Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Blue Sweater


Have you heard the story of The Blue Sweater yet? This is how it goes. The author of the memoir, Jacqueline Novogratz has this blue sweater as a kid. You know, one of those favorite childhood possessions that no matter how hard anyone tries, no one can convince you to part with. Eventually, circumstances are such that it winds up in the Goodwill pile. (You’ll have to read the whole book to find that part out.) Fast forward eleven years and Jacqueline is in Africa for the first time and she spots the same sweater, her sweater on the back of a young boy. It is one of those defining moments in one’s life that she recognizes as a giant blue sign that she is where she should be and on her right path.

As the book unfolds, you learn the symbolism of that sweater is much more. It is just one example of what she continues to illustrate throughout, that we are all interconnected in this world, no matter how close or how far away. Our actions and non actions affect each other and affect the planet, sometimes in ways we might never know.


How I got to read this book is another example of this interconnectness. I responded to a Seth Godin blog on February 14 soliciting book reviewers.

I had never written a book review before and wasn’t even sure what the subject matter of
The Blue Sweater was. But I am a big fan of Seth Godin and I was certain whatever it was it would be well worth my time. Besides I am a writer. I like to read and support what is getting published. It is good karma.

The Blue Sweater at times reads like a transporting novel. Jacqueline Novogratz’ detailed and colorful descriptions of her travels to Africa, India and the Mississippi Delta brings to life a vivid picture of the beauty of the surroundings contrasting sharply with extreme poverty and crude living and working conditions of the people she encounters. There is that same stark divide between her own nuts and bolts business approach and the way she is moved and touched by all those she encounters. Jacqueline is that rare individual who does not just speak of wanting to make a difference in this world, but does. She introduces us all to a new way of looking at philanthropy in applying the rules of good business to show the poor how to better themselves.

As I read I wasn’t always sure exactly why my blog was one of the ones chosen to help spread her word. Then I got it. Jacqueline left a career in corporate banking to do something that touched her soul. She is a living, breathing example that there is life after Corporate America and she suggests one in which an understanding of business can be fundamental to creating systems for change. The Acumen Fund of which she is a founder and CEO is an example of that.

I speak to individuals everyday who either by choice or downsizing now find themselves standing outside the corporate walls. There is a consensus among them that the heart has gone out of that environment. And in its place greed.

What Jacqueline Novogratz suggests in The Blue Sweater is that perhaps there is a way to put the heart back in, that we can use the discipline and rigor of good business to create fundamental change and bridge the ever growing gap between the wealthy and the very poor. We are reminded that at one point, if not in our own lives, then in the lives of our ancestors, we were all once poor and each of us has a right for the opportunity to rise above that.

This is an important book, one everyone should read, especially now at this very critical juncture in the world. I have one copy and one of you will get it. Whoever it is, make sure you pass it on when you are done. In this interconnected world, a blog post shared, a book passed on is just one way of spreading the word and working to make a difference. Because, after all, like The Blue Sweater, you just never know where it will wind up.
Post a Comment