Manifesto for a Moral Revolution, by Jacqueline Novogratz

Why I read it… I’ve been an admirer of Jacqueline Novogratz ever since I read her book The Blue Sweater in 2010, and her amazing work with Acumen, a non-profit which creates sustainable solutions to poverty through investing in businesses and championing those who might not ordinarily receive support or finance. Her ‘Manifesto for a Moral Revolution’ sounded like the playbook I needed to connect with how I can contribute to the world like she has.

In summary

Novogratz details many experiences from her time with Acumen and beyond, sharing her own trips and adventures across the world, but just as importantly, we hear about many others, usually from developing countries, who have committed their life to making impactful changes to their community. They toil and push through all kinds of barriers with a relentless pursuit of success for themselves and those around them.

Within and between these anecdotes, Novogratz turns to us, the reader, and guides us to reflect on our own passions and moral compass, offering insights about how we too can take the right steps to make a change to our own world, and by consequence, the wider world. I defy anyone to close this book and ignore the final words: ‘The world is waiting for you.’

Key takeaways

I can’t possibly adhere to my rule of concise, 500-word book write ups and do this book justice, but here are 3 takeaways to start with!

  1. Don’t be despondent about incremental success: purposeful, worthwhile, long-term projects will hit snags along the way. They will fail. Look at your successes, however small, and use those to keep building. As Seth Godin writes ‘persistent people are able to visualise light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it’.
  2. Moral imagination – Novogratz discusses how wanting to be a changemaker isn’t simple or a one-off moment of self-gratification, reminiscing about an occasion at college when she naively donated to a charity without understanding the cause or the people involved. Moral imagination, she proposes, means connecting with people and systemic issues, and truly understanding causes of problems before we rush in to ‘solve’ them.
  3. Success is all around us, depending on how we define it – despite us being status-seeking beings, we can define success in healthier ways: our children’s happiness, putting someone before us, the causes we fight for, but how about a new model of success: did you put more into the world than you took out of it?

Favourite quote

This is a struggle. Novogratz has packed this book full of wisdom and experience. She doesn’t go out of her way to write in soundbites, but you could choose 5 inspirational quotes from every page; they emanate from her reflection and experience.

‘You may not yet have a crystal-clear sense of your purpose. That’s okay. It will grow with you. But if you have an inkling that you’d like your life to be about something bigger than yourself, listen to that urge. Follow the thread. The world needs you. Just start’

Favourite moment

My favourite chapter is ‘Accompany Eachother’ which reflects on the Jesuit notion that we ‘live and walk’ with those we serve. Several examples are given of when Novogratz, or others, connect with people to understand them and support them in their goals, standing with them during tough times and prosperous success. This accompaniment takes time, but, as she reflects: ‘I will hold a mirror to you and show you your value, bear witness to your suffering and to your light. And over time, you will do the same for me, for within the relationship lies the promise of our shared dignity and mutual encouragement needed to do the hard things.’   Wow.

Question and reflect

  • Have we thought about our moral purpose, and how we can make an impact on the world around us?
  • What is our perception of success? Are we doing enough to serve others, to enable their success?
  • ‘Each day we wake up to another chance to change the world’ – what step can we take today?

Read this if…

You want to gain a perspective of people around the world who are fighting to change themselves and their communities for the better

You want to reflect on your life, your choices, and how you can do more to change the world

You want to take Novogratz’ principles of redefining success, working through failure, accompanying others, and many other lessons, and apply them to your own life of workplace.

Find it here

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