Social Entrepreneurship Solution To Eliminate Preventable Blindness

The Role of Social Entrepreneurship To Achieve Global Goals

Social entrepreneurs combine best practices in entrepreneurship with a sense of social mission. Creative and innovative, social entrepreneurs are first and foremost dedicated to bettering lives and improving communities through sustainable social ventures. They step in where the market system has failed to provide for the poor, investing in the development and provision of basic amenities such as healthcare. They develop high-impact social interventions to lift communities out of poverty and, in Unite For Sight's case, to eliminate preventable blindness worldwide.

Developing Local Capacity

“I think true solutions to the world’s problems have to be envisioned and created locally, that is to say a social entrepreneur needs to spend some serious time living, breathing, researching and listening to the market they are trying to penetrate.  They also need to find significant local partners to suggest, refine and challenge solutions.  Western countries can absolutely offer ideas and certainly resources to make those solutions a reality, but I’d hate to see anyone in this new generation acting like the missionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries bringing “answers” to developing countries.” – Nell Edgington, President of Social Velocity(1)

Local problems demand local solutions. Unite For Sight partners with local eye clinics to identify community-specific barriers that impede effective eye care delivery, such as financial and logistical barriers, and overcome them by implementing sustainable systems of eye care.

Developing local capacity is essential to the success of a social venture. Unite For Sight’s programs are sustainable because emphasis is placed on developing existing local resources to meet local eye care needs over the long term. The local ophthalmologists and ophthalmic staff provide the local management and leadership.

(1) Edgington, Nell. "The Benevolent Energy of a New Generation." Social Velocity. 22 Apr 2009. Social Velocity. 21 Jul 2009 <http://www.socialvelocity.net/2009/04/the-benevolent-energy-of-a-new-generation/>.

High Impact Eye Care Delivery: Unite For Sight’s Social Entrepreneurship Model

Unite For Sight is not an eye clinic, nor does it create new eye clinics; rather, it is a partner to existing eye clinics. Prior to Unite For Sight’s support, the clinics lacked the resources to provide eye care to patients living in extreme poverty. Unite For Sight funds the surgical expenses for the poor patients and supports and develops the eye clinics’ outreach infrastructure.

Social entrepreneurship is at the core of Unite For Sight’s working philosophy. Our partner eye clinics are seasoned social entrepreneurs. Our partner eye doctors organize outreach teams that actively seek out patients in remote villages who would otherwise not have access to eye care. They collaborate with community leaders, governmental bodies and hospitals to bring high quality eye care to those living in extreme poverty.

Our partner eye clinics do not rely on funding provided by Unite For Sight. Instead, the eye clinics are economically functional, private businesses that also provide treatment to regular fee-paying customers. A portion of the revenue generated by the eye clinics from their regular business activity is used to run outreaches in poor communities, to pay for expenses such as vehicles, supplies for screening patients, fuel for outreach vehicles, and other miscellaneous items. As such, our partner eye clinics do not survive on charity, but thrive on their own sustainable business model. 

Social Entrepreneurship—Not Mere Charity—Is The Solution

Unlike traditional charity models, Unite For Sight does not distribute handouts. Rather, we want to help poor communities help themselves by giving them the necessary support. To eliminate preventable blindness, we assist local eye clinics with procuring equipment necessary to carry out sight-restoring surgeries, train local eye doctors, develop local job creation, and reach out to patients in rural areas. We are results-oriented, and we place a premium on social returns.

Unite For Sight is an investor in human potential, both in the talent of local eye clinic staff and in the patients receiving care. Restoring a patient’s eyesight reinstates their dignity and self-esteem. Returning to work after having their sight restored, the patient can now contribute to family income. Moreover, the patient's caretakers can also return to school and work.

“We often see very young people who are blind, many times younger than the age of 40. They become blind during their productive years; they could have been working and helping to contribute towards building wealth in the country. Instead, the blindness results in a financial loss to the nation because these people are not able to contribute to building the nation. We have therefore been trying to advocate to policy makers so that they understand that even though eye diseases do not kill, they do result in financial losses to the nation. We must see this as an emergency issue.” – Ghanaian Ophthalmologist Dr. Seth Wanye