PARK RIDGE, Illinois – Too often in the past, efforts to aid development have depended on short-term charitable intervention. While the intentions behind this are admirable, charity can be an unsustainable venture that breeds dependency, and act as a band-aid rather than a solution.
As many successful organizations have found, the key to large scale social change is in innovative thinking and social entrepreneurship – what is known by some as “capitalism with a conscience.” Using a successful business, social entrepreneurs funnel the gains from that business into social change. The most famous example of a social entrepreneur would be Bill Gates, though there are many smaller innovators who are nonetheless making significant social change.
One of these is David Green, who focuses on providing affordable healthcare solutions. He has already launched successful programs, the most notable of which provided millions of cataract patients with hundred dollar lenses for as little as $2.
Now Green is focusing on creating hearing aids. With the company Sound World Solutions, Green hopes to provide high quality hearing aids for a fraction of the cost. Instead of using funding for private research and development, which can drive up the cost of hearing aids enormously, Green and Sound World are using pre-existing Bluetooth technology to create a device that helps those with hearing loss adjust their hearing aids to a level suitable to them.
With the price tag of decent hearing aids now around $4,000, this is welcome news to many who suffer from hearing loss. Though it is not often spoken of, hearing loss can be a devastating social problem which can be damaging to an individual’s mental health. The WHO estimates that around 120 million people have hearing loss severe enough to be determined a disability, but the cost of hearing aids is too high for the majority of sufferers. While sales for hearing aids reach around 5 million units per year, the estimated need for them is closer to fifty to seventy million per year.
Green’s industry is one that offers rich rewards to those who have the knack for it, which he clearly does. He could be making millions in a given year but instead accepts a few hundred thousand. Explains Green, “When I think of Aurolab, I think they have helped something like 18 million people see to date. And so that’s what I have. And of course that’s something I really can’t put in my pocket, but maybe from a karmic point of view, that’s money in the bank.”
– Farahnaz Mohammed
Source: NPR, Ashoka
Photo: The Telegraph