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Jacqueline  Novogratz

Jacqueline Novogratz

Founder & CEO, Acumen Fund

Jacqueline Novogratz

Founder & CEO, Acumen Fund


Jacqueline Novogratz is the founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, a nonprofit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty. Acumen Fund invests patient capital to identify, strengthen, and scale business models that effectively serve the poor and champions this approach as an effective complement to traditional aid. Acumen Fund currently manages more than $83 million in investments in 75 companies in South Asia and Africa, all focused on delivering affordable healthcare, water, housing, and energy to the poor. These companies have created and supported 58,000 jobs, leveraged an additional $368 million, and brought basic services to more than 100 million people.

In December 2011, Acumen and Novogratz were on the cover of Forbes magazine as part of its feature on social innovation. Prior to Acumen Fund, Novogratz founded and directed The Philanthropy Workshop and The Next Generation Leadership programs at the Rockefeller Foundation. She also founded Duterimbere, a micro-finance institution in Rwanda. She began her career in international banking with Chase Manhattan Bank. She currently sits on the advisory boards of Sonen Capital, Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Initiative and the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED). She also serves on the Aspen Institute Board of Trustees and the board of IDEO.org, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for Social Innovation.

Novogratz has been featured in Foreign Policy’s list of Top 100 Global Thinkers and The Daily Beast’s 25 Smartest People of the Decade. She is a frequent speaker at forums including the Clinton Global Initiative, TED, and the Aspen Ideas Festival. Her 2010 best-selling memoir The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World chronicles her quest to understand poverty and challenges readers to grant dignity to the poor and to rethink their engagement with the world.

She holds an MBA from Stanford and a BA in Economics/International Relations from the University of Virginia. She has received honorary doctorates from the University of Notre Dame, Wofford College, Gettysburg College, and Fordham University as well the Freedom from Want Award from the Roosevelt Institute in 2011.

Speaker Videos

Escaping Poverty

Speech Topics

The Blue Sweater: Bridging The Gap Between Rich & Poor In An Interconnected World

Jacqueline Novogratz’s memoir, The Blue Sweater, tells the inspiring story of a woman who left a career in international banking to tackle global poverty. By sharing her experiences in Africa and around the world, she teaches audiences how traditional charity often fails and how a new form of philanthropic investing called "patient capital" can help make people self-sufficient. Novogratz challenges audiences to grant dignity to the poor and to rethink their engagement with the world.

Patient Capital for an Impatient World

Jacqueline Novogratz started her career in international banking and has since worked across Asia and Africa finding new ways to use business as a tool to create a world beyond poverty. In 2001 she founded the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit global venture capital fund that invests patient capital—loans or equity instead of grants—in social enterprises that provide critical goods and services to low-income people. Rather than treat the poor as passive recipients of charity, Novogratz sees them as active participants with the dignity to make choices for themselves. Acumen has since grown to invest $73 million in 65 enterprises that have delivered affordable healthcare, safe housing, clean water, sustainable energy, and agricultural inputs to more than 86 million low-income individuals. Novogratz shares with audiences several examples from Acumen Fund’s portfolio of investments and the lessons they have learned about how markets can act as a listening device for the needs of the poor.

Entrepreneurial Approaches to the Challenges of Poverty

What does it mean to be a "patient capitalist"? For Jacqueline Novogratz, it means using an entrepreneurial approach in the fight against global poverty. While traditional development aid can meet immediate needs, Novogratz believes that long-term change requires empowering local communities to solve their own problems. Charitable dollars eventually run out, but market-based approaches can continue to create jobs and economic growth over the long term. As founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, Novogratz has invested over $62 million in 60 companies that have provided 45 million low-income individuals with critical goods and services in the developing world. Acumen Fund's portfolio companies include everything from an operator of low-cost maternity hospitals to a manufacturer of anti-malarial bed nets.


Acumen bills itself as a nonprofit global venture fund—but one that seeks to provide the poor with access to the critical goods and services they need so that they can make decisions and choices for themselves and unleash their full human potential. The fund starts with donations from philanthropists. But instead of making charitable grants, it uses that capital to make disciplined, patient investments in companies that offer vital services at affordable prices to low-income customers. It also applies rigorous benchmarks to evaluate the effectiveness of its investments. It's an idea that has turned heads and sparked new debate in traditional development agencies. Acumen's success lies not only in funding life-changing services (such as clean drinking water systems in rural India) but in changing how the world addresses poverty. Jacqueline Novogratz shares with audiences how her own personal experiences inspired her to develop Acumen’s innovative business model. She also shares several examples from Acumen Fund’s portfolio of investments and the lessons they have learned about how markets can act as a listening device for the needs of the poor.