9 Things Jacqueline Novogratz Can Teach You about Poverty

Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO and Founder of Acumen Fund, is one of the leading thinkers on the issues the extreme poor face. Her insights are gleaned from years of experience. Many of them are shared in her book The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. Here are nine things Novogratz says she has learned from working with the poor in Africa, India, and Pakistan for more than 20 years. (The list is slightly curated from the summary she provides in The Blue Sweater.)

  1. “Solutions to poverty must be driven by discipline, accountability, and market strength, not easy sentimentality.”
  2. “Many of the answers to poverty lie in the space between the market and charity.”
  3. “What is needed most of all is moral leadership willing to build solutions from the perspectives of poor people themselves rather than imposing grand theories and plans upon them.”
  4. “People usually tell you the truth if you listen hard enough. If you don’t, you’ll hear what they think you want to hear.”
  5. “There is no currency like hope.”
  6. “There is nothing worse for building relationships than pandering, on one hand, or preaching, on the other.”
  7. “The most important quality we must all strengthen in ourselves is that of deep human empathy, for that will provide the most hope of all, and the foundation for our collective survival.”
  8. “Generosity is far easier than justice, and … in the highly distorted markets of the poor, it is all too easy to veer only toward the charitable [and] to have low- or no-expectations for low-income people. This does nothing but reaffirm prejudices on all sides.”
  9. “The world is interconnected in a single economy linking all parts of the globe. Extraordinary wealth has been generated by this global economy, and millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Yet it brings as much danger as hope unless and until every single one of us gets a fair chance to participate.”

As you can see, Novogratz’s thoughts helped inform the plan for Jesus’ Economy. She sees the world as interconnected. She also believes that the interconnectedness has a direct implication on how we approach poverty. For Novogratz, the key to successfully helping people out of poverty is empowering them and encouraging them to live lives of integrity. The basis for this relationship is empathy and love.

Let Novogratz inspire you today. Consider how this list changes the way you view poverty and charity.

(This is part one of three of the “What I Learned from Jacqueline Novogratz” blog series.)

John Barry
John Barry


CEO, President, and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the author/coauthor of 12 books and General Editor of Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary.