De­sign­ing for Trans­for­ma­tive Scale: Global Lessons in What Works

Rotman Management Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeri Eck­hart-queenan, Abe Grindle, Jac­que­lyn Hadley and Roger Thompson

The mag­ni­tude of the so­cial prob­lems we are fac­ing re­quires

in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions suit­able for mas­sive de­ploy­ment.

was a blind seven-yearPATIENT ZERO FOR DR. JOR­DAN KASSALOW old Mex­i­can boy who, upon ex­am­i­na­tion, wasn’t ac­tu­ally blind: he just needed pow­er­ful pre­scrip­tion glasses. “I watched as the blank stare of a blind per­son trans­formed into an ex­pres­sion of unadul­ter­ated joy,” says Kassalow. “I was wit­ness­ing some­one see­ing his world for the first time. This was a defin­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in my life. I de­cided then and there that if I could repli­cate that mo­ment 1,000 times over, I would have led a mean­ing­ful life.”

When the time came for Kassalow to act on that in­spi­ra­tion, he aimed much higher. In 2001, he founded Vi­sion­spring, a non-profit ded­i­cated to bring­ing eye­glasses to the es­ti­mated 700 mil­lion peo­ple — most in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries — who can’t af­ford or don’t have ac­cess to cor­rec­tive eyewear. The or­ga­ni­za­tion quickly took root and thrived. To date, Vi­sion­spring has sold more than 2.2 mil­lion pairs of glasses in 26 coun­tries in Latin Amer­ica, Africa and Asia. But Kassalow, Vi­sion­spring’s co-chair, isn’t even re­motely sat­is­fied.

“Although our sales vol­ume has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally, when mea­sured against the 700 mil­lion peo­ple who need but don’t own eye­glasses, our achieve­ments haven’t made a dent,” Kassalow wrote in Stan­ford So­cial In­no­va­tion Re­view. “What will it take for us to achieve trans­for­ma­tive scale — a 10-fold, 100fold, or even 1,000-fold in­crease in sales — and in­spire oth­ers to do the same?”

Kassalow isn’t alone in his quest to dra­mat­i­cally scale the im­pact — not the size — of a suc­cess­ful so­cial en­ter­prise. A grow­ing num­ber of so­cial sec­tor lead­ers around the globe — in­clud­ing im­pact in­vestors and non-profit board mem­bers — have their sights set on the same goal. For them, the old def­i­ni­tion of suc­cess — of­ten fo­cused on repli­cat­ing a pro­gram site-by-site — aimed too low when com­pared to to­tal need. Now, Kassalow and oth­ers want to take im­pact to a new level. They want to achieve re­sults that are com­men­su­rate with the tremen­dous needs that ex­ist. The goal: im­pact at a truly trans­for­ma­tive scale.

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