Designing for Transformative Scale: Global Lessons in What Works
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.