At a time when even tech giants such as Dell are downsizing because of the weak business environment, a U.S.-based company that logged a 400 per cent increase in sales bookings during the past 12 months is certainly impressive and truly blessed. Samasource is a leading provider of data and content services. Its clients include Google, Walmart, eBay, the University of California San Francisco and Getty Images. The numbers are expected to go up as CEO Leila Janah projects a triple-digit growth for 2013, bolstered no doubt by a 97 per cent client retention rate.
Governments and humanitarian groups are start to recognize that treating refugees as passive recipients of aid is both out-dated and – considering dwindling donor support – unsustainable. They are increasingly turning to an alternative model that focuses on supporting refugees’ untapped potential for innovation and self-reliance.
When entrepreneur Leila Janah talks about her philosophy for life, she quotes Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues – inspiring for a technology-driven life, much less the founder and CEO of Samasource, a social “microwork” business with a philanthropic bent. No one had really heard of “microwork” until the Harvard grad coined the term in 2008 during her talk at TEDx (the nonprofit Technology, Entertainment, Design) in Brussels. “If outsourcing was generating billions of dollars for a few rich guys in India and China, why couldn’t the same model create a few dollars for billions of people in poor countries?” she asked.
What’s the best way to help the world’s poor? The answer may not be giving them more aid. What people need to break the cycle of poverty is work. A small but growing industry known as “impact sourcing” is addressing that need head-on by hiring people at the bottom of the pyramid to perform digital tasks such as transcribing audio files and editing product databases. Essentially, it’s business process outsourcing aimed at boosting economic development.