Last year, on November 15, the United Nations celebrated the "Day of 8 Billion " – the date the world's population was projected to reach eight billion people. According to an article from NPR, “The story behind the world’s eight billion population today is really a story of triumph.” The author suggests that the milestone is “a mark of progress in medicine and health systems. It also shows improvement in education and overall development.”
As we consider what this milestone means for our work towards good vision for all, we can assume that increasing populations may bring more resources and solutions to the issue of poor vision. However, at the same time, there will be a much larger mandate to create awareness, access and services to reach the increased population beyond the 2.7 billion people that currently need vision care services and do not yet have them.
At the start of this new year, our approach must remain steadfast – we must work with collective action.
The African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,” is one that’s often used to encourage people to work together. Its essence lies in inspiring a sense of collective impact over the long term to reach a solution for any number of problems.
In our role as advocates for good vision, it is clear that we have a common goal – to eliminate poor vision in a generation. But how do we “go together” when we are working in different countries with different goals and skill sets?
Deepa Iyer, a writer and lawyer who has worked in nonprofit and movement spaces for over 20 years has created the Social Change Ecosystem framework that has application as we make sense of what collective action and impact means for us in 2023.
Her framework identifies a number of roles that people and organizations exhibit when they are participating in social change movements, or organizing collectively to advance a cause. She suggests that any movement for change needs a group of people or organizations who play one or more of these roles:
Iyer says, “The framework offers possibilities for various types of ecosystems to collaborate, rather than to be in competition with one another. It invites us to think about social change through the lens of solidarity. We are often forced into silos when we do social change work — and that really is the antithesis of collective impact.”
As vision advocates, this outlines a way for individuals and organizations to work within our own strengths while partnering with those in roles or organizations that can complement our work and impact. Our individual skills and work are valuable, yet identifying those people or organizations with complementary skills allows us to “go far.”
Realizing we are both individuals and part of a larger movement, this approach:
- Requires us to understand our current role. No doubt each of our organizations has multiple roles to play. Perhaps we are Experimenters, concepting new access points for vision care and Builders, developing the system for delivery. We may be Storytellers, creating awareness on the impact of poor vision and also Weavers, helping others understand how the issue of poor vision is linked to other issues like education, gender equity and road safety.
- Gives us insight into strategic partnerships. Knowing our role within this framework also allows us to create partnerships and collaborations with organizations that lend themselves to achieving like goals. While an organization’s strength may be establishing the vision, operational resources may not be available to execute on that vision. In this case, an Implementer or an organization that can turn ideas into solutions would be critical to ensure the highest level of success is achieved.
- Allows us to better understand the vision ecosystem. As we assess our role in the vision ecosystem, we must determine if we are individually trying to play all the roles. Additionally, we may be attempting to play the same roles over and over again with minimal impact. An ecosystem with a great number of Visionaries that lacks a comparable number of Implementers may not be sustainable enough to ensure the scale up of services we need to create a world where everyone can see well.
The good news is there is much work still to be done, and there is a role for everyone to play as we tackle this issue. As the proverb suggests, there is a way for us to go far by going together to reach that single baby born as the 8th billionth human on the planet and everyone beyond.
What role will you play in 2023?