Children’s Eye Care for VisionSpring

A scalable system for providing vision exams and eyeglasses to families in poor, remote communities

VisionSpring, a New York-based social enterprise with operations throughout the developing world, supplies tens of thousands of people with affordable eyeglasses—and creates sustainable jobs in the process. Historically, its clients have been older adults who need glasses in order to continue their work as tailors, jewelers, farmers, and more. But a recent grant from USAID enabled VisionSpring to broaden its scope to serve children and adolescents, too.

VisionSpring approached IDEO, which had additional financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation, for its expertise in human-centered design and its experience with social-impact projects in India. The team’s objective was three-fold: develop a scalable system for providing affordable, comprehensive eye care to families; assist VisionSpring personnel in learning the principles of human-centered design (HCD); and experiment with a new mode of client engagement.

Although VisionSpring understood adults in Base of the Pyramid markets in India and their needs related to eye care, the organization was less familiar with the specific needs and concerns of children and adolescents. Working with IDEO—which in the process created standard tools for HCD teaching and coaching—VisionSpring identified its goals, established a framework for a human-centered approach to reaching them, and conducted field research. The latter included working with VisionSpring to observe and interview teachers, students, and authority figures in several remote villages.

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Project date: 2009

Facts & Figures

As of September 2010, in India, VisionSpring has conducted 29 eye camps for children, screened 11,000 children, provided transportation to the local eye hospital for 320 children, and provided glasses for 187 children.