The First Community Pro-Bono Drive — Why and How to Take Part

Next week, we at Tribe Eyeworks will be doing our very first Community Pro-Bono drive.  It is the culmination of a goal we’ve had since our inception. Nothing would mean more to us than to have the kind of community buy-in we’ve had for other parts of our model. It is our hope that monthly community drives like this will be an ongoing event. If together we are able to pull that off, it will go a long way towards proving our grand mission: that there is a much better way to deliver healthcare. 

Healthcare has been in the news a lot lately, for good reason. Policy debates are not our  forte, mostly because we have no shortage of people doing the talking. What we lack to a shocking level are any real-world examples of what systemic change actually looks like, on the ground in a real doctor’s office. 

That is where the change has been most evident over the decades — in the collapse of the community doctor’s office. Over time, they have grown to be seen as places that you go only when necessary, as shrewd but skilled profit-centers. Most of them are gone, absorbed by behemoth hospital networks. On the ground as doctors, we are not seen as assets to the community, open to all. We have “networks”, packed schedules, and legions of support staff. A recent study found that over 90% of bills sent from hospitals or provider offices contain the words “sent to collections” on them somewhere, even the first bill sent in many cases. This is what our system has become. 

That is why “Concierge Medicine” is an emerging trend.

In our case at Tribe, we start with the premise that glasses are not luxury items to the vast majority of people — they are a necessity. And if healthcare is a fundamental human right, then surely seeing the world around you clearly is a pillar of that right. Sight is therefore a human right. Sometimes our discourse fails to understand what “healthcare is a right” really means, in its final delivery. 

What makes our approach in providing for that right so different is this: Our pro-bono drive is free. Actually free. That has never been done before, as best we can tell. 

In other words, Medicaid will not be paying us anything. We will surely lose money on the whole with the drive, and that is totally fine by us. Just like with anything else at Tribe, it really is as simple as it sounds. If you have a Medicaid card, you’ll be seen without us getting any compensation, from the state or otherwise. We will then make you a brand new pair of glasses for free, off of our “donation wall”. Anyone can get their name on the wall by bringing us used frames (to be donated to the developing world), by making any regular glasses purchase, or by buying their contact lenses through us. Each one of these will mean a new pair of glasses to someone in our community that needs them. 

There is a lot of debate on healthcare and what needs to change. For us, the first thing that needs to change is that the doctor’s office has to be restored to a community asset. If we fail there, we fail everywhere. 

We are called Tribe Eyeworks because we are in this together, whether we realize it or not.  Our mission is not just to further disrupt the glasses market. That is only the tip of the iceberg, and others are already doing it. No, we are trying to disrupt the entire delivery system of healthcare. We aren’t giving away free care and glasses only because it is the right thing to do — we are doing it to prove that with a different model, a doctor’s office actually can give things away and still be prosperous — partially because the community knows that they are there to be an asset to all. 

A task like that will truly take a village. 




In our next post: “The Three E’s: What a different healthcare ethos looks like.”