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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

Governments need to take more risks: Jacqueline Novogratz

Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 17, 2012
First Published: 06:38 IST(17/5/2012) | Last Updated: 06:38 IST(17/5/2012)
One day a girl was gifted a beautiful blue sweater from her uncle. She used to love the sweater and wear it even in her adolescent years. It was only after an embarrassing experience that prompted her to donate it to Goodwill. Many years later, while jogging in Rwanda, this girl saw a boy wearing the 'blue sweater'. She ran up to him, pulled back his collar and voila! The sweater bore her name.

This might sound a Bollywood story, but it's actually the real story of Jacqueline Novogratz, the woman who left her high-paying banking job to start Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture.

At the launch of her book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, she revealed that this incident "was a metaphor for how we're all connected together."

This Stanford Business School graduate started her career in international banking and was fascinated by how investments could create jobs. Eventually, it was her love for travel and adventure which brought this young idealist to Brazil and made her fall in love with "the vitality of low income people".

A few years later, Novogratz opened the first micro-finance bank in Rwanda and felt that she could really help change the world. But her belief was shaken when she returned to the country seven years after the genocide.

"The woman with whom I had started the bank played every conceivable role in the genocide including being planners and leaders", she related with disbelief, "I started to write my book with the hope of understanding what it means to be human and while we can do extraordinarily good things and horrendous things at the same time".

With 417,109 Followers on Twitter, Novogratz is one of the most powerful women in the world. Acumen Fund has invested more than $28 million in India on social enterprises which include Ziqitza Healthcare, an ambulance service in Mumbai that gained global attention during 26/11 terror attacks to Husk Power Systems, a company that turns rice husk into electricity in Bihar.

Building on her views on how to fight global poverty, this revolutionary philanthropist lists a three point plan for the government, philanthropists and youth of the world.

"Governments need to take more risks, accept failure, and think more long term. Lots of governments want to give money to Acumen but they want us to build companies in a three year period for people. No one can create a company in that short period of time!," she exclaims.

She also stresses that the "philanthropists need to take more risk" and young people need to come forward and provide "financial and volunteer support."

In spite of the setback, Novogratz radiates positive energy and is hopeful of the future, "We will continue to have a spectrum that goes from those who just want to do good to predatory lenders and investors. Even though we know that some of the most important things can't be measured but it's only when we can compare how the money spent results in real change that we are going to be able to put matrix around it and develop instruments that will allow us to do more of this."


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