For Jacqueline Novogratz, it means using an entrepreneurial approach in the fight against global poverty.
While traditional development aid can meet immediate needs, Novogratz believes that long-term change requires empowering local communities to solve their own problems. Charitable dollars eventually run out, but market-based approaches can continue to create jobs and economic growth over the long term.
As founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, Novogratz has invested in dozens of companies that provide critical goods and services in the developing world, changing the lives of millions. Acumen Fund's portfolio companies include everything from an operator of low-cost maternity hospitals to a manufacturer of anti-malarial bed nets.
Acumen bills itself as a nonprofit global venture fund - but one that seeks to provide the poor with access to the critical goods and services they need so that they can make decisions and choices for themselves and unleash their full human potential.
The fund starts with donations from philanthropists. But instead of making charitable grants, it uses that capital to make disciplined, patient investments in companies that offer vital services at affordable prices to low-income customers. It also applies rigorous benchmarks to evaluate the effectiveness of its investments.
It's an idea that has turned heads and sparked new debate in traditional development agencies. Acumen's success lies not only in funding life-changing services (such as clean drinking water systems in rural India) but in changing how the world addresses poverty.
Novogratz is the author of the best-selling memoir "The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World." In this Milken Institute Forum, she described how her past frustrations with traditional development finance led her to develop Acumen's innovative business model. She also shared some inspirational stories of how Acumen's investments are transforming lives around the world.