Book notes on development

Two new development books on the benefits of a business approach to helping the poor:

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World
Jacqueline Novogratz

Rodale, 2009
262 pages


In this autobiography of her move from the posh environs of Chase Manhattan Bank to the gritty villages of Africa, Novogratz recounts her steep learning curve of working with various aid strategies, which convinced her that many nonprofit organizations, despite their great intentions, can fall short when it comes to accountability, and thus, impact. A strength of this book is the way it lays bare the strategic shortcomings of good intentions and charity. Coming from the world of business, Novogratz is keen to apply the strengths of the market system, and to utilize the genius of the market as a “listening device” to provide feedback on what poor countries really need or want. Her social investment agency, Acumen Fund, promotes “patient capital.”

My Business, My Mission: Fighting Poverty Through Partnerships
Doug Seebeck and Timothy Stoner

Partners Worldwide, 2009
190 pages


This story of Partners Worldwide (an organization influenced by MEDA’s “business as a calling” approach) treads some similar territory as Novogratz’s book, but has additional spiritual dimensions that will resonate with Christian readers. The Partners approach goes well beyond traditional microfinance assistance, relying heavily on direct partnership with North American businessfolk who are themselves enriched by a new spiritually-based relationship as they discover “the simple, unimaginable power of coming alongside others.” Throbbing with Christian compassion, this is one of the few books you’ll find that makes a serious effort to link faith with development, holding out the possibilities of transformational economics.

— These notes, by Wally Kroeker, editor of Marketplace, (bimonthly magazine of Mennonite Economic Development Associates), are excerpted from a longer review which appeared in the July/August issue.

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