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| Human World on Mar 22, 2010

Jacqueline Novogratz invests in sustainable small business solutions for world’s poor

The goal, says Novogratz, CEO of Acumen Fund, is to find a way to bring these essential services to low income people not just today, but in a way that’s sustainable over time.

One billion people on Earth – that’s one person in every five – lack access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. EarthSky spoke to Jacqueline Novogratz, whose organization, Acumen Fund, lends seed money to small businesses that provide clean water, health care, and energy at a low cost to the poor. The goal, Novogratz says, is to find a way to bring these essential services to low income people not just today, but in a way that’s sustainable over time.

Jacqueline Novogratz We invest in those intrepid entrepreneurs, who are willing to see the poor not as recipients, but as vital customers that want to change their lives.

Acumen Fund has invested more than $40 million in companies in Pakistan, India, Kenya, and Tanzania. That’s a small amount compared to the billions in aid by big charities and governments.

Jacqueline Novogratz: But we’ve seen those companies not only create 24,000 jobs, but literally bring tens of millions of individuals services that people would otherwise not have access to. It’s opened up an industry in rural areas that never existed.

Novogratz doesn’t expect overnight success. Instead, her organization uses what she calls ‘patient capital’ – that is, slow investments of a year or longer that ‘patiently’ wait for the small business to take root before expecting returns. Our thanks today to The Economist – fresh thinking for the ideas economy.

Jacqueline Novogratz will be a featured speaker at The Economist Innovation Conference on March 23-24, 2010 in Berkeley, California.