A is for The Acumen Fund: Enabling People To Shape Their Futures

Jacqueline Novogratz is an optimist. Whilst recognising the difficult challenges in the world, she believes people can shape their futures.

Speaking to Molly Petrilla for the web site Smart Planet, she describes the time when she decided to shift careers.

For me it goes way, way back. I was working in commercial banking, mostly in Latin America.

I’d really had this urge to save the world. I moved to Africa and found out that people don’t want to be saved.

That took me on this journey to Rwanda, where I started the country’s first microfinance bank.

It was really there that I saw the power of markets, but I also started to understand that when it came to poor people, they lived and worked in a political economy, not a market economy.

I also saw through and after the genocide how top-down aid too often creates dependence, which is the opposite of dignity, and at the end of the day, dignity is what we’re all about. It’s much more important to the spirit than wealth.

You can read the full interview here:


Jacqueline went on to found the Acumen Fund. This is a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of poverty.

The Fund aims to create a world beyond poverty. It does this by investing in social enterprises, emerging leaders, and breakthrough ideas.

The Fund has invested more than $72 million in 65 companies in South Asia and Africa. This has focused on delivering affordable healthcare, water, housing and energy to the poor.

These efforts have created and supported more than 55,000 jobs, leveraged an additional $200 million and brought basic services to tens of millions.

The Fund uses the following model for doing its work.

Acumen Model


What Are You Doing When You Feel Most Beautiful?

Writing in her blog for The Huffington Post, Jacqueline explained the thinking behind this question. She wrote:

I was recently asked by the New York Times what questions I pose when I interview job candidates. A favourite of mine is

“What are you doing when you feel most beautiful?”

The reporter printed it, and I received dozens of responses to the question from people around the world.

Each of them moved me for their honesty; some, for their audacity.

Not surprisingly, most people feel most beautiful when they are involved in an act of service, or are doing something that makes them feel generous, connected, or seen by others.

After giving many examples of when people experience this feeling, she concludes the piece with the following sentences.

Freedom is what beauty feels like when it can most express itself.

It has to do with the ability to express yourself in both big and small ways.

What would our world look like if we asked ourselves the following more often: are our actions helping others find a way to feel freer, more dignified and more beautiful?

Jacqueline describes her own journey in her book The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World.

This outlines her quest to understand poverty and challenges readers to grant dignity to the poor and to rethink their engagement with the world.

Finally, here is an example of Acumen’s work.

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