Jacqueline Novogratz

CEO, Acumen Fund, a global nonprofit 

High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out
by Amanda Ripley

I’m reading this now. Amanda Ripley calls “high conflict” the “invisible hand of our time.” She asks how good people get trapped into either-or polarities that further descend too often into good versus evil, us versus them. Ripley is clear-eyed in terms of the risks we face and the situations in which we too often find ourselves; yet she also believes we have the power within us to transform conflict into greater understanding and better solutions. The growing divides and divisiveness could not be more serious, and no matter if you are leading a business or working on a team, building capabilities around conflict resolution is a critical skill to develop and practice.

Lab Girl
by Hope Jahren

This is a memoir of a fierce, pragmatic, idealistic woman scientist; an outsider in a male-dominated field; and someone whose curiosity and empathy for plants drives her not only to build her own research lab but also to a deep understanding of all that is at stake and what we might do about it. After reading The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers, I, like millions, have become interested in trees and in the interconnection of all living things. Hope Jahren speaks the language of moral imagination grounded in science and technical competence, and she writes with a beautiful combination of vulnerability and strength. I’ve worked in poverty for my entire adult life and spent nearly three decades focused on people. Now anyone interested in change must recognize the interdependence of people and planet and plan accordingly. Lab Girl is a powerful reminder of that.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
by Elif Shafak

Because I love everything Elif Shafak writes and haven’t read this one yet.

Freedom
by Sebastian Junger

I believe that freedom doesn’t exist without constraint. And he writes like an angel.

100 Poems to Break Your Heart
by Edward Hirsch

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America
by Clint Smith

It is a reckoning of America’s history, one told gorgeously in ways that have me reflecting on how easy it is to believe in broken systems even when all evidence points against our beliefs. I am reading this to learn more about my own history as an American and also because it is connected to my work. Acumen has spent 20 years focused on solving problems of poverty by using tools of capitalism without being controlled by them. Twenty years of supporting companies working in low-income communities has taught me the importance of narrative. We also have not confronted the ugly truths that have enabled our economic systems to operate at global levels, and more important, we’ve not acted courageously enough to reimagine and rebuild them, starting with how we define success. Only when we are unafraid to hold the good and bad and make more conscious, transparent decisions will we be able to renew our world and make it more fit for an interdependent 21st century.

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Acknowledgments

It takes a village to curate amazing lists from this rather busy group of leaders from all over the world. We would like to thank Kris Coratti, Chantal De Soto, Rimjhim Dey, Melanie Newman, Joellen Perry, and Jayne Rosefield for their help.

Within McKinsey Global Publishing, Eleni Kostopoulos led the effort to make this year’s list come alive, with collaboration and support from Mike Borruso, Nancy Cohn, Victor Cuevas, Torea Frey, Mary Halpin, Drew Holzfeind, Kathleen O'Leary, LaShon Malone, Philip Mathew, Janet Michaud, Kanika Punwani, Sarah Thuerk, Duane Tomaszewski, Petra Vincent, and Nathan Wilson.

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