Impact sourcing

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Impact sourcing, also known as socially responsible outsourcing, refers to an arm of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry that employs people at the base of the pyramid or socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals as principal workers in business process outsourcing centers to provide high-quality, information-based services to domestic and international clients.[1] The traditional BPO sector is typically associated with high-end, high-contact functions like call centers, which require significant levels of education and language literacy. The impact sourcing sector focuses on utilizing workers from poor and vulnerable communities to perform functions with lower and moderate skill requirements such as scanning documents, data entry work, data verification and cleaning, video tagging, and microwork.

The BPO sector[edit]

Business process outsourcing (BPO) refers to the outsourcing of certain business processes (i.e. informational and transaction services) to third-party service providers. This business has grown over the past two decades to a hundred billion-dollar sector that directly impacts both international trade and the global economy. Growth in the BPO sector has been driven by five mega-trends:[2]

  • Global macroeconomic liberalization
  • The digitization of business processes
  • Technological innovations and the adoption of technology
  • Growing worldwide capabilities
  • Global business culture

Growth is likely to continue because the majority of these drivers are unlikely to reverse.[2] The global estimate for the BPO sector as high as $574 billion by 2015.[3] Developing countries have particularly benefited from the growth of the BPO sector, generating exports and millions of jobs. Leading centers for BPO include India, the Philippines, China, and South Africa.


Impact sourcing first evolved as a new sub-sector of the BPO industry in India as rising costs in urban centers forced many BPO companies to focus on higher end services such as voice. New BPO companies sprang up in rural India where they enjoyed both lower costs and attrition rates. Those BPOs, such as RuralShores, employed high school graduates and university students from agrarian, low-income families. Another example is Vindhya Info based out of Bangalore and Hyderabad in India, whose work force is 85% PWD (People with disabilities). In 2008, the South African government launched the Monyetla Work Readiness Program in which over 1,000 unemployed youth, mostly high school graduates, were trained for work in the country's BPO sector; over 77% of the trainees found employment.[4]


In 2010, The Rockefeller Foundation launched an initiative focused on poverty reduction through employment to further its core activities related to supporting "sustainable livelihoods" among poor and vulnerable populations. The Monitor Group and Rockefeller Foundation, borrowing from impact investing terminology, formally coined the term "impact sourcing" in a 2011 report that focused on the beneficial job creation aspect of the BPO industry.[5] In 2012, the William Davidson Institute partnered with The Rockefeller Foundation to assess barriers to partnerships between BPO providers and ISSPs, to assess which countries have the highest potential to develop impact sourcing sectors, and to perform field research to better understand service provider best practices and the impacts of employment on workers and their families.

Other grantees who have partnered with The Rockefeller Foundation to support impact sourcing efforts include Accenture LLP, Digital Data Divide, the NASSCOM Foundation, Avasant, TechnoServe, and Samasource.[6]

Impact sourcing service providers (ISSPs)[edit]

Impact sourcing service providers (ISSPs) are a group of organizations within the BPO sector that operate with a set of refer to BPO organizations with the specific social objectives. Many of these firms have, as an explicit part of their often defined in their mission, an objective to generate employment for and upgrade the skills of hire workers from poor and vulnerable communities to perform BPO work. Examples of leading ISSPs include:

  • Samasource is a nonprofit organization that acts as an aggregator and coordinator for sixteen ISSPs based in five countries. It brands its work as "fair trade" and has clients based in the U.S. and U.K. Once a contract is arranged, the work is broken down into microwork and distributed to the ISSPs. Samasource is responsible for marketing and selling, while the ISSPs manage the day-to-day execution of tasks. Samasource has reported to have paid over $2 million in wages to more than 3000 workers in five countries.[7]
  • Vindhya Infotech is a 2000 people staffed company as on Apr'18, out of which 85% are PWD (people with disabilities). They are based out of Bangalore and Hyderabad in India and their clients include big mainstream banks and companies like Airtel, Yahoo, IBM, SAP amongst many more.
  • RuralShores is a for-profit company with centers located in Indian villages with populations of less than 20,000 people and at least a three-hour drive from a large city. The compensation offered by RuralShores is generally twice the prevailing local wage. Most employees are high school graduates and come from agrarian, low-income families. Attrition rates are lower than urban areas, and services are priced less than urban BPOs.

Value proposition[edit]

Impact sourcing is viewed as an effective market-based solution to poverty alleviation and shows the potential to create millions of jobs for the young and those living in poverty.[8] While long-term studies have yet to take place, impact sourcing has begun to demonstrate positive impacts on multiple aspects of well-being for workers and their families. Studies indicate that impact sourcing employees benefit with income increases of anywhere from 40 percent to 200 percent.[5] Employment in Impact Sourcing also serves as initial entry point into the formal economy, which leads to valuable job experience that can help workers pay their way through school, receive higher education and move towards better careers.

Impact sourcing also has the potential to benefit traditional BPO service providers, who are actively seeking alternate lower-cost destinations (i.e. smaller cities and/or rural towns) and pools of new and more affordable qualified workers.

While the potential benefits of impact sourcing are compelling, the sector faces challenges that have prevented it from reaching its full potential. These obstacles include the ability of ISSPs to secure new work and clients, as well as the ability for ISSPs to partner with and sub-contract for larger, more traditional BPO service providers.

Market size[edit]

Impact sourcing is considered to be in its early stage of development. The current market size is estimated at $4.5 billion, which represents about 4 percent of the $119 billion BPO industry. BPO[9] Impact Sourcing directly employs approximately 144,000 people across all segments.[5] Some estimate that Impact Sourcing has the potential to grow to $20 billion by 2015, employing 780,000 socioeconomically disadvantaged people globally.[5] Avasant estimates that the market has the ability to grow to represent twenty three percent of the total BPO industry by 2020.[10]


  1. ^ Monitor Inclusive Markets, Job Creation Through Build the Field of Impact Sourcing, June 2011
  2. ^ a b Kennedy, Robert. The Services Shift: Seizing the Ultimate Offshore Opportunity, FT Press, 2009.
  3. ^ Accenture. Exploring the Value Proposition for Impact for Impact Sourcing, October 2012.
  4. ^ Offshoring South Africa on the Monyetla Work Readiness Program, "Stepping Stone to Employment", March 2011. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-14. Retrieved 2011-08-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b c d Monitor Inclusive Markets. Job Creation Through Build the Field of Impact Sourcing, June 2011.
  6. ^ Rockefeller Foundation, "How Impact Sourcing is Creating Opportunity", April 2013
  7. ^ Janah, Leila Chirayath. Making the Case for Impact Sourcing, Huffington Post, October 2012.
  8. ^ Monitor Inclusive Markets. Promise and Progress: Market-Based Solutions to Poverty in Africa, May 2011.
  9. ^ Bornstein, David. Workers of the World, Employed, New York Times, November 3rd, 2011.
  10. ^ Avasant. Incentives & Opportunities for Scaling the 'Impact Sourcing' Sector, September 2012.

External links[edit]