Cataract is a problem facing very many people in India, with estimates pointing to the fact that over 70% of the 20 million blind people in India facing this problem. Dr Venkataswamy has improved the lives of thousands of people in India through eye surgery, which he performs free of charge. He has transformed the Avarind Eye Hospital to be a modern hospital of its kind in India, having a capacity of over 1200 beds by 1992, from the twenty bed capacity that it had in 1976. He has achieved this through support from his family, most of who work in various capacities around the hospital.
According to Kangan (2007), Dr Venkataswamy holds a medical degree, and previously served in the Army Corps. However, after developing arthritis, he was discharged from duty and spent over a year in a hospital in Madras. He fully recovered after a few years, and drew inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, who aimed at liberating humans through non-violent means. He subsequently started performing eye surgery and gradually rose in rank to be the head of the ophthalmology department in Erskine Hospital. Afterward, he founded the Avarind Eye Hospital, which is a non-profit hospital. With the help of many relatives, most of whom have trained in eye surgery in the US; he has managed to transform the previously small hospital to be one of the largest eye hospitals in India.
Opinion if Dr David Green and Dr. Venkataswamy are social entrepreneurs.
Social entrepreneurs are people who recognize social problems and use the principles of entrepreneurship to solve these problems. A social entrepreneur organizes, creates and manages ventures in order to facilitate social changes. It is important to note that there is a difference between social and business entrepreneurs. Business entrepreneurs view success of their ventures from the perspective of good performance, high returns and profits. Social entrepreneurs on the other hand view success from the point of view of positive social impacts which have positive effects on the community. Another difference between the two is that business entrepreneur’s work in the government and private sectors, while social entrepreneurs mostly work in citizen and non-profit groups.
In view of the above description of social entrepreneurs, it can be said that Dr David Green and Dr. V. are actually social entrepreneurs. This can be proved through analyzing two aspects; the aspects of cost, and the overall objective of their activities. In the first aspect, it is important to assess whether patients are charged for the services they receive, and if the two doctors practice what they do for profit objectives.
According to Kangan (2007), when Dr. Venkataswamy started the Avarind Hospital, he aimed at helping the many blind people in India who could not get access to surgery. He does not charge any fees for the surgeries to people who cannot afford to pay, and only charges the people who offer to pay. He identifies the people who are in need of eye surgery through free eye camps which are undertaken in regular intervals to screen and identify the people of need of eye surgeries. They are then transported to the eye hospital and operated on, after about three days. Subsequent follow up visits are performed after about three months and these are free of charge. The whole process of treatment is free and is aimed to help the blind people who cannot afford eye surgeries to get access to them free of charge. In view of the absence of the profit making motive, it can be said that these doctors are social entrepreneurs.
It is also important to analyze the overall objective of the doctors in order to tell whether they are business or social entrepreneurs. Business entrepreneurs perform their activities to make profits and view success of their ventures from the perspective of good performance, high returns and profits. Dr David Green and Dr. V. perform their activities with the aim of empowering the blind through treating their blindness. In fact, Dr. Venkataswamy’s dream is to get rid of blindness all over the world, and he is seeking a way of accomplishing this. When he makes this dream come true, he will have achieved his goal. This is consistent with a social entrepreneur who aims at solving social problems. Finally, the doctors operate with the support of citizen and non-profit groups, for instance when seeking to publicize the eye screening programs. This is also consistent with social entrepreneurs.
This is an international charitable organization which mainly operates in areas which have conflicts, disasters, instability and chronic poverty. It was founded in 1979 and to date; it has spent over $1.5 billion improving the lives of people who are in over 100 countries. According to the Mercy Corps website (2009), his major goal of this organization is to help people recover from economic collapse or conflict. Currently, it is one of the charitable organizations which are helping rebuild Gaza, after the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Mercy Corps is guided by its core values, which include belief in dignity, and the intrinsic value of human life. It also believes that people should not just exist, but they should thrive.
