Improving the Lives of Economically Disadvantaged Women Around the World

In March, women around the world celebrate International Women’s Day to honor women’s social, cultural, political and economic progress. International Women’s Day is a call to action for women (and men) to continue the recent momentum to actively seek gender parity in all areas of life.

In honor of this day, Forté pays tribute to a woman who is making change by improving the lives of women around the world: Jacqueline Novogratz, Stanford MBA, former Wall Streeter, and current superstar in the world of micro-finance and social impact investing.

Goodbye banking, hello Rwanda

In 1986 at the age of 25, Jacqueline Novogratz left her banking job at Chase Manhattan and went to Rwanda to launch a micro-finance business. As a former banker and Stanford MBA graduate, Jacqueline saw firsthand that standard international development solutions were not always effective in solving problems.

Instead, she believed that the tools of business were necessary to alleviate global poverty.

In the years between moving to Africa and currently living in the U.S., Jacqueline wrote a best-selling book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. The story that inspired the book is truly amazing.

Jacqueline received a blue sweater as a gift when she was young. When she outgrew it, she donated the sweater to Goodwill. Many years later, when she was in Africa, Jacqueline spotted someone wearing the same blue sweater with her name still on the tag. The discovery made her realize the interconnectedness of the world and solidified her belief that simple actions can have a far-reaching impact.

Acumen – a leader in impact investing

In 2001, Jacqueline founded Acumen, a non-profit venture capital fund where she currently serves as CEO.  The vision of Acumen – founded on the belief that “neither the markets nor aid alone can solve the problems of poverty” – is a clear vow of support to people who face severe economic hardships: “With more than two billion people around the world lacking access to basic goods and services such as clean water and electricity to an education and the freedom to participate in the economy. We’re here to change that. Our vision is a world based on dignity, where every human being has the same opportunity. Rather than giving philanthropy away, we invest it in companies and change makers.”

Acumen has been successful in delivering on its mission, investing $110 million to build more than 102 social enterprises in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan, India, Colombia, the U.S. and others. The companies it has invested in have created and supported 60,000 jobs, leveraged an additional $522 million, and fulfilled basic needs like affordable education, health care, clean water, energy and sanitation to more than 200 million people.

Acumen has been recognized by Fast Company which named it one of the world’s Top 10 Most Innovative Not-for-Profits.

In Jacqueline’s words, “We created an organization with this idea that you could change the way the world tackles poverty by using something we call ‘patient capital.’  We took philanthropy and rather than give it away, we would invest it in intrepid entrepreneurs that were going where both markets and government aid had failed the poor.”

In honor of International Women’s Day, celebrate the people who helped you get where you are today. Learn more about how to Honor a Champion.

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