What I learned from Jacqueline Novogratz

This is going to be one of those honest blogs – Not as to say that all my blogs are not honest but this is going to be the one where I boarder on an overshare for the purpose of telling a better story.

The first time I heard about Acumen Fund I was hooked. Investing in social enterprise projects that can become self-sustainable, addressing poverty by restoring people’s dignity, focusing on work in East Africa and South Asia; my kind of organization. The first time I saw a picture of Jacqueline Novogratz (on the cover of Forbes) I was disappointed. Here was this organization making significant impact in the developing world and here was this beautiful Caucasian woman who looked like she had access and privilege who had started it. (How exactly someone looks like they have privilege I cannot justify but that’s what I thought). For once I wanted to see someone from India or Africa make the front cover of Forbes for moving their country forward. Being half Indian there is a tug inside me about how and if “outsiders” should come into this culture and do development work – but being raised in the US I suppose I am as much of an outsider to this country as anyone else. Expect that I look like I belong (sort of!) and I have family here, close family. But does that matter?

Fast-forwarded to last week there was an event hosted in Mumbai at which Jacqueline Novogratz was speaking. I went. I’m so glad I went.

She was humble, funny and honest. She talked about “a revolution to change the way the world looks at poverty.” She shared her story, her personal story. She talked about wanting to bring dignity to the way we work with the world’s poor and she talked about creating the possible out of the seemingly impossible. My world shifted. My stereotype of her was shattered and I was aware of how quickly I had passed judgment one someone whose story I knew nothing about.

After the event I started reading her book (The Blue Sweater, Bridging the gap between rich and poor in an interconnected world). As I began to read I kept flipping back to the front cover and rereading her subtitle: Bridging the gap between rich and poor in an interconnected world. It kept brining me back to my personal mission statement which I had written a few years back in my MBA program.

Now let me insert a pause into this blog to say: I know. I know what you’re thinking, a personal mission statement…puhlease….make it stop! But in my defense it was a class assignment and I am actually thrilled I had to write it because I use it. I come back to it, often and I reflect on how I am or am not living out these words: I am a woman who will consistently show the world love, act at all times with integrity, embody self-respect, use creativity to break down barriers, laugh and leverage my common humanity to strengthen the human family. One person at a time I will use authenticity to build meaningful relationships that contribute to the changing world in an impactful and powerful way.

So here I am worlds all-time biggest hypocrite entitling myself to this right to work for the common good of a global family because I’m related to people across the globe while simultaneously judging Jacqueline for doing the exact same thing when she’s not even their sister. Now that I reflect upon it what she’s doing take even more guts and passion – fighting and working for people a world away to which you have no connection other than the ultimate connection: The interconnected world.

It does not matter where we come from, how much privilege we have or how much we struggle face. What matters is how we spend our time, what drives our work and how we respect the people around us. I’m beginning to really see that now. No one has any more of a right or responsibility to address the world’s problems than anyone else, we share this world and we share its challenges and its opportunities – all of us.  “If you’re feeling helpless, help someone.” ― Aung San Suu Kyi

Gayatri Eassey is committed to making an impact and a difference in her community both in the United States and in India, both personally and professionally. She is passionate about education, democracy and women's empowerment. She enjoys traveling, taking pictures and spending time with friends and family. She is a dedicated advocate for educational equity and has worked for The College Success Foundation and as Associate Director for External Affairs for Seattle University's Career Services Office. She is the former Interim Executive Director for Career Services at Seattle University. Prior to working at Seattle University she served as Executive Director of City Year Seattle, and as special assistant for boards and commissions in the Office of Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire. She spent three years on the Seattle Community College Board of Trustees. She was the co-founder of the YWCA's Gen-Rising Committee, committed to engaging more young people in the critical work of the YWCA. Her additional experience includes work as a trainer for the National Democratic Institute in Amman, Jordan, preparing women to run for elective office. She has also served as political director for the Washington State Democrats. She recently completed a fellowship with the National Urban Fellows, America's Leaders of Change. She is a former board member for the Center for Women and Democracy, the Institute for a Democratic Future, and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Young Professional Network. She was the Statewide President of the Young Democrats of Washington and a Fellow with the World Affairs Council of Seattle. She earned her MBA in 2012 and hopes to align her government and nonprofit background with her business education to support public private partnerships which provide mutual benefit and strengthen communities.

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