Entries in samasource (2)


Rethinking aid to Haiti : An argument for work

The outpouring of charity and aid to Haiti from official government efforts to citizen micro-donations via mobile phone to volunteer web developer Crisis Camps is a powerful testament to human care and outreach in the face of suffering. Recently though I heard a story that I found quite troubling: A friend recounted that his father's long-time business in Haiti is struggling mightily now that the US government response is in full swing. This would not be so shocking post-crisis, except two of this business's core products are buckets and paint, two goods in extreme demand in country right now. The problem? Not only are donated supplies flooding the market, but companies like Home Depot are allowed to mass import their products now tariff-free, significantly undercutting the local businesses.

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Socially responsible outsourcing -- Samasource -- a social lending alternative

In our coverage of Kiva, Microplace, and LendforPeace, we have explored the amazing power of these internet platforms to connect lenders to poor entrepreneurs from around the world and make an impact in small, but meaningful ways.

It is worth looking beyond microcredit. Samasource is a start up non-profit that connects companies in need of simple technology tasks with trained workers in poor countries.  Like Kiva, Samasource has field partners on the ground, but instead of local NGOs, it seeks socially responsible local businesses who embrace three things: transparency, community, and progressive labor relations.

From CEO Leila Chirayeth:

Samasource helps talented but marginalized people empower themselves through internet-based work. Our San Francisco team screens and selects high-quality small businesses and nonprofit training centers in the poorest parts of the world, provides them with training and project management tools, and helps US clients outsource work to them. Our clients reduce costs, receive high quality work, and support dignified employment for some of the world's poorest people.

I'm excited to see an alternative, internet-based platform to social lending that still embraces the market as the ultimate driver of growth. The effectiveness of providing loans to the poor to reduce poverty is still uncertain (see David Roodman of the Center for Global Development for a thoughtful consideration of this topic on his blog). Intuitively, there is reason to believe that most poor people are not actually destined to become successful entrepreneurs. In the United States, I would not expect most of the Americans asking for small business loans are going to succeed -- so why would I hold micro-entrepreneurs in Africa to a different standard? The truth is that most people function and work within some sort of structure -- and for most people, that structure is a company.

Samasource supports that structure. By helping the local businesses (run by entrepreneurs, of course) find outsourcing work, Samasource creates jobs for workers who can become trained to perform needed tasks for others. And the model is sustainable over time -- not just for the individual who receives the training, but for the community that now has a viable job center. Companies can turn to Samasource for support with tasks similar to those seen on Mechanical Turk: data entry, application testing, audio transcription.

Again, Ms. Chirayeth:

Sama means equal in Sanskrit. We are a social business helping bright but marginalized people in poor regions find dignified jobs by expanding their access to markets.

You can support Samasource's mission to give work, not aid  here. If you work for a company that needs data cleaning or other basic tech services, consider using Samasource -- you get a good rate and you're supporting the development of sustainable and dignified jobs.