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April 30, 2018

Giving out Glasses in Southwest China

China Development Brief Interviews Education in Sight

China Development Brief (CDB) recently posted an interview with the co-founder of Education in Sight, a social enterprise that provides access to eye exams and eyeglasses to children in Yunnan province. Though Education in Sight is not registered as a foreign NGO in China, its work and decision-making process, as described in the interview, are still quite relevant for international groups working there. Co-founder Andrew Shirman discusses the key practical problems in rural service provision (affordability, access, and social awareness), the reason to switch from a purely non-profit model to a social enterprise model, and the doors that can open when county- and prefectural-level governments take an interest in a particular project.

Shirman also explains his thinking about being a domestic versus a foreign organization:

We are in the process of registering our own local charity in Yunnan, but meanwhile we partner with organizations like the China Children and Teenagers Foundation and the Asia Academy of Philanthropy, and it’s through them and their connections, and honestly their generosity, that we’ve been able to run our programs in China. The goal for China is this: even though I am a foreigner, and I was the person who started things up, I don’t want to get in the way of Education in Sight’s growth, so everything in the future is building towards it becoming a wholly Chinese-owned organization. I think if you are going to do meaningful, impactful, and long-term charity work in China, the best people to lead are Chinese people. They will have a better understanding than I ever will.

The full interview is available on CDB’s website.

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