Privatizing failure, socializing success


Liz Gillies


Day one of the 2019 AVPN Conference opened with a brilliant opening keynote from James Chen, Founder of Clearly, a global campaign which aims to bring clear vision to 2.5 billion people as quickly as possible.

‘Privatizing failure, socializing success’ was the take-away of day one – an inspiring example of philanthropy’s power to dream big and build catalytic philanthropic platforms for global change. James preparedness to construct spaces in which to experiment and learn from mistakes and then use those insights to pivot the strategy was a great articulation of the power of philanthropy and the importance of understanding how to think about risk to drive social change.

James underscored the power of asking evaluation questions to support strategy. A 22 per cent increase in the productivity of tea pickers because of improved vision is a compelling pillar around which to build corporate engagement for an audacious social goal and an excellent example of the importance of taking account of the motivations and drivers of those required to bring the resources and networks to make change happen on the ground.

I was also struck by James considerable ability to communicate the complexity of impact in simple terms. His statement that he plans to support those 2.5 billion people before Elon Musk gets to Mars was a stake in the ground – an unforgettable and compelling way to suggest the absurdity of prioritising space travel ahead of the livelihoods of billions people across the globe who struggle because of a lack of access to eyewear. Whilst at the same time – a time horizon which was galvanizing and created a sense of urgency and a compulsion to act. The power of the message and its ability to cut through the rhetoric should never be underestimated.

James and Clearly seemed to offer all the best of Collective Impact 3.0 in one powerful package – he has created a movement building platform, articulated a clear community goal, is leveraging the power of strategic learning, focuses on high leverage activities, priorities building an inclusive community and provides the fulcrum for this endeavor by holding the container for change – all essential elements of impact.

Thought provoking, inspiring – a master class in best practice.

Liz Gillies is CEO Menzies Foundation

Tagged in: AVPN

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