Oct 22, 2018

The Blue Sweater

Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World
by Jacqueline Novogratz

This book is, ultimately, about helping people to help themselves. The author started out as a Wall Street banker but soon left her job to follow her dream instead: travel the world and find ways to solve problems of poverty. Initially she worked with companies that provide microloans to the poor, consulting and helping them evaluate if their systems actually worked or not. She saw firsthand in many different areas (mainly India, Pakistan and parts of Africa) that traditional charity often does not provide a lasting solution. She wanted to put power in the hands of the people, to listen to their needs and give them what would be most beneficial in the long run. Her vision changed as her experiences grew, in the end she developed (if I understand the final chapters right) a new type of enterprise to help the poor which was based on capitalism but seems to make sense...

The message is strong, and the examples clear, so this book doesn't really deserve the rating I gave it except that: I had to make myself finish reading it. I got a lot more out of reading the anecdotal accounts of the author's personal experiences with impoverished people she aimed to serve and teach, than I did reading about her theories, her management strategies, her meetings with people and travels to and fro all over. The names start to blur. What stood out to me were stories like the one of the women's bakery in a slum, or how she worked to get malaria-preventing mosquito nets distributed to the poor, or of her visits to Rwanda shortly after the genocide to find people she had known and hear their stories. I really admire that she was honest in writing about her mistakes, in admitting that at first many local people resented her assignment, as an outsider, to help them run their fledgling enterprises. Some places she was never really accepted and did not return. Other places she made lasting friendships and revisited years later.

But honestly, a lot of the book was difficult for me to stay interested in. Probably someone going into the business of humanitarianism would find this a lot more engaging.

Rating: 2/5                262 pages, 2009

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of this book. Sorry it didn't work for you.


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