June 19, 2021   8:35am

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Cultural perceptions — learning from “The Blue Sweater” …

We’re off to Indonesia shortly.  Thinking about traveling to a country that I’m just learning about reminded me of a book I read recently — “The Blue Sweater.”  Written by Jacqueline Novogratz, it provides truly usable people intelligence on dealing with cultures far different and less developed — economically, anyway — than our own. So looking back at my underlines (yes, I’m a book-page-marker-upper), I picked out a few of the many insightful gems right there for the taking.

Jacqueline’s book is her own story – her path to becoming founder of the Acumen Fund and a remarkable primer on how to do good/invest wisely in developing countries.* On that subject, there is an abundance of advice … but you should read the book in its entirely for that, as well as to find out why it’s named “The Blue Sweater.”

Here are some quotes I paused to think about; maybe they’ll “speak to you” as well:


Jacqueline’s perceptions:

“How you see where you are always depends on where you’ve been.”

“Nothing justifies the powerful excluding the powerless from basic opportunities.”

“Poverty is too complex to be answered with a one-size-fits-all approach.”

“You can’t impose democracy without first establishing some foundation of civic education and understanding of what it means to be an active citizen.”

“Monsters will always exist. There’s one inside each of us. But an angel lives there, too. There is no more important agenda than figuring out how to slay one and nurture the other.”

“Beauty, vanity, status and comfort: These are the levers that are pulled the world over as we made our decisions. The rich hold no monopoly on any of it.”

“So often we ask ourselves the wrong question.”

“Many of the answers to poverty lie in the space between the market and charity and what is needed most of all is oral leadership willing to build solutions from the perspectives of poor people themselves rather than imposing grand theories and plans upon them.”

“… It is all too easy to veer only toward the charitable, to have low – or no -expectations for low-income people. The does nothing but reaffirm prejudices on all sides.

“When you invest in a woman, you invest in a family.”

Jacqueline quotes her mentors and inspirational leaders she has met:

• “Only by knowing ourselves can we truly understand others – and knowing from where you come is an important part of knowing who you are.”
• “You should focus on being more interested than interesting.”
• “The most important skill needed is listening.”
• “If you move through the world only with your intellect, then you walk on only one leg … If you move through the world only with your compassion, then you walk on only one leg … But if you move through the world with both intellect and compassion, then you have wisdom.”
• “They need to give you their stories for their own healing.”
• “If you look disrespectable, we’ll stand out even more than we do now.”
• “The future is here; it is just not widely distributed yet.”

Lots to consider,


PS: You can purchase the book via Amazon by clicking on the cover shown above.

*Jacqueline Novogratz should know, as the founder of the hugely successful Acumen Fund she was able to create a unique structure for helping solve the problems of global poverty (health, water, housing, energy) by taking an entrepreneurial approach. According to a recent The Economist article, “The patient capitalist,” “Acumen is an odd mix of charity and traditional investment fund. It takes donations from philanthropists in the usual fashion, but then invests them in a businesslike way, by lending to or taking stakes in firms… The recipients — private ventures aiming for profits — must serve the poor in a way that brings broader social benefits.”

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