Impact Sourcing Creates Jobs and Advances CSR in Africa

Leila Janah (right) is founder of Samasource, an Impact Sourcing Service Provider

By Dave Haft, Founder, Impact Hub

Africa will soon have the largest workforce on earth, but its economy isn’t creating jobs fast enough to meet a growing labor supply. Despite decades of development, few solutions have delivered job creation at scale.

However, as our industries advance from analog to digital, there’s plenty of work to go around. This is the principal tenet of impact sourcing – bringing traditional outsourced work to disadvantaged communities:

By tapping into the global outsourcing market worth about $500 billion, impact sourcing leverages the power of business to create livelihoods. There is plenty of digital work to be done: entering data, online research, tagging videos, managing content and so on. Impact sourcing brings this work to economically depressed areas, utilizing talented women, youth and the disabled, so they can earn a living wage.

While trying to grow, social enterprises are often held back by time-consuming digital tasks. If socially-minded businesses embrace impact sourcing, it has the potential to shift the public’s perception of “outsourcing” and lift people out of poverty. Shouldn’t highly-skilled, inquisitive people avoid work that doesn’t directly contribute to their personal growth?

In much of sub-Saharan Africa, men are twice as likely to access the Internet as women. The impact sourcing service providers we’ve talked to have made a commitment to hiring a greater share of women than your typical local business. According to this groundbreaking report, a global effort to close the Internet gender-gap could improve education for nearly 500 million people within three years.

The Rockefeller Foundation just announced a significant commitment to impact sourcing with their new Digital Jobs Africa campaign. The Foundation aims to impact 1 million lives across six countries. They promise to “work in close partnership with other stakeholders…leverage significant funds and align complementary programs in order to achieve the impact goal.”

This holistic approach is a breath of fresh air. Historically, organizations involved with impact sourcing have focused on developing the labor supply – without much consideration for growing the demand for that supply. To grow impact sourcing – and create jobs – we need to accelerate deal flow to service providers.

Impact sourcing service providers are social enterprises that hire, train and invest in impact sourcing workers. They need more contracts, more customer relationships and international marketing to deliver more social impact. Expanded sales and marketing initiatives could emphasize the business case for impact sourcing and attract more international customers. Businesses in the United States and Europe need to buy into these services – local African businesses won’t be enough.

Donors (including the Rockefeller Foundation) help service providers cover the costs to address the challenges that impact sourcing service providers face, such as dealing with inexperienced workers. If a service provider receives donor support, we say that they’re “interim supported,” since they’re provided a boost to train staff and build out their delivery infrastructure. To date, this has left service providers to fend for themselves when it comes to customer acquisition.

If your company is socially-minded and you have digital tasks to outsource, wouldn’t you choose a provider that helps you deliver on your commitment to a more equitable world? These days, it’s difficult to find high quality business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, let alone an impact sourcing provider.

We think storytelling will play an important role in ushering impact sourcing along. Social media content around impact sourcing raises awareness and supports industry development. In this series of posts by Sateen Sheth, he provides insight into where the impact sourcing industry stands today and what it requires to scale up. Also check out this story of how the first impact sourcing service provider got started.

Female workers have a laugh at Daproim, an impact sourcing service provider.

Dave Haft is the founder of Impact Hub, a social enterprise that connects growing businesses in the U.S. to Impact Sourcing Service Providers that deliver digital business tasks. His writing also appears on Impact Hub’s blog and Next Billion. You can follow Impact Hub on Twitter and ask him questions via his personal Twitter profile.

 [Image credit: jrandomf and ww4f, Flickr]

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