“Today, poor people the world over are seeking opportunity and choice to have greater dignity in their lives- and they want to do it themselves, even if they need a little help. Today we have the tools and technologies to bring real opportunities to people all across the world.”
Last year I received a free copy of Julie Novogratz’s book, the Blue Sweater and the quote excerpted above confirmed something I always believed – poor people deserve to be treated with dignity. But, so often the stories we hear about those living in poverty highlights the terrible conditions or even social injustices they suffer negating the brilliant ideas and business they have created. When this happens, it is easy to think of the poor as “other” and helpless when in fact they are just like us. And we forget that they have hopes, dreams and aspirations to create better opportunities for themselves. Here in the United States, its easy to think of poverty of something that happens to those people.
As I read Novovogratz’s book it dawned on be that she made a deliberate effort not to present the people she worked with as other. Instead, she presented them as women, doctors, nurses, teachers, bakers, inventors, and manufacturers that had ideas and a need to access capital. So,instead of simply making donations to help their causes,Novogravtz started Acumen Fund, whose mission is to create a world beyond poverty by investing in social enterprises, emerging leaders, and breakthrough ideas. More commonly known as patient capital,they use philanthropic capital to make disciplined investments – loans or equity, not grants – that yield both financial and social returns. In her TED Talk (see below) she further explained how patient capital truly helps reduce poverty. And the financial returns they receive are recycled into new investments. Imagine that, not making grants to to make a community stronger yet still being able to receive returns to make new investments!