Innovation series gathers stories of some of the most innovative social businesses around the world that work with the dual aim of profit and impact. Businesses committed to doing good stand out from the crowd because most customers feel good about supporting socially proactive companies. They also achieve a boost in productivity since employees who know their work tangibly affects the lives of others are more likely to go above and beyond. It is hoped that the series will impart useful knowledge for greater institutional support for activities with social innovation impact. Read about SEV’s new investor-led initiative – a social venture builder.
Social business: Samasource
by Joanne Willemin & Yusuf Jaffar
One of the biggest challenges this world faces is finding economically sustainable ways for inclusion of the poorest. Many a company that outsource parts of their activities to developing countries may think they help local economies through gainful employment. Yet with the traditional way of outsourcing, the flow of money is directed almost exclusively toward the middle class population, while the most marginalised communities remain on the sidelines.
Innovation to emulate
Giving jobs to people living in slums was the challenge Leila Janah set out to solve when she created Samasource in 2008. She established a principle of “Impact Outsourcing”, a way of giving basic training and work to slum dwellers to integrate them into the mainstream economy.
Samasource originally was a provider of data entry services. Today it offers a variety of different digital services to companies of all sizes around the world. The two principal categories of services are:
i. Microwork: where bigger projects are divided into smaller tasks to enable more Samasource workers to obtain paid work, with the latter ranging from image, machine learning, data verification to content and voice services.
ii. SamaHub: where companies are assisted in management of their large data projects, through task workflow, distribution, quality control, and project-based training.
Aside from basic skills training, Samasource also conducts educational programs to promote the workers’ future professional development, provides funding for entrepreneurial activities as well as mentoring support.
Impact to date
Since its creation almost ten years ago, Samasource has employed more than 8,000 workers, impacting the lives of more than 34,000 people. By working with Samasource, the beneficiaries increase their income on average from $2 a day to $8, which helps them gain access to safer housing, better food and education, as well as both preventative and emergency healthcare.
Because this is money earned through an employment contract, it is sustainable. For most, Samasource is their first full-time job; encouragingly, 84% of workers continue to work, mostly in technology-related fields, or decide to pursue education after they leave Samasource.
Samasource prides itself in the quality of work it provides and hence has been used as a platform for international outsourcing by a number of renowned companies such as GettyImages, Walmart, Ebay, Google, TripAdvisor and Yahoo. These businesses recognise the added benefit of doing good that they get when engaging Samasource.
Financially, Samasource has been supported, among others, by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Peery Foundation. In 2015, the company was still partially reliant on grant money but with the expectation of full sustainability in 2016.