Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Blue Sweater

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World
Author: Jacqueline Novogratz
Rodale Books, 2009
304 pages

After my trip to El Salvador, I wanted to read something to complement my experiences there. I'd actually purchased The Blue Sweater for my Kindle back in 2009, but hadn't gotten around to reading it yet. That's because the time hadn't been right for me - until now.

The Blue Sweater is an engaging, thoughtful look at the author's life work. After working for a few years in global banking on Wall Street (where she found a passion for developing countries), she was drawn to the non-profit world, particularly to programs focused on women and entrepreneurship. She describes her experiences with various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as private entities, and the creation of the Acumen Fund, the non-profit she founded to fight global poverty through entrepreneurship. (Think Muhammad Yunus, microloans, Kiva . . . )

The first part of the book leads up to and describes her time in Kenya and Rwanda (at the time just prior to Rwanda's troubles). Her tales of her time in East Africa were my favorite parts of the book, and I could really feel her sense of wonder coming through in her writing. Her later work in other African countries, as well as in India and Pakistan, is also described in detail.

Obviously, Novogratz is a brilliant person who has a lot of ideas on how to improve things. She's also very aware that so many well-intentioned programs (regardless of vision) . . . fail miserably. The Blue Sweater presents a perspective that's both balanced and intellectual. As for the blue sweater (i.e., how the book got its title) . . . well, that's such a cool story, you'll just have to read it yourself.