Manifesto for a Moral Revolution … what it means to stand with the poor, to see through clear eyes, to do work worth doing

May 4, 2020

I love this book cover … as an author, I find most business book designs incredibly disappointing, uninspired … but Jacqueline Novogratz’ new book looks beautiful. Inside, it’s got some thoughtful, inspiring ideas too. Seth Godin calls it “An urgent manifesto about what it means to stand with the poor, to see through clear eyes, and most of all, to do work worth doing.”

Covid-19 has thrown into sharp relief the gaping wounds of our times, from a broken health system to climate change and skyrocketing inequality and growing divisiveness. Our inadequate systems and institutions are slumping beneath a host of modern crises. Most urgently, moral leaders are proving a scarce commodity. In America and across the world, an anxious public is hungry for clear, conscientious guidance. The stakes are higher than ever.

 

But it is not the occasion for despair. She has accompanied these leaders through the process of building the skills, determination and moral imagination to successfully challenge the status quo. Around the world, Acumen has facilitated the rollout of essential services to more than 308 million low-income people, often in politically fraught environments, sometimes changing systems all together. She navigates the sociopolitical obstacles and also encourages a generation of change-makers to do what’s right, not what’s easy. Her approach is to focus on solutions, and resist the urge of falling into the traps of ideology or trite assumption.

In 2001, when Novogratz founded Acumen, few had heard of impact investing or patient capital—an investment model that emphasizes long-term gains over quick returns, funding early-stage enterprises providing low-income consumers with access to healthcare, water, housing, alternative energy, or agricultural inputs. Nineteen years later, there’s been a seismic shift in how corporate boards and other stakeholders evaluate businesses, purpose, and sustainability; and a generation of employees is pushing for a more inclusive and sustainable model of capitalism. Our existing institutions have run their course, but we have yet to reimagine new ones to replace them in an interdependent world.

In the book, she draws on stories from change-makers around the world and her own experiences to divulge the most common leadership mistakes and the mindset needed to rise above them. She wrestles with complex ethical and moral quandaries. She tackles issues ranging from identity and measuring what matters to whether markets will support businesses that reject a profit-alone mentality in favour of one centred on the health and wellbeing of humans and the planet. In these pages, she shows how today’s leaders, who often kick off their enterprises with grand ambitions and tight timetables, might navigate the historically challenging obstacles, which have stymied prior generations of investors. And for all who feel fearful in the face of our unique, pressing issues right now, there is hope.