The Charity CEO Podcast


Ella Gudwin

CEO VisionSpring: Enabling a billion people to see!

"Creating One VisionSpring is anchored in what we do, so our mission and our social enterprise models, and its anchored in how we do it, and that is in the values that are at the heart of our teamwork… I cant emphasise enough how much values are critical to our success.”

Ella Gudwin is CEO of the social enterprise VisionSpring, which accelerates the uptake of eyeglasses among people who live on less than $4 a day. Under Ella's leadership, VisionSpring will correct the vision of 10 million low-income adults and children, unlocking $2.16 billion in income earning potential at the household level. 

Ella is a global health strategist with more than 20 years of experience. Her passions for social justice and economic development took root while living and working in Indonesia during the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the ensuing people power revolution. 

Prior to joining VisionSpring, Ella served as senior vice president of strategy and programme development at the global health and emergency response organization, AmeriCares. Ella has also led humanitarian operations as vice president of emergency response, and managed access to medicine and other health interventions in ten countries as director of Asia and Eurasia partnerships. Previously, Ella served as the head of foreign government and board relations at the Population Council, focused on reproductive health, youth, and poverty. 

Ella regularly speaks about hybrid business models that blend earned revenue with philanthropy; growing a purpose-driven business; and measuring social impact. She has shared views with audiences of NPR/PRI, Forbes, The Guardian, Fortune, Skoll World Forum, SoCap, Duke, MIT, Stanford, Princeton and Yale universities, and the Clinton Global Initiative among others. 

Ella earned a Masters degree in Emerging Market Economics and Southeast Asia studies from SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, and a Bachelors from Vassar College. Ella is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Ella and her daughter enjoy getting out of the city for walks in the woods.


Ep 40. Ella Gudwin, CEO VisionSpring:

Enabling a billion people to see!

There are over a billion people in the world who don’t have the eye-glasses they need. 

VisionSpring is a non-profit that provides affordable eyeglasses to people in need. The organisation aims to improve the lives of people, particularly in low income settings, by increasing access to eyeglasses. With partnerships in over 43 countries they are on a mission to make the wonder of clear vision possible for everyone.

Ella Gudwin is the CEO of VisionSpring. Under Ella’s leadership, VisionSpring has tripled its impact, selling over 10 million affordable eyeglasses in emerging and frontier markets.

Ella talks about how eyeglasses improve daily functioning, productivity and earning potential, creating a greater likelihood of a pathway out of poverty. We discuss hybrid business models, Board dynamics, mentoring and developing organisational values. Ella shares her insights on taking over from a Founder and what it means to have received a transformational $15m gift from Mackenzie Scott.

Recorded February 2023. 

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