Book review: The Blue Sweater

Not so often does one read two amazing books back to back. Especially when one doesn’t read much to begin with. But here goes… I read the very honest, inspirational, real life first person account from ordinary to extraordinary life of Michelle Obama in her autobiography ‘Becoming’. It deserves its own book review. What I’m going to review now is what I just finished: The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz. 

To say it blew my mind is an understatement! The book is an incredible journey and story of a visionary, one who wants to alleviate poverty in a dignified, sustainable manner, who has worked relentlessly over years with many amazing leaders, entrepreneurs, donors, organizations, institutions around the globe, doing notable work in Rwanda, Kenya, India, Pakistan to name a few. Jacqueline talks about the revolutionary (at its time) concept of patient capital… about capital investments that wait patiently for results, while supplying necessary funds, ideas, support system and monitoring of ventures that make real social impact in communities across the world. 

These stories take you from the plight of Rwandan women, who were excluded from all economic activities apart from selling vegetables, to the woes of farmers and villagers with no access to clean water and electricity. And how big scale problems were solved by extraordinarily ordinary people , who tried, failed, never gave up and fulfilled their missions, with the aid of capital and ideas from Acumen Fund. 

The humility and deep passion and commitment of Jacqueline is palpable throughout the book, how she sees beauty in human spirit, simple joys, and how she always dares to dream bigger and bigger. Her funda is so sensible that one wonders why no one else thought of it: give people charity, you make a short term impact, give them the tools and means to earn for themselves and hold them accountable, and change their lives. She brings out the many fallacies of traditional philanthropy: mostly well meaning but often not ‘listening’ to the people suffering from the real problems that are keeping them poor, and many times either not sustainable, or done because the donors think only they know the right way to do things. She urges that business acumen and empathy need to be combined, public and private partnerships have to be forged, and then miracles can happen and dreams can be achieved. 

The examples and stories are told in simple but impactful language. They are compelling, heart wrenching but still always containing learnings in them. Amazing inventions of the past decades have brought light, life, dignity and sustainable livelihoods for millions through these. Solar powered lanterns, low cost drip irrigation systems, nylon nets to prevent rampant malaria, water purification systems to provide clean water, low cost birthing centers with high quality medical care, tele medicine in the eyecare area , low cost lenses, low cost housing, the list is almost endless. 

Do me a favour, read the book. Visit the acumen fund website. Follow their Facebook page. Take a course. Donate some money. Spread the word. Do your bit. And leave me a comment when you have. I promise you, the book is nothing short of a wealth of learning about the world around us. Jacqueline Novogratz- you’ve earned a huge fan !

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