VisionSpring, an international social enterprise, was founded in 2001 with a mission to broaden access to affordable eyewear everywhere. They establish market access to eyeglasses and vision correction for people living in poverty so that they may enhance their livelihoods, learning, and quality of life. To date, VisionSpring has sold nearly three million pairs of glasses to low income consumers living in emerging and frontier markets, and is working to reach 10 million pairs by the symbolic year 2020.
As a social enterprise, social change motivates us first. Their focus on sales and revenue targets serves and advances their mission objective – to correct refractive error with eyeglasses so that low income consumers may experience improved functioning, productivity and income earning potential on a sustained basis. They are working to transform the systemic dysfunction of the optical market which has failed to deliver a 700 year old technology to 644 million consumers who earn less than $4 a day.
They serve low income consumers not as beneficiaries but as customers. Their customers expect a high quality, affordable product and are willing to spend limited discretionary income for the immediate and tangible benefits of vision correction. By selling glasses they awaken new demand and seed a viable market. By selling new eyeglasses they are able to serve four times as many people per dollar input than the next alternative of donating recycled ones . To efficiently scale, they must deliver each new unit with less cost.
Organizationally, they are a hybrid. They are a registered 501(c)3 non-profit and a Private Limited Company (PLC). They earn revenue and supplement it with contributed income. They hire change makers and pay bonuses and commissions. They run their business on both sales metrics and social impact measures. They exploit a range of organizational forms and practices to get the job done.