As a child, a book represented a chance to know people and cultures from distant lands. Or an introduction to real-life heroes who change the world. And there was nothing like the adventure of unexpected discoveries.

And though most of my childhood memories of finding books are rooted in public libraries, once I moved to NYC, local bookstores became truly magical places of quiet and discovery. And some of my most memorable and romantic dates were spent on rainy afternoons, pulling books of poetry and prose from shelves, reading aloud with delight and a shared sense of wonder.

That childlike…

d.light customer illuminating her produce market

This past Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Milton Friedman’s influential essay arguing for shareholder capitalism in the New York Times Magazine. Over the past week, numerous people have written passionately about the impact of Friedman’s theory. Most have chosen a side: shareholders or stakeholders. Some have argued that the problem is capitalism itself.

Let me make a plea for nuance. Like most debates, shareholder versus stakeholder has become an ideological one. I worry the debate over shareholders and stakeholders will morph into capitalism versus socialism. At the extremes, both systems are dysfunctional.

I left a banking career 35 years…

Photo: Charles Deluvio

New York City’s Emergency Medical Services received 6,406 medical 911 calls yesterday. It was the highest volume ever recorded in the city, surpassing the record that had been set on September 11, 2001. Once again, New York has become the epicenter of a global crisis. Although this time of Coronavirus is different. Like so many New Yorkers, I have been thinking about a time when we were reminded of our interdependence, our fragility and of our collective strength — and what tough lessons we can apply today.

A day or two after the tragic terror attacks in 2001, I found…

When Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun created d.light, they started with nothing but a prototype of a solar lantern and a dream to eradicate kerosene. Had the two freshly minted Stanford MBAs known all the obstacles to success, I’m not sure they would have started.

Their customers earned just a couple dollars a day and the original solar-powered systems cost $30, unaffordable without financing, even if people were willing to take the risk on a newfangled unproven technology. They could spend 40 cents a day for the kerosene and, if a day were particularly hard on the wallet, the family…

Photo Source: okayplayer.

After reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison in college, I resolved never to walk past a homeless person again without at least acknowledging him or her. Ellison’s extraordinary novel helped me see those who were invisible everywhere I looked.

One night, while walking home from my Wall Street job as a twenty-three-year old, I saw a homeless man walking on the street holding a picture frame around his face.

“Hello,” I said, “how are you doing?”

“How do you think I’m doing?” he said, “I’m homeless.”

Embarrassed, I acknowledged his point and then asked why he carried a frame around…

Every day in Karachi, Pakistan, a child goes missing. Some are kidnapped, others lured into human trafficking, and some run away. For many years, the track record for finding them was very poor.

Acumen Fellow Muhammad Ali is trying to change that. In 2007, he created Roshni Helpline, Pakistan’s first hotline for missing children. He is credited for serving more than 2,000 missing children, searching for them through a complex informant system of volunteers that includes shopkeepers, street children, people who are aware of who is coming and going through the underground routes of trafficking.

Among the most valuable informants…

Frances Perkins, an American heroine for social justice

Today, 107 years ago, on Washington Place in New York’s Greenwich Village, a great fire engulfed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, killing 146 garment factory workers and becoming the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city. The factory doors had been locked, and the workers, 123 of which were women, could not escape the flames and smoke. The city erupted in outrage over workers’ conditions, but most people soon moved onto other worries.

It could have been simply a tragedy, but one young woman, Frances Perkins, bore witness. As the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory burned, she put herself in the…

I’m on the outskirts of Delhi with Acumen Fellow Gayatri Jolly. She is a super-talented fashion designer with degrees from Babson College and Parsons and dreams of bringing high-end yet sustainable fashion from India to the world. She looks at sourcing and producing her fabrics ethically and transparently. For this, she hires women from low-income communities, many of whom have lived very difficult lives. She not only teaches them her trade, but also helps them become “master tailors,” which is rubric assigned typically only to men. Hence, her program is called MasterG.

How one Acumen Fellow is cleaning up the Ganges and bringing dignity to an ignored community

Kanpur, India, about a five hour train ride from Delhi. I am visiting with Acumen Fellow Ankit Agarwal and his co-founder Karan Rastogi, who saw a problem here in India. Across the country, people bring flowers to temples on a daily basis — gifts for the gods, blessings for life, for celebrations — to the tune of more than 800 million metric tons per year. These flowers are thrown into the Ganges and India’s other sacred rivers, a beautiful religious ritual that is having an unfortunate effect. …

Jacqueline Novogratz

Founder and CEO of @Acumen. Dedicated to changing the way the world tackles poverty. Learn more:

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