VisionSpring & Warby Parker: A Clearer Vision

In my studies last week, I came across a non-profit organization that resonated with me as a group leading the type of change the world needs, and it reminded me that I hadn’t done a changemaker profile, since relaunching Mothering Humanity in May. This global social enterprise fits the bill as caring for humanity in a big way. The organization is VisionSpring.

According to VisionSpring’s website, Jordan Kassalow was 23 years old and on a “volunteer medical mission in the Yucatán Peninsula,” when the overwhelming need for eyeglasses for the poor and underprivileged became abundantly clear to him. In 2001, Kassalow founded the organization that later became VisionSpring, and to-date has helped in “changing millions of lives across the globe, one pair of glasses at a time.”

In addition to providing free eye exams, the organization offers ridiculously cheap eyeglasses for people around the globe who wouldn’t normally have access to optical services. As of this year, VisionSpring’s website boasts, “6.8 million glasses sold.” They also work with myriad entities around the globe training women and providing loans for them to start their own businesses providing eye care to their communities.

A decade after its founding, VisionSpring teamed up with the socially conscious company, Warby Parker, a carbon-neutral eyewear company that donates one pair of glasses to the VisionSpring mission for every customer-purchased eyewear.

CNBC offers a great in-depth spotlight on Warbly Parker and its founders Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal.

“We also want Warby Parker to influence the way business is done. If we can demonstrate that we can scale, be profitable, and do good in the world, without charging a premium for that, then hopefully that will influence the way that other executives and entrepreneurs run their businesses.”

-Neil Blumenthal, via interview with Lucy Handley, CSNBC

Although Warby Parker is a for-profit company, they have been hailed by Forbes, Inc.com, and more as a business with a conscience—focusing great attention and energy on their global impact and paving the way for other socially conscious businesses. Warby Parker claims, “Almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses, which means that 15% of the world’s population cannot effectively learn or work,” (Disruptor Awards) and they say their company and their partnership with VisionSpring is dedicated to changing that.

In my opinion, Warby Parker stands as a wonderful example of a business that doesn’t put profit over people.

When I first read about their partnership with VisionSpring in my marketing class, they were being hailed as innovators and marketing gurus, having basically invented on-line eyeglass shopping and creating an entire direct-to-consumer, e-commerce business that expertly deployed social media to interact with customers and adjust their business and operations models to fit client wants and needs. Their online engagement with customers via social media was a big factor in making their business a success, and fast.

It’s a marketing class and I’m a creative writing major, so basically what I really heard was, Blah, blah, blah… They care about customers and doing social good on a global level, and you can connect with them on Facebook. For some reason, it also brought the business model of TOMS shoes to mind. Brands that care. Brands that listen. Brands willing to take a chunk of their profits and give back to humanity. Essentially, brands that are changemakers.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise that paying attention to customers’ praise and complaints online and responding appropriately helps shape a successful business—but, apparently, many businesses haven’t caught on to this just yet. It also seems that companies taking social responsibility into account as part of their business model are faring better than others… So, hooray for that.

If Warby Parker is an example of the type of Millennial business—innovative, environmentally aware, customer responsive, and socially conscious—that we can look forward to in the future, then I’ll take my hat off to the generation that butts up against mine. As a matter of fact, I might even warm up to the label, or at least embrace “Xennial” fondly.

If you need a new pair of glasses and you’re trying to practice social distancing responsibly, Warby Parker is perfect. Check out their Facebook page for more info. They also just announced a refocus on “diversity, equity, and inclusivity” and a desire to combat systemic racism as part of their brand and business structure. What’s not to love about this socially woke company?!

According to the CNBC article, Blumenthal actually started under VisionSpring founder, Kassalow, as he built the pilot program that would eventually become VisionSpring, proving that great ideas of philanthropy and social awareness are contagious. Change inspires change!

Check out VisionSpring’s commitment to a better world in other areas such as equal employment (all the way up to their Leadership Team and Board of Directors), empowering women and girls (training women especially to perform eye exams in developing countries), offering women of color paid internship opportunities that include paid-travel for work, and their inspiring vision statement.

NOTE: I don’t receive any sponsorship on this blog whatsoever at this point in time. I’m simply highlighting these two organizations as part of my own learning process and in an effort to bring awareness to people who are putting humanity first and paving the way to a world in which I’d be happy to raise my children.

Luv&Hugs,

*Kristine*

Featured image courtesy of Binti Malu via Pexels.com

Millenial/Xennial image courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels.com

A Quality Connection

Like so many others, I found myself way down the rabbit hole of social media these past few weeks, thanks to various attention-grabbing topics.

It’s almost ironic that a month ago I was blogging about staying connected, and now I feel drawn to write a post about disconnecting.

After pondering further, I realized it’s not about disengaging entirely. As with anything in life, moderation is key. Social media, texting, and video calling are all wonderful ways to keep up to date on Framily—a mashup we lovingly use here at Mothering Humanity to mean friend, family, and those people who blur the lines and make life better.

Sometimes, however, our connection with the outside world is so powerful that we begin to ignore those within our own home. I found myself losing grip of my girls by hyper-focusing on world events. My heart was hurting for humanity, but I was forgetting about the tiny humans at my fingertips.

