Jacqueline Novogratz founded and leads Acumen, a nonprofit that takes a businesslike approach to improving the lives of the poor. In her book "The Blue Sweater" she tells stories from the philanthropy, which emphasizes sustainable bottom-up solutions over traditional top-down aid.

Why you should listen

One of the most innovative players shaping philanthropy today, Jacqueline Novogratz is redefining the way problems of poverty can be solved around the world. Drawing on her past experience in banking, microfinance and traditional philanthropy, Novogratz has become a leading proponent for financing entrepreneurs and enterprises that can bring affordable clean water, housing and healthcare, energy, agriculture and education to poor people so that they no longer have to depend on the disappointing results and lack of accountability seen in traditional charity and old-fashioned aid.

Acumen, which she founded in 2001, has an ambitious plan: to change the way the world tackles poverty. Indeed, Acumen has more in common with a venture capital fund than a typical nonprofit. Rather than handing out grants, Acumen invests in early stage companies and organizations that bring critical -- often life-altering -- products and services to the world's poor. Like VCs, Acumen offers not just money, but also infrastructure and management expertise. From drip-irrigation systems in India to high quality solar lighting solutions in East Africa to a low-cost mortgage program in Pakistan, Acumen's portfolio offers important case studies for entrepreneurial efforts aimed at the vastly underserved market of those making less than $4/day.

It's a fascinating model that's shaken up philanthropy and investment communities alike. Acumen manages more than $80 million in investments aimed at serving the poor. And most of their projects deliver stunning, inspiring results. Their success can be traced back to Novogratz herself, who possesses that rarest combination of business savvy and cultural sensitivity. In addition to seeking out sound business models, she places great importance on identifying solutions from within communities rather than imposing them from the outside. “People don't want handouts," Novogratz said at TEDGlobal 2005. "They want to make their own decisions, to solve their own problems.”

In her book, The Blue Sweater, she tells stories from the new philanthropy, which emphasizes sustainable bottom-up solutions over traditional top-down aid.

What others say

“Acumen is a not-for-profit group (but not a charity) that is supported by investors (not donors) who want a good “social return” on their capital.” — Fortune

Jacqueline Novogratz’s TED talks

Jacqueline Novogratz on the TED Blog
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Development

A third way to think about aid: Jacqueline Novogratz on TED.com

September 25, 2009

The debate over foreign aid often pits those who mistrust “charity” against those who mistrust reliance on the markets. Jacqueline Novogratz proposes a middle way she calls patient capital, with promising examples of entrepreneurial innovation driving social change. (Recorded at TED@State, June 2009, at the US State Department, Washington, DC. Duration: 17:05) Twitter URL: http://on.ted.com/3O […]

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Development

Investing in ending poverty: Jacqueline Novogratz on TED.com

August 17, 2009

We’re beginning the second week of the TED media team’s annual break and our highlights from the archives with a thought-provoking talk from 2005. In her first talk at TED, Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund urges us to get better at answering the tough questions of the world and says that aid, […]

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Quotes from Jacqueline Novogratz

People really don’t want handouts, they want to make their own decisions; they want to solve their own problems.
Jacqueline Novogratz
TEDGlobal 2005 • 389K views Oct 2006
Inspiring, Informative
We can send people to the Moon; we can see if there’s life on Mars — why can’t we get $5 [mosquito] nets to 500 million people?
Jacqueline Novogratz
TEDGlobal 2005 • 389K views Oct 2006
Inspiring, Informative
We so often don’t realize what our action and our inaction does to people we think we will never see and never know.
Jacqueline Novogratz
TEDGlobal 2005 • 389K views Oct 2006
Inspiring, Informative