A Collection of Thoughts & Discoveries

Technology, Business, Giving, Etc.

  • “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Ernest Hemmingway
  • “Judge each day not by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson
  • “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Gandhi
  • “Noble deeds that are concealed are most esteemed.” Blaise Pascal
  • “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” Ayn Rand
  • “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” John D. Rockefeller
  • “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson
  • “Sense shines with a double luster when it is set in humility. An able yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom.” William Penn
  • “There is a great satisfaction in building good tools for other people to use.” Freeman Dyson
  • “You don't know what you can learn until you try to learn.” Ronald Coase
  • “Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Mark Twain
  • “Create more value than you capture.” Tim O'Reilly

The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

Jacqueline Novogratz is the founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture capital fund committed to investing in business models which help to empower the poor. The Blue Sweater is a chronicle of the events in the author’s life which led to her eventual establishment of Acumen Fund.

The dialogue begins by describing the sweater she received as a gift from her uncle when she was a young girl. Jacqueline loved the sweater, but after being harshly teased in school she donated it to Goodwill. Many years later, while trying to sort out what she would do with her life, she met a young boy on a street in Rwanda who was wearing her sweater. This was a seminal moment that would mark the beginning of an amazing journey.

After more than 20 years of working in Africa, India, and Pakistan, I’ve learned that solutions to poverty must be driven by discipline, accountability, and market strength, not easy sentimentality. I’ve learned that many of the answers to poverty lie in the space between the market and charity and that what is needed most of all is moral leadership willing to build solutions from the perspectives of poor people themselves rather than imposing grand theories and plans upon them.” Jacqueline Novogratz

In the book, Jacqueline humbly shares the events that would teach her so much about cultures in Africa which differ greatly from what she experienced growing up in the United States, as she learned how to cope with and grow beyond her naivetĂ©. Though her college education and work on Wall Street prepared her for certain business challenges, she was not prepared for many of the challenges presented her while working for non-governmental organizations (N.G.O.) in some of the poorest regions of Africa. Her work centered mostly around teaching women how to engage in business in a land where women have little or no self-identity or personal rights. Respecting local customs and truly listening became as important as skillful business artistry in working to affect meaningful and lasting change in African women’s lives.

The author provides detailed descriptions of everything from scenery to the clothing people wore, giving the reader a sense of participation. As one who travels outside of my home-country often, I enjoyed the imagery provided by these descriptions.

The Blue Sweater is a wonderful and inspiring read, although there are parts which are difficult to read without emotional response. The almost unimaginable poverty and harshness of genocide are provoking, but they are juxtaposed with stories of strength, triumph and dignity.

I love how Jacqueline continuously fought with bureaucrats in defense of practical solutions to ensure lasting improvements in women’s circumstances, preferring micro-finance lending over handouts. She didn’t always win, but at least she tried–and sometimes she learned why some of her methods were ill-conceived and naive. The Blue Sweater should be required reading for all N.G.O.s and charities.

When Jacqueline Novogratz was a young girl she knew she wanted to change the world, and she has done so in a very positive way. The Blue Sweater allows us to join her on her inspiring journey.end of article icon

Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 in Giving


1. Posted by Dale Allyn on March 02, 2011

You can watch Jacqueline Novogratz giving a passionate presentation on TED here.

And for those who don’t know, Jacqueline is married to Chris Anderson, who is the director of TED. A pretty amazing team, I’d say.

2. Posted by Mamen Saura on March 03, 2011

I am looking forward to read the book. Thanks for the recommendation

3. Posted by Dale Allyn on March 03, 2011

Mamen, if you don’t mind paperback, I’ll send you my copy. It’s also available for Kindle, etc.

4. Posted by Steve S. on March 16, 2011

Dale, I just ordered the book. Looking forward to reading it.

5. Posted by Dale Allyn on March 16, 2011

I think you’ll like it, Steve. Let me know. It’s right up the alley we discussed.

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