James Chen: Moonshot philanthropy and providing access to affordable eye care


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James Chen has dedicated the last 20 years to addressing the issue of poor vision.


He founded Clearly, a global campaign to educate the public and world leaders and raise the profile of the issue — championing innovation and spreading best practices that help make sight tests and affordable glasses available to all, as well as connecting people committed to tackling this issue so we can all be a catalyst for change. 


As part of this work, James convinced 52 countries at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to pledge affordable eye care for all, created the first UN working group on poor vision and completed research which found glasses had the largest productivity increase of any other health intervention. 


He is creating a tipping point in how poor vision is viewed on the global health agenda, culminating in the unanimous UN ‘Vision for All by 2030’ resolution in the summer of 2021.


In this episode, James also explains his passion for moonshot philanthropy and why it’s important to think big, take calculated risks and, in his words, privatise failure and socialise success, whereby philanthropists absorb the costs when things don’t quite work out and they share with the wider world when interventions succeed.


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