So I went ahead with the Blue Sweater book for the month of March. It has been dragged along with me everywhere for the past year waiting for the moment I decide to go for it. It is an intriguing book telling the story of the founder of Acumen Fund, an organization established focusing on finding solutions to poverty. They attract investors who are philanthropists to invest into entrepreneurs who are bringing sustainable solutions to big problems of poverty.
The book tells you the story of how Acumen was born by the founder herself. It starts with a compelling story of finding her own blue sweater that she has given away for charity worn by a kid in Africa. And using this as the beginning of her story intrigued me. Few pages down the book I was getting a little bored and started flipping until I reached half way and read:
“I’m supposed to be an anthropologist, so what am I doing studying vector analysis and the Black-Scholes theory?
He reminded me that I’d come to learn the skills I needed to change the world- at least that was my mantra. The developing world needed management skills. It needed people who knew how to start and build companies, not just people with good intentions. It was growing clear to me that those who sought power and money made the rules; yet power alone could corrupt and corrode. “Power without love,” Martin Luther King Jr. said in one of his last speeches, “is reckless and abusive,” and, he continued, “love without power is sentimental and anemic.”
This passage is what made me want to finish the book reading and not skimming. For to be an anthropologist one needs to be concerned with the other as an equal human being, and to have a goal or a mantra to change the world, that I resonate with as cliche as it may sound. So how did Jacqueline Novogratz the author of the book The Blue Sweater (bridging the gap between rich and poor in an interconnected world) make it happen starts only after half the book has been read.
The first half is also of importance as to how she has reached the second half. But personally I felt it was too long. I only was excited about the second half. It discussed her experience with the aftermath of the genocide that took part in Rwanda. How she forged an understanding to how silence can feel criminal. It is an interesting book that explores how the need to help others overcome their difficulties, enable them to find the way to secure their basic needs turned from an empathetic approach to a business oriented approach generating millions in number to serve the world to become a better place.
She also tries to bring to the readers attention the power of listening and how that can strengthen relationships and foster abundant joy. Which I find to be also important to share, for listening I have myself come to learn is a work in progress. And in many situations where we ignore the power of listening, listening can actually be the source of making a difference in the present moment.
“Just start. Don’t wait for perfection. Just start and let the work teach you.” Is how Jacqueline was able to succeed, and it is how I was able to make it work once. But it is easier said than done. For to start something new requires goal setting, more like goal specification. And it does not necessarily require a full goal drawn, but a clear step visualized before approaching, a step that can latter take you to many steps, and the most important factor here is to imagine yourself not five years down the line, but twenty and forty and even after your death, where will what you plan to do be, take the world, the people, where will it leave them, influence them, inspire them? Those questions might make a difference before starting, but starting should not be disabled just by being afraid of imperfection. As I agree with the quote in the book that imperfection is only perfected through practice.
After all, the book is a great read for all those who plan or are in the process of starting something humanitarian or not, for having a humanitarian approach in everything we do, can be life changing for many. And to start somewhere even if that is nowhere close to where you see yourself is still considered a good start. Jacqueline started in the finance world when she knew she wanted to be in the humanitarian world, and through banking she learnt how to bring it to benefit the poor through micro-finance, philanthropy and investment. And as she started small, she made many mistakes that are only human mistakes and one can only learn to grow and to form bigger ideas only through living the full journey. Allow yourself to try and fall as many times as you need to, and in the end something bigger than all those that have fallen will take place. And if you have failed enough, than that bigger thing might over live you. And to the world the benefits can be infinite.
I recommend this book.