It’s hard to admit, but I was filling what little free time I had staring at a screen.

“Mommy, can you play with me?”

“I can’t. I’m busy.”

It had to stop. My girls needed some of the attention I was lending out to others, or should I say, “other things.” I wasn’t using the time to connect with Framily. I was reading articles, blogs, studies and op-eds on police brutality, racism, the black experience, white privilege, the coronavirus, plagues, vaccines, political movements, the Nordic model, the economy, you name it!

I was enjoying a week off, while between courses for my MFA, but I wasn’t spending it with the people who mean the most to me. It was time to take action!

I ditched the phone for a few days and my girls flourished. To begin with, we had a crazy-cool photo shoot in the woods and ice cream afterwards. As a family, we played in the pool and barbecued, while hanging out with the in-laws. My kids got to play with their cousins, roll around in the dirt, and pick flowers. We went to bed late, slept in, cuddled a ton, spent time playing, learning, coloring and connecting at home. We sang. We danced. We went out to eat with family. It was awesome!!

It was also a good reminder that mothering humanity begins with family. True change begins at home. I can only hope to influence my children if they trust our mother-daughter bond. A quality connection is key.

…It’s also a lot of fun.

Best,

*Kristine*

USCCB Calls for Stand Against Racism

When I first watched the video of George Floyd’s death, I was physically sickened. I cried as the life poured out of him, breath by breath. I didn’t know his criminal history. I didn’t even know why he was under the police officer’s knee. The only thing I knew, in my heart, was that this human being was having his life unjustly snuffed out before my very eyes like an animal and not a child of God by someone charged to protect and serve. George’s cry for his mother reverberated in my soul.

As a mother, I was angry. Instantly.

I took to my social media with a fury. I lashed out at the white community. It was loud and vengeful. Then, I lay silent for days, giving way to those who deserve more than I to be heard.

Looking back now, those first words written were not Christian. Although my post contained phrases like “as God intended” and “treat our neighbors as ourselves,” the rest of the mini-tirade was less than honorable. Still, it gave me needed insight into the rage that erupted from the black community. The actions of some were less than honorable–many more have died in the ensuing riots–but their anger is more than justifiable. It was heartening to see the world react with similar, yet peaceful outrage in support.

Today, I came across a YouTube video that contains a much better message than I could hope to put together. Since I’m still heartbroken and at a loss for the right words, I wanted to share it with all of you. Perhaps, it can bring you a bit of peace.

The Catholic Church has taken a clear stance on the unfolding events surrounding the death of George Floyd, and recognizes the pattern in American society at large. This message from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is beautiful, powerful, and clear.

I am proud to be Catholic. I stand with my church. I stand against racism.

Be the Change.

Kristine


If you’re interested to watch Pope Francis’ calming and heart-felt reaction to the death of George Floyd, the civil unrest in the U.S., and the evil of racism: watch this video from the Catholic News Service.

Women’s Unique Stress Response: Key to Change

You have probably heard of the survival instinct labeled “Fight-or-Flight.” It’s a natural, biological response for humans and animals in the face of danger. What if I told you, however, that women also have another innate biological response to danger that is not so well known?

According to a study from the University of California, Los Angeles, led by Shelley E. Taylor and published in the Psychological Review, women respond much differently than men in high-stress situations (411). This uniquely feminine response may explain a lot of our daily dealings with our children and others, and it is what Mothering Humanity believes positions women as the perfect change-makers in an imperfect world.

Our natural response, as women, to stressful situations is not to put up our dukes or run away scared. Women are not initially concerned with self-preservation. This may not be a surprise to many of you. So what is our response? What does our biology tell us to do?

Taylor and her colleagues say, women “Tend-and-Befriend.” (Click the link to see the full scholarly article, courtesy of Harvard University’s online archives.)

At first glance, you might notice the word ‘and’ in our natural response versus the ‘or’ in fight-or-flight. As women, our response to stress is two-fold.

Not only does our mothering instinct kick in and we tend to those around us, but we seek to befriend in an effort to reduce risk.

Instead of battle, women look to peace. Instead of creating enemies and opposite sides, women seek alliances and nurture interconnectedness. Pointing to this distinct biological difference as part of the backbone of Mothering Humanity may seem divisive or counterintuitive (women vs. men)—the exact opposite of tend-and-befriend—but I whole-heartedly believe in you.

As the founder of Mothering Humanity, I believe women can bring out the best in all those around us and raise the next generation of peacemakers. This is an opportunity to embrace our biological difference and harness it to build a better tomorrow.

In addition to creating a beautiful and powerful web of women alliances, let us extend our tending and befriending tendencies to our partners, co-workers, community members, and online connections. Together, we can become the change!

In the true spirit of tending, I will continue to post helpful content here at Mothering Humanity, including more on this very important study, where I will break down both aspects of this theory and discuss how we can and are putting it to work in the world.

I hope that befriending all of you will be a natural result of our time spent together here and on Facebook, cultivating relationships and creating change within our own spheres of influence.

If you can’t wait to continue this discussion with Mothering Humanity and your curiosity is begging you to dive deeper into this topic right this instant, here are some helpful links: