VisionServe Alliance: Working to De-Silo the Vision Services Field

VisionServe Alliance logo

Earlier this month, Council Executive Director Denise Jess traveled to Kansas City to attend the VisionServe Alliance’s (VSA) 2024 Executive Leadership Conference. The Council has been a member of the VSA for around a decade, and they are an invaluable partner in our mission.

VSA is a membership group formed over 30 years ago to help connect organizations across the continent that serve people with vision loss. “VSA has really emerged as an important hub for those working in our field,” says Denise, who serves on VSA’s Board of Directors. “It’s playing a big role in breaking down silos that have separated us in the past and helping members recognize how much we have in common.”

VSA doesn’t directly interact with people with vision loss. Instead, they provide tools and resources that organizations like the Council can use to work more effectively and make a positive impact on people’s lives.

One of the biggest ways VSA supports groups like the Council is by connecting them with other organizations both within and adjacent to the vision services field. That includes agencies that focus on aging, which helps the Council get information on important issues in front of a wider audience—one that includes a large and growing number of people dealing with changing vision.

VSA is also leading the way in compiling data about the vision loss community. While the Council can share many stories about people with vision loss, VSA’s Big Data Project provides concrete numbers on the demographics of vision loss in Wisconsin.

This data has been incredibly valuable in informing and supporting the Council’s advocacy work; we rely on it constantly to bring key issues and recommended policy changes to the attention of lawmakers and administrative leaders. “We can now couple a really moving story with persuasive data. That’s a powerful combination when dealing with the public policy sector,” Denise says.

VSA is different from some of the better-known organizations for the visually impaired, such as the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind. While those groups work more with the consumer side of vision services, VSA focuses on supporting the organizations that are providing services. They work to refine the vision services skills taught by organizations like the Council and further professionalize the field through research and evidence-based practices.

One of the biggest benefits of being a part of VSA, Denise says, is the collaboration among member organizations. “While I can talk with executive directors of other types of nonprofits about the areas we have in common, there are just so many ways in which what we do is unique. Having a network of peers in the same field is extremely valuable.”

VSA also helps organizations like the Council find new ways to advance their valuable work in the community, escaping “comfort zones” that limit our impact. It exposes the Council to a variety of ideas on everything from fundraising to the services we provide. “Being a VSA member challenges us to break down those silos and gives us new things to think about and work towards, which is incredibly important to the sustainability of our field,” Denise says. “We are better together than we are siloed.”

You can learn more about the VisionServe Alliance on their website.

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