Mercy Corps achieves its goals through market driven and community led development and recovery, which is geared toward empowering people.
This is an organization which provides water filters to people in developing countries to enable them have access to clean drinking water. It is a company which manufacturers’ water filters among other products. The filters are very effective, since they remove 99.9% of waterborne viruses, parasites and bacteria, thereby making the water safe to drink. There are however a few weaknesses in their products including the fact that they are unable to destroy all organisms found in water, such as Giardia lamblia, and also the fact that it increases the levels of iodine, in users of these products. It is however important to note that this is a for-profit organization, though their products improve the livelihood of the people it sells the products to.
Comparison between the two organizations in relation to Aravind approach.
Aravind, Mercy Corps and Life straw share similar characteristics, in that they all aim to improve the lives of people who are suffering in one way or another. Aravind aims to empower the blind people through restoring their vision; Mercy Corps aims to empower the people who live in areas with conflicts, while Lifestraw aims at empowering the people who cannot access clean drinking water, by giving them a means of achieving their objective. However, Aravind and Mercy Corps share deeper traits since both are social entrepreneurship firms and they aim at empowering people without making profit. Lifestraw on the other hand is a for-profit organization which aims at making profits from the sale of life straws.
The Aravind and Mercy Corps approach can be said to be similar and superior to the Lifestraw approach. This is due to the reason that Lifestraw as a company is motivated by profits. In case a region is not profitable, the company does not venture into it. This means that it sometimes segregates the people who are in need, since only those who can afford the products have access to them. In addition to this, their products have certain weaknesses which have been discussed in the paper.
The Avarind approach in my opinion is the best approach, since it tackles individual cases, empowers the individuals involved, and makes follow ups on their progress. Due to the fact that blind people are given back eyesight, they are empowered to search for employment and be independent in carrying out their daily affairs. The follow up visits help to analyze whether the patient actually benefited from the operation and if they are healing. The Mercy Corps, though a noble idea, is a very large organization, which exposes it to certain weaknesses. For instance, due to bureaucracy, the necessary help may not reach the beneficiaries on time.
It is also difficult to measure the benefits of various projects to individuals, since the organization mostly deals with communities and groups. These problems can make beneficiaries of help from Mercy Corps become dependent on their help, rather than being empowered to be independent. Avarind can thus be said to rank highly in its continuum of success. It is slowly making the dream of its founder come true, though it has challenges tackling the high number of patients in India on its own.
Feasibility of a similar approach in the US.
This approach is very feasible in the US, in light of the high cost of health care. In addition to this, many US citizens are either under insured or do not have health insurance at all (Elkington and Hartigan, 2008). The approach is even likely to be more successful that India due to the many advantages that US has over India. There are more health care workers in proportion to the population than in India. This means that more patients would have access to treatment as compared to India. Another advantage that the US has over India is the accessibility of medical technology. This would enable such a program to be accessible over many hospitals, thereby increasing the umber of beneficiaries.
Since many of the largest multinationals, foundations and non-profit organizations are located or have branches in the US, such a program would have massive funding from these organizations. The non profit organizations would support it, while the profit organizations would also do it through their corporate social responsibility programs. This would ensure overall success in the program, and would lower cost for patients.
Summary and conclusion.
It has been seen that Dr Venkataswamy has improved the lives of thousands of blind people in India. He had a dream of providing surgery to the blind people all over the world and he is gradually realizing it. It is the responsibility of non-profit organizations to emulate this approach and provide similar treatments for other diseases and conditions which affect humanity. It is also the responsibility of the profit organizations, private sector and the government to fund these programs so that every human can be empowered to achieve his or her potential in life.
Elkington, J., Hartigan, P. (2008). The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Kangan, V. K. (2007). The Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai India: In Service for Sight. Harvard Business School. Retrieved on January 26, 2009 from ;http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu;.
Mercy Corps website. (2009). Mercy Corps: Be the change. Retrieved on January 26, 2009 from ;http://www.mercycorps.org/;.