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Social Capitalists: Scojo Foundation

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

Scojo Foundation

Graham MacMillan, senior director
New York, New York
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As we age, almost all of us will lose our ability to see up close. But for more than 700 million people living in poverty who don't have access to reading glasses, the loss of near vision can mean the loss of their ability to earn an income for themselves and their families. Tailors, electricians, goldsmiths, and others’ precarious working lives depend on their ability to see up close; not having reading glasses means they can’t see to work, with disastrous economic consequences for families already living on the edge. A pair of low-cost reading glasses, long available in every drugstore in the United States, can restore their vision, productivity, and dignity. Yet this simple, life-changing product has not yet made its way to those living on the margins of society.

Scojo Foundation, a non-profit social enterprise, reduces poverty and generates opportunity through the sale of affordable reading glasses. Scojo Vision Entrepreneurs are low-income men and women living in rural villages who are trained to conduct vision screenings within their communities, sell affordable reading glasses, and refer those who require advanced eye care to reputable clinics. Each Scojo Vision Entrepreneur receives his or her own "Business in a Bag," a sales kit containing all the products and materials needed for vision screening, sales, data collection, and marketing, and gets ongoing support from staff. With blueprints for success, Scojo Vision Entrepreneurs run profitable businesses, earning more than twice their previous daily income on each pair of glasses sold. And with a new pair of low-cost glasses, their customers are able to double their productivity.

To rapidly reach scale, Scojo Foundation has developed a franchise model to empower partner organizations to plug Scojo's Vision Entrepreneur model into their existing operations, thus reducing the burden of building new, costly infrastructure and speeding up the amount of time it takes to launch in a new location. Scojo Foundation provides the tools, knowledge, products, and support for franchise partners to implement Scojo microfranchises within their existing operations, adding both profit and social value to established programs. Scojo Foundation currently works with nearly 30 franchise partners, from small NGOs to large multi-national corporations, in India, Bangladesh, Ghana, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Paraguay. Current partners include Development Alternatives, Drishtee, and Vedanta Resources in India; BRAC in Bangladesh; PSI and Freedom from Hunger in Africa; and New Development Solutions and Fundación Paraguaya in Latin America.

In just 6 years, Scojo Foundation and its partners have sold nearly 90,000 pairs of reading glasses, trained over 1000 Vision Entrepreneurs, and referred over 80,000 people for advanced eye care in 9 countries. As participants in the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative, Scojo Foundation committed to more than tripling its impact over the next three years, prompting President Clinton to remark that Scojo Foundation’s work will "help hundreds of thousands of people and in the process create a whole new sector of the economy."

Visionary social entrepreneurship requires visionary support. Scojo Foundation's model is designed to leverage donations through market-based, self-perpetuating solutions to poverty and poor sight. To help launch the next generation of entrepreneurs in the developing world and provide the world's poorest customers with the tools they need to see and work, please visit: our web site.