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Minus One to Zero

One good deed, you will agree, deserves another.

So when Archana Stalin rushed me a hard copy of Jacqueline Novogratz‘s Manifesto for a Moral Revolution within a day of my hearing about the book from her, I decided to repay her kindness by finishing the book within a day. And did.

For a bigtime hoarder but a poor finisher of books, it was a personal record of sorts.

The content, power and style of the book made my repayment business fairly easy.

I request anyone keen on impact investments – includes impact investments in climate action – to read Jacqueline’s book; she is also the founder of the pioneering global impact fund, the Acumen.

I will try putting down key learning from the book as a separate post…but here are three things that really stood out:

1. Respect for Jacqueline who clearly has 𝐰𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐤 𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐯𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 – and when I say walked, I mean literally, as the book will show through her accounts of on-the-ground experiences with her investee companies.

2. 𝐋𝐚𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐛𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐬 with courage – whether it is the interactions she had with Pakistanis on Malala Yousafzai or whether pointing out with brutal honesty her own shortcomings, she has put it as only someone who has significant courage can

3. 𝐌𝐢𝐧𝐮𝐬 𝐎𝐧𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐙𝐞𝐫𝐨 – I got a strong feeling after finishing the book that many social entrepreneurs and investment professionals need to think not about zero to one – the mindset that could work wonders for startups in many other domains – but about Minus One to Zero. When you read the book, you will realize how many efforts in social entrepreneurship start with a serious handicap (Eg: Rebuilding a community in Africa after riots, Providing a dignified livelihood to seriously underprivileged women…) that what is needed for most of these is a combination of deep empathy, active listening, and then patient capital. And not: Powerful porfitability models, Creating entry barriers, Designing to scale.

Zero to One (made famous by Peter Thiel’s book) is for entrepreneurs & investors who wish to build exciting, valuable profitable businesses at scale.

Impact investors should think rather on the lines of Minus One to Zero. A more apt principle for those who wish to be part of a movement that lifts the downtrodden from deep under to the surface, gets people out of the serious & debilitating poverty, or even puts the planet back in shape from the serious degradations it has underdone.

I’m a strong sceptic about anything that comes from the West with the word Moral in it, but there are times when you feel you could be wrong.

Thank you Archana for sending me the book, and that too one with Jacqueline’s autograph. Proud to see that you have a valuable role model.

(The pic is that of Jacqueline recently at Archana’s organic farm – myHarvest Farms)

See my LinkedIn post on this topic.


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