Jacqueline Novogratz Profile

Jacqueline Novogratz’ philanthropic vision has helped the poor with transformative services throughout the world. As founder and CEO of Acumen, Jacqueline has invested in companies serving over 123 million customers living in poverty in developing nations.

During her career in international banking, Jacqueline founded a micro-finance institution in Rwanda, which led to the foundation of a philanthropy workshop and a leadership program at the Rockefeller Foundation. Her numerous honors, including the CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award and AWNY’s Changing the Game Award, showcase Jacqueline’s generous spirit and leadership skills.

Her dynamic speaking presentations have made her a frequent guest at TED talks and she is an in demand international speaker. Her passion for human rights and women’s issues has developed into programs Jacqueline shares with businesses worldwide.

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    As Acumen’s Founder and CEO, Jacqueline Novogratz is responsible for the vision behind Acumen’s unique approach to using philanthropic capital to invest in scalable businesses that serve the poor with life-changing goods and services. Under her leadership, Acumen has invested $89 million in over 81 companies serving 123 million low-income customers in the developing world.

    Prior to Acumen, Jacqueline Novogratz founded and directed The Philanthropy Workshop and The Next Generation Leadership program at the Rockefeller Foundation. She began her career in international banking with Chase Manhattan Bank and she founded Duterimbere, a micro-finance institution in Rwanda. Jacqueline currently serves on the Board of the Aspen Institute as well as the advisory councils of Stanford Graduate School of Business and MIT’s Legatum Center. She is an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow, a Synergos Institute Senior Fellow and has received honors including Ernst & Young’s 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the 2009 CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award and AWNY’s 2009 Changing the Game Award.

    Jacqueline is a frequent speaker at international conferences, including the World Economic Forum, The Clinton Global Initiative, and TED. She is the author of the best-selling memoir, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, published in early 2009.

Jacqueline Novogratz Speaking Videos

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Jacqueline Novogratz's Speech Descriptions

Jacqueline offers a variety of inspiring keynote presentations covering global topics and how to fight poverty around the world. Her workshops invite audiences to use critical thinking skills to solve problems using Acumen’s business philosophy that helping people make the right decisions allows them to expand their human potential.

Jacqueline’s unique entrepreneurial approach to fighting global poverty explores how creating jobs worldwide makes for a better economy both globally and locally. She explains how long term change requires communities to be empowered to problem-solve and how these models pertain to any business.

Her specifically designed workshops not only offer companies the skills to create better communities but also how to evaluate the effectiveness of those skills in every day practice.

The Blue Sweater

Jacqueline's memoir, The Blue Sweater tells the inspiring story of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and to find powerful new ways of tackling it. She shares with audiences her experience in Africa and elsewhere that proved to be the starting point for a career focused on radically changing the way problems of the developing world are approached.

Jacqueline shows how traditional charity often fails, but how a new form of philanthropic investing called "patient capital" can help make people self-sufficient and change millions of lives. She challenges audiences to grant dignity to the poor and to rethink their engagement with the world. Rather than seeing the world divided between different civilizations or classes, she puts forth that our collective future rests on embracing a new vision of a single world in which all are connected.

Patient Capital for an Impatient World

Jacqueline Novogratz started her career in international banking and has since worked across Asia and Africa finding new ways to use business as a tool to create a world beyond poverty. In 2001 she founded the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit global venture capital fund that invests patient capital—loans or equity instead of grants—in social enterprises that provide critical goods and services to low-income people. Rather than treat the poor as passive recipients of charity, Novogratz sees them as active participants with the dignity to make choices for themselves. Acumen has since grown to invest $73 million in 65 enterprises that have delivered affordable healthcare, safe housing, clean water, sustainable energy, and agricultural inputs to more than 86 million low-income individuals. Novogratz shares with audiences several examples from Acumen Fund's portfolio of investments and the lessons they have learned about how markets can act as a listening device for the needs of the poor.

Entrepreneurial Approaches to the Challenges of Poverty

What does it mean to be a "patient capitalist"? For Jacqueline Novogratz, it means using an entrepreneurial approach in the fight against global poverty. While traditional development aid can meet immediate needs, Novogratz believes that long-term change requires empowering local communities to solve their own problems. Charitable dollars eventually run out, but market-based approaches can continue to create jobs and economic growth over the long term. As founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, Novogratz has invested over $62 million in 60 companies that have provided 45 million low-income individuals with critical goods and services in the developing world. Acumen Fund's portfolio companies include everything from an operator of low-cost maternity hospitals to a manufacturer of anti-malarial bed nets.

Acumen bills itself as a nonprofit global venture fund—but one that seeks to provide the poor with access to the critical goods and services they need so that they can make decisions and choices for themselves and unleash their full human potential. The fund starts with donations from philanthropists. But instead of making charitable grants, it uses that capital to make disciplined, patient investments in companies that offer vital services at affordable prices to low-income customers. It also applies rigorous benchmarks to evaluate the effectiveness of its investments. It's an idea that has turned heads and sparked new debate in traditional development agencies. Acumen's success lies not only in funding life-changing services (such as clean drinking water systems in rural India) but in changing how the world addresses poverty. Jacqueline Novogratz shares with audiences how her own personal experiences inspired her to develop Acumen's innovative business model. She also shares several examples from Acumen Fund's portfolio of investments and the lessons they have learned about how markets can act as a listening device for the needs of the poor.

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