Jacqueline Novogratz

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Jacqueline Novogratz Founder & CEO, Acumen

Jacqueline Novogratz is an American entrepreneur and author. She is the founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit global venture capital fund whose goal is to use entrepreneurial approaches to address global poverty. Acumen has invested over $101 million of patient capital in 92 businesses whose products and services are enabling the poor to transform their lives. Any money returned to Acumen is reinvested in enterprises serving the poor. Currently, Acumen has offices in New York, San Francisco, London, Mumbai, Karachi, Nairobi, Accra and Bogotá.

Early life[edit]

Jacqueline Novogratz was born in the U.S., the eldest of seven children. She is a graduate from the University of Virginia where she studied Economics and International Relations and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The title of her book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, was inspired by an encounter she had while in Kigali, Rwanda. During a routine jog in her early 20's, Novogratz spotted a boy who was wearing a distinct blue sweater that upon closer inspection, turned out to be the same blue sweater she had donated to her local Goodwill a decade earlier. That blue sweater, with its decorations of a snow-capped mountain, two zebras and stripes, had her name on it. This encounter led Novogratz to realize the interconnectedness of our world, which influences her work today.


Novogratz started her career at Chase Manhattan Bank as an international credit analyst. After three years, she left banking to explore how to make a bigger difference in the world. This led her to work throughout Africa as a consultant for the World Bank and for UNICEF. As a UNICEF consultant in Rwanda in the late 1980s, she helped found Duterimbere, Rwanda’s first microfinance institution. Novogratz also founded and directed The Philanthropy Workshop and The Next Generation Leadership programs at the Rockefeller Foundation before starting Acumen in 2001. Under Novogratz's leadership, Acumen has grown to serve 125 million people a year through its investments of patient capital in businesses that provide low-income people with critical goods and services. She also oversaw the creation of Acumen's year-long Fellowship program that aims to build the next generation of leadership for the social sector.

Novogratz currently serves on the advisory boards of Stanford Graduate School of Business, NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights and the Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Initiative. She also serves on the Aspen Institute, Ideo.org Board of Trustees, the Pakistan Business Council Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business (CERB), and the USAID Energy Finance Steering Committee, and is a member of a World Economic Forum, Council on Foreign Relations, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, also appointed Novogratz to the State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Board.

In 2010, Jacqueline Novogratz was honored as the 2010 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY) for her work with Acumen as well as for her New York Times bestseller The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, published in 2009.In early March 2010, she received an honorary degree from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Such mark of recognition of her work in Kenya inspired her to establish a book club for The Blue Sweater, using the school's honorarium to create "The Blue Sweater Challenge." The program allows young organizers from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, who have hosted both "The Blue Sweater book club" and a TEDx in the Kibera slum, to identify and award three local groups who are doing the most to effect positive social change in their communities.[1]

The Blue Sweater[edit]

In 2009, Novogratz published the New York Times bestseller The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. The book is a firsthand account of her journey from international banker to social entrepreneur and founder of Acumen. Since its publication, the book has been picked by the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Peace College as common reading for all incoming freshmen.


Jacqueline Novogratz is married to Chris Anderson, the curator of TED. She has three step-daughters, Elizabeth, Anna, and Zoe (1986-2010). Her brothers include Michael Novogratz and Robert Novogratz, a designer who has been profiled in the Bravo television show 9 by Design.

Awards and fellowships[edit]

  • Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship, 2016
  • The Resolution Project Champions Circle Award, 2016
  • Asia Society Game Changer, 2014
  • Bloomberg Markets 50 Most Influential in Global Finance, 2014[2]
  • 25 Most Successful Stanford Business School Graduates of All time[3]
  • University of Virginia Distinguished Alumna Award, 2013[4]
  • Middlebury College CSE Vision Award, along with an honorary doctorate by the college, 2013[5]
  • Notre Dame Award for International Human Development, 2013
  • Women of Concern Humanitarian Award, 2012
  • Women: Inspiration and Enterprise Vanguard Award, 2011
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, 2010
  • Wofford College’s Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind in Spartanburg, SC, along with an honorary doctorate by the college, 2010
  • Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers, 2009
  • Daily Beast's 25 Smartest People of the Decade, 2009[6]
  • CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award, 2009
  • AWNY’s Changing the Game Award, 2009
  • Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2008
  • Rockefeller Foundation Warren Weaver Fellow
  • Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow
  • Synergos Institute Senior Fellow
  • Honorary Doctor of Science degree, University of Notre Dame[7]


  1. ^ Novogratz, Jacqueline (10 March 2010). "The Blue Sweater Challenge: Inspiring Social Change in Kenya". Huffington Post. 
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-01. Retrieved 2014-10-31. 
  3. ^ "Famous Stanford Business School Students". Business Insider. 2014-09-09. Retrieved 2016-09-04. 
  4. ^ Bromley, Anne. "From Accidental Banker to 'Patent Capital Leader'". UVa Today. University of Virginia. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Vision Award | Center for Social Entrepreneurship". Mcse.middlebury.edu. 2015-12-18. Retrieved 2016-09-04. 
  6. ^ "The 25 Smartest People of the Decade". The Daily Beast. 
  7. ^ University of Notre Dame. "Honorary Degree". Retrieved 20 June 2011. 

External links[edit]