5 Impact Sourcing Companies Alleviating Global Poverty

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TACOMA, Washington — Impact Sourcing, also known as “ethical outsourcing”, is the process by which companies employ impoverished or marginalized people. Though the jobs these people do are usually low- to medium-skilled information-based jobs, the goal is to help vulnerable communities. In the late 1980s, technological advancements made it possible to distribute digital work such as data entry, customer service calls and sales to other countries. Initially popular in places like urban India and the Philippines, the industry turned competitive. Soon after, companies moved to rural areas and developing regions to find new workers. The Rockefeller Foundation soon identified Impact Sourcing as outsourced work delivered by individuals comprising the base of the economic pyramid.

Proponents of Impact Sourcing emphasize that it increases the income and employability of the worker, connects them to the global society and empowers their community to better care for themselves. Here are five ethical outsourcing companies that operate around the globe to increase profits for their clients while alleviating poverty and unemployment in vulnerable regions.

Digital Divide Data (DDD)

This organization is a non-profit founded in 2001. It offers basic data entry and image tasks as well as database creation and management from offices in Cambodia, Kenya and Laos. To its employees, numbered at 750 in 2010, it offers training in English, technology and soft skills. It also offers scholarships to local universities. DDD primarily employs poor and disadvantaged youth with the direct objective of introducing them to the global economy. The organization also strives for women and people with disabilities to have equal employment opportunities.

In the company’s Cambodia offices in 2010, DDD paid staff an average of $100 per month, compared with Cambodia’s per capita income of $54 per month. After three to four years of employment, staff “graduate” and the majority move on to managerial positions where they make on average $281 per month. Employment at DDD has a positive lasting impact on an individual’s income and personal development.

Samasource

Entrepreneur Leila Janah founded the non-profit Samasource in 2008. Samasource is an intermediary, serving as the connection between corporations and delivery centers in developing nations. By 2011, Samasource worked with delivery centers in India, Pakistan, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. They distributed more than $1 million directly to workers. When choosing a delivery center to partner with, Samasource evaluates applications by criteria such as local ownership, location in a low-income area, fair pay and having a clear social mission.

Before working for Samasource, 90% of employees were unemployed or underemployed. Like DDD, Samasource provides training in soft skills and technology. It also provides workshops in financial literacy, nutrition, health and wellness. The company offers a mentorship program that connects staff to team leaders around the globe to discuss personal interests and career goals. The company also addresses barriers to employment like attire, transportation and meals. 

Ruralshores

Ruralshores is a for-profit Impact Sourcing company that has operated in rural India since 2008. As of 2011, Ruralshores employed 800 individuals from eight villages across India. These villages had populations of less than 20,000 and were at least three hours’ drive from any city. These individuals are mainly high school graduates from agrarian, low-income families that have few other job opportunities in their area. Additionally, many of these individuals pursue a college degree while working. 

The company has rapidly expanded since its founding, reaching 20 centers and 2,000 employees across rural India by 2014. In a study, the company found that 46% of new hires purchased mobile phones, 56% purchased consumer durable goods and 20% saw an increase in savings for their family. New hires attend Ruralshores Academy to train in computer skills, English, banking and telecom, among others.

iMerit

Primarily a for-profit business, iMerit began operations in 2012 in rural India. By 2013, it had more than 350 employees. The company hires a workforce of youth and women from marginalized communities to train them in IT and soft skills. More than 90% of their hires lived at or below the 2013 poverty line of $1.25 per day. 

According to iMerit’s data, 84% of employees have financially supported family members’ education. Meanwhile, 60% have invested in new sanitation systems for their family. And about 32% have invested in equities via mutual funds. Additionally, 52% of employees are women. iMerit offers services like image segmentation, dataset creation and social media monitoring.

Sutherland

This company has been outsourcing work for large companies for more than 30 years. Currently, it has delivery centers in more than 16 countries. The company provides internships, apprenticeships and technical training to its employees by partnering with non-profits and working with volunteers. 

Their mission is to positively impact one life or one family for every person they employ. Sutherland hires from three target groups: young people living at or below the poverty line, young single parents with one or more children and those that are blind, deaf, or on the autism spectrum. Last year, Sutherland won the Microsoft Award for Leadership in Impact Sourcing. It is also a founding member of the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition.
There is work to be done to eradicate exploitation in the traditional outsourcing sector. Big businesses’ need for cost-effective labor in developed nations coupled with rural villages’ need for employment and connection to the global economy makes Impact Sourcing one solution. A 2011 study found that Impact Sourcing made up about 10% of the outsourcing market and estimated that it would employ around 2.9 million individuals by 2020.

McKenna Black
Photo: Unsplash

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