Shape Your Future with Jordan Kassalow

Jordan Kassalow is the founder of VisionSpring, an organization with the goal of bringing affordable quality glasses to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who need them. He also co-founded EYElliance, a multi-sector coalition that drives the global strategy to increase access to eyeglasses at scale.

Kassalow launched Global Health program at the Council on Foreign Relations to help meet the health challenges that arise in a globalized world with geopolitical tensions. He has been named to Forbes’ Impact 30 list and is a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurship awardee.

He recently took the time to sit down and answer questions about VisionSpring and what he is doing to shape his future.

As a young person, what experiences or people inspired you to pursue a career in helping others?

Jordan Kassalow: One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain, who said that “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  For me, that day was the day I met Raul, a 7-year-old boy who everyone thought was blind.

It turned out that all that boy needed was a really strong pair of eyeglasses. The moment I put the glasses on his face, I felt that both of our lives changed! That moment was the inspiration for VisionSpring, an organization I founded to provide affordable eyeglasses to everyone.   

How is the lack of affordable eye care in the developing world connected to economic performance?

J. K.: Research clearly shows that poor vision has a negative impact on your productivity. In a recent study, published in Lancet Global Health and co-authored by VisionSpring, it was determined that tea pickers in Assam, India, who had their vision corrected with eyeglasses, experienced a 21% increase in productivity. For tea pickers over the age of 50, productivity increased by 32%! What other intervention that cost less than $1 can improve productivity by more than 30%?

In the picture: Jordan Kassalow speaking abut “Dare to Matter” his latest book, Photo Credit: Twitter

What advice would you give to young people today looking to make a difference?

J. K.: First, find an injustice that makes you mad, something that moves your heart. Once you find that, get close to the problem and meet the people who suffer from that injustice or inequity. Learn about how it impacts their lives, the context for why the problem exists, the systems that are in place and that are making the problem intractable. Then start to act and figure out ways to right the wrong, figure out who your allies will be in solving the problem and bring them on board. Nike says, “Just Do It.”  I say, “Just Act.”

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Could you tell us a little bit about your recent book?

J. K.: The title of the book is “Dare to Matter: Your Path to Making a Difference Now.”  It talks about how we have two fundamental drives. One is to take care of ourselves, our families and have a nice life. The other is to live for something bigger than ourselves, so we leave the world a better place because we are in it. The book discusses how to integrate these two fundamental drives into one life to ensure our life is whole and meaningful.

In relation to our Shape Your Future video series, I would like to ask you one more question – the question to top all others and guide all of us:

“How do you shape your future?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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