For Impact


The Blue Sweater

Reading (Books, Articles, Blogs) | | Tom Suddes

Synchronicity. Karma. Serendipity.

I’m doing some work with the Goodwill Industries in Denver. They’ve become one of my “favorite” For Impact organizations for a number of reasons. They were a ‘social enterprise’ 100 years before it became fashionable. They make money in their Retail Operation, and use it for incredibly impactful programs around Employment, Education and Empowerment. And, they’re all about the Power of Work.

I was skimming the online journal of McKinsey (The McKinsey Quarterly) and came across an article by Acumen Fund founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz. She shared some stories in what was called ‘social-sector entrepreneurship’ in an excerpt from her new book, THE BLUE SWEATER.

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World tells the story of her work as an entrepreneur in the social sector.

As she tells it, as a child in the 1970’s she had given the charity, (which anyone reading this knows is not one of my favorite words and certainly doesn’t apply to Goodwill Industries) Goodwill Industries an old, blue sweater. Then, in 1987, she was jogging through Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, and thought she saw a boy wearing it. She was right. It still had her name on the tag.

In her words, this encounter symbolized the idea that humanities “collective future rests upon our embracing a vision of a single world in which we are all connected”.

Novogratz is now CEO of Acumen Fund, a nonprofit (which I know she will eventually change to FOR IMPACT) venture capital firm that she founded in 2001 to invest in sustainable businesses that bring health care, safe water, alternative energy, and housing to the developing world’s low-income people.

Special Note: The excerpt from THE BLUE SWEATER that she shares is about how to make a business work in Rwanda. It’s a fascinating story about business, entrepreneurship, math, productivity, return-on-investment and return-on-energy, and much more.

It reminded me so much of my day in the Philippines on my trip around the world where I got to spend time with an incredible group of women micro-entrepreneurs talking about these same topics.

Here’s the last paragraph: “The story of the bakery was the TRANSFORMATION (my caps) that comes with being seen, held accountable, succeeding. I had the privilege of watching the women acquire a sense of DIGNITY (my caps) once they were given TOOLS (again, my caps) for SELF-SUFFICIENCY (ditto).

In the Success magazine article I wrote after my trip, I mentioned that I was supposed to meet “DIGNATARIES”. Instead, I just met people with amazing DIGNITY.

Thanks, Jacqueline, for your thoughts, the book, and your work with Acumen Fund.