How Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novogratz Plans to Merge Purpose and Profit

After twenty years at the helm of nonprofit global venture capital fund Acumen, Jacqueline Novogratz knows a thing or two about creating real change. In her new book Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World, Novogratz provides a blueprint for becoming part of the new capitalist system she hopes to build–one where purpose and profits can coexist. Novogratz shared her thoughts on what it takes to be part of this revolution during the August 19 episode of The Human Factor, a LinkedIn video series hosted by Eric Schurenberg, CEO of Inc.’s parent company Mansueto Ventures.

Start where you are

“Purpose doesn’t come to people who are sitting at the starting blocks,” Novogratz says. But, she emphasizes that starting does not mean having it all figured out. In fact, she asserts that vision, adaptability, determination, and teamwork–though necessary–are secondary in the fight to re-imagine the systems that shape the world.  

First, she recommends becoming a deep listener and putting vulnerable and impoverished people at the forefront. Novogratz argues against a “missionary attitude” of bestowing wisdom or technology, and instead proposes attitudes of humility and patience that she believes are essential to ushering in a new age of venture capitalism and social entrepreneurship. 

Use what you have

Next, Novogratz highlights the need for creativity, “We’re not going to get there if we rely just on markets and government.” These are inadequate independently; and as an alternative, she recommends using marketplace tools in concert with philanthropy and government to solve problems that benefit the whole of society. Insisting that action without morality will only lead to greater problems and inequities.

Do what you can

Finally, Novogratz wants to redefine success. In place of money, power, and fame, she argues for a culture that elevates humility, interconnection, resilience, and dignity for all people.

Instead of a system designed for shareholders, Novogratz wants to use markets and their forward-looking functions to design systems, companies, and communities that benefit those that are most vulnerable instead of exploiting them. She urges aspiring change-makers to recognize the good, bad, and ugly that exist across the globe and have the courage to imagine a new, more equitable world. 



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