people who want to be loved more than they want to make a difference. While the former is not all that difficult, the latter can take a lifetime to achieve."

"If philanthropists don’t first listen, they will never be able to address issues fully because they will not understand them."

This quotation sums up the main idea of the book:

"There is a powerful role both for the market and for philanthropy to play in crea
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was pretty well done--the author goes into international development work as a young woman, working mainly in Rwanda in microfinance endeavors. She goes back to business school later, working on her ideas that charity and markets need to work together--charity alone has a bad track record of keeping track of progress, and markets alone leave behind the poor and invisible. I was more interested in the earlier parts of the book where she was actually working in Africa, a little bit less with ...more
Lauren Vogelsmeier
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
An honest, first-hand account about the realities of foreign aid and why traditional models of charity are not sufficient or sustainable solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. Novogratz advocates that real, impactful change occurs when we invest in systems that are designed to work for the “very poor,” and that everyone deserves the opportunity to build a life worth living. This is a must read for literally anyone who has ever donated to a nonprofit.
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Shrinking Violet ...: May Book Group Discussion 1 15 Apr 22, 2013 06:21PM  

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