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The Blue Sweater was written by Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder and CEO of Acumen, which she describes as, “A nonprofit venture capital firm for the poor that invests in sustainable enterprises.”  Novogratz has spent her entire career as a banker working to help the poor and disadvantaged help themselves through sustainable ventures.  Her experience and wealth of knowledge are amazing.

I would have loved to have read this book in an economics class, or as part of a mission trip.  Reading it in isolation left me with too many questions and too few answers.  I did come away with a few favorite quotes:

“…strengthened resolve to find more solutions that started with the poor as customers…” pp276-277

“There is a powerful role both for the market and for philanthropy to play in creating this future.  Philanthropy alone lacks the feedback mechanisms of markets, which are the best listening devices we have; and yet markets alone too easily leave the most vulnerable behind.” p277

“The world will not change with inspiration alone;rather, it requires systems, accountability, and clear measures of what works and what doesn’t.”  p 277

Although I love Novogratz’ ideas on a big scale, I was left wondering what I, as an ordinary person, without thousands of dollars to invest, can do to help in any meaningful way.  What do the ordinary folks do?  Novogratz offers a brief piece of advice (“thinking and acting like a true global citizen” p.284), but I feel that there is much more that can be written at the practical level for individuals.  That being said, if you work with disadvantaged populations of any type, this is a book that you and your organization should read.

The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me About Life and WealthI’ve read and enjoyed many novels by Evans, but this is the first non-fiction book by him that I’ve read. It was a quick, motivational read. Much of what he suggests correlates with Dave Ramsey’s principles. (Dave Ramsey has written books about living debt-free, and hosts his own financial radio talk show.) While Evans didn’t have any “new” ideas, he did have a lot of good reminders.