“What we all want is to be seen, to be visible, to be somebodies not nobodies.”
You can’t be a wilting lily and change the world. You need a vision, an indomitable spirit, a plan of action and, above all, a deep respect and connection to every other person on the planet. In other words -- and in her words -- you need what Jacqueline Novogratz has.
“We are each other's destiny. Within our interconnection lies the seed of our mutual sense of dignity -- and ultimately, the world's best chance to end impoverishment, material and spiritual.”
In pursuit of that goal, Jacqueline left a promising career in international banking to forge a leadership role in the non-profit world. Since 2001, she has been leading Acumen, the non-profit she founded, with a mission to find new ways to tackle global poverty.
“At Acumen we talk about moral imagination -- having the humility to see the world as it is and the audacity to dream of what it can be.”
Those words are part of the organization’s manifesto which describes the kind of leadership Acumen hopes to inspire and develop.
“It’s leadership that rejects complacency, breaks through bureaucracy, and challenges corruption.”
Acumen invests in business models that deliver critical goods and services to the world’s poor. “Our aim,” Jacqueline explains, “is not to seek high returns but rather to jump start innovative businesses that improve the ability of the poor to live with dignity. At the same time, we do aim to see a return of our capital in the long run, proof that the enterprise can grow sustainably.”
Under Jacqueline’s leadership, Acumen has invested over $88 million in 82 companies across South Asia and Africa, focused on delivering healthcare, water, housing, education and energy. These companies have created and supported 60-thousand jobs, and provide services that impact the lives of over 100- million people.
“Our job is to balance idealism with the pragmatism that makes change happen.”
Jacqueline’s innate sense of justice and compassion was strengthened by her mentor and role model, John Gardner, founder of the citizens’ group Common Cause. She was 28 when they met. He was nearly 80.
“Through every endeavor, John focused on what he could do for others and the world. As he did so, his life blossomed into one of great purpose and, ultimately, achievement. The world is a different place because he was in it.”
The same can already be said of Jacqueline who is putting her own innovative ideas into action for the benefit of others. In addition to identifying sustainable business investments, she and her team at Acumen are building a powerful legacy --galvanizing a global community of extraordinary young leaders who will help build a world beyond poverty, using the tools of both business and philanthropy.
“Changing the world is not easy. When I started Acumen it was with a commitment to do what’s right, not what’s easy.”