Altruism and optics have often gone hand in hand and the band of people looking to solve global vision issues continues to grow, but is it time to go back to basics?

The quantity of charitable and pro bono work that goes on is a credit to the profession. Practices and professionals have always been very active with organisations such as Vision Aid Overseas, OGS and SeeAbility.

More recently fundraising, for cash, has become the primary focus, politics has also taken its toll on the sector. Old specs were once collected, focimetered by prisoners and marked up for re-use in needy areas. This has fallen foul of modern sensibilities with the emphasis shifted to train and build centres based on a business model rather than dole our free, second hand specs to grateful recipients.

Leaving the specific charities above, and the current charity scandals, it’s fair to say the sector is having a tough time solving visual impairment.

Away from optics there is a growing school of thought that some charities have become too corporatised. They have CEOs on City-level salaries and employees who have little contact with the people they are there to help.

Out of the box thinking is also taking place as demonstrated by James Chen in his book Clearly (read our review). The scope of the new ideas in his book is as breathtaking as the scale of the problem: 2.5 billion people’s lives virtually laid to waste for want of a pair of spectacles. It can make for uncomfortable reading. Spectacles, a 700-year-old invention that can cost pennies to make, are denied to a third of the world’s population. Chen advocates smashing the cabal of business and political interests that runs global optics.

Elsewhere Nimesh Popat took an old-fashioned face to face approach to helping others. See how that panned out in our report here.