Christian Long

Jacqueline Novogratz: A Third Way to Think About Aid

In TED Talks on April 26, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Reflection by MIKE N.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Jacqueline Novogratz:  A Third Way to Think About Aid

In my opinion, Jacqueline Novogratz does an excellent job opening her discussion about the third way to think about aid.

She states that we clearly are in a time of crisis, with financial markets and aid systems failing us. She, however, thinks like an optimist, and believes that there has never been a more exciting moment to be alive. She discusses that we must now see ourselves as ‘global souls’, or ‘global citizens.’ She says that these ‘global citizens’ recognize that there is no longer one superpower – we now live in a global society. These statements made me feel somewhat emotional, even proud – though I’m not positive why – and that is why I think it is a great way to open her discussion. Within the first few sentences Novogratz already has me interested and wanting to hear more.

Novogratz goes on to explain that the debate over how to eliminate poverty has two opposite sides – those who believe we should throw out the aid system because it is so broken, and those who believe that the problem is that we need more aid. Both sides support their arguments by providing examples of the failures and successes of the aid system, respectively.

Novogratz believes, however, that both sides are correct – a middle ground is needed.

The problem, she believes, is that neither side will listen to each other or compromise with each other. This makes me think of how our current government works: when a Democrat says something, every Republican disagrees, and when a Republican says something, every Democrat disagrees. Imaging how different our country, or even the world would be if these two parties would work together, or if their ideas were presented anonymously.

I believe that by working together and taking middle grounds, we would be a lot more efficient and get a lot more done.

Another problem, says Novogratz, is that the people involved in this debate over the aid system are not listening to the poor people themselves. Again, this makes me think of the various decisions the government has made over the past several years, and continues to make, even while the people clearly disagree. But this is no place for a political debate…

Patient capital is Novogratz’s middle ground system. It requires there be a large tolerance for risk, and uses the market as the best ‘listening-device’ that we have. It recognizes, however, that the market is limited.

Entrepreneurs, according to Novogratz, need patient capital for three reasons:

1) They tend to work with people that make between $1-3 a day, and those people make decisions based on that income.
2) The geographies in which these people work have terrible infastructure
3) They are often the ones creating markets

Now, I will not pretend that I have a great understanding of patient capital, or any aid system, for that matter. I do not know very much about these kinds of topics. I do know, however, that they are very important topics, and as we continue to enter the crisis, as Novogratz says we are, they become even more important. Novogratz has inspired me to want to learn more, and I will.

Novogratz concludes her talk for urging all of us to start thinking of solutions that start from the perspective of those we’re trying to help. This is a very interesting concept to me, seeing as that we usually try and build solutions while thinking of how our own life is, and not as how the life of the people we’re trying to help is.

Jacqueline Novogratz’s talk on the third way to think about aid has been very inspiring to me. By changing how we think about aid, and by building solutions that start from the perspective of those we’re trying to help, I believe we can do a world of good…literally. I am very excited about the world of aid, and I cannot even begin to imagine what we will be able to accomplish.

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