Imagine you are a tailor, mechanic or weaver and you earn your living with your hands and your eyes. Your vision is impaired, but because you live in a remote village or urban slum, you do not have access to the eye care products you need to live a full, productive life. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are in this exact situation.
VisionSpring is a nonprofit organization determined to change the status quo by creating channels for the delivery of eyeglasses in the developing world. "The challenge has been 'How do we get the most critical eye care products to communities at the end of the road?'" says VisionSpring Founder and CEO Dr. Jordan Kassalow.
VisionSpring helps individuals in impoverished communities areas gain equitable access to eye care products they need most by training local villagers to conduct outreach and vision screenings and sell eyeglasses -- empowering them to become "Vision Entrepreneurs."
Each Vision Entrepreneur receives a Business in a Bag kit that contains all the products and materials needed to launch an eye care business. Vision Entrepreneurs provide broad outreach, selling over-the-counter products at mobile vision campaigns and refering customers who need prescription glasses to centrally located VisionSpring Optical Shops or partner health centers. By consistently innovating new products and services, such as affordable prescription glasses and a "Myopia Kit" (which allows optometrists to treat patients in hard to reach communities), VisionSpring has introduced a cost effective intervention that immediately improves the productivity and quality of life of the poor in the developing world.
To date, VisionSpring has sold more than 600,000 pairs of eye glasses across Bangladesh, India and Latin America. Last year, in collaboration with the University of Michigan, a rigorous impact assessment demonstrated that using VisionSpring's eyeglasses results in an average increase in productivity of 35%. A calculation that uses conservative estimate of average income in the developing world and customer productivity gains suggests that VisionSpring has generated roughly $238 million in economic impact through its eyeglass intervention. In addition, it has empowered more than 9,000 Vision Entrepreneurs.
VisionSpring’s longest running vision program is in Santa Ana, El Salvador. Today, VisionSpring El Salvador is a major site of the organization's innovation: in 2010, the local team successfully piloted and developed the "VisionSpring Optical Shop," which incorporates prescription eyeglass sales into the successful Vision Entrepreneur distribution channell.
VisionSpring's largest country-operations in Bangladesh are conducted through a valuable partnership with BRAC, the world's largest non-governmental organization, and their extensive all-female network of Shastho Shebikas or community health workers in Bangladesh to sell eyeglasses utilizing Business in a Bag. "BRAC's deep local infrastructure helps us reach the rural poor, while VisionSpring's eyeglass sales provide critical additional income to BRAC's community health workers," said Elizabeth Kaplan, VisionSpring's Business Development Manager.
These are just a few examples of how VisionSpring has developed and scaled their program through local collaboration.
VisionSpring's impact continues to grow, new challenges are discovered and solutions are found. Many of these stories are chronicled on the VisionSpring blog.
Learn more about VisionSpring’s work.
The Leader to Leader Institute, established in 1990 as the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, furthers its mission by providing social sector leaders with the essential leadership wisdom, inspiration and resources to lead for innovation and to build vibrant social sector nonprofit organizations.
It is this essential social sector, in collaboration with its partners in the private and public sectors, that changes lives and builds a society of healthy children, strong families, decent housing, good schools, work that dignifies, all embraced by the diverse, inclusive, cohesive community that cares about all of its people.
November 23, 2010
Mission: To strengthen the leadership of the social sector
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