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|India, Kenya, and Uganda|
Samasource is a non-profit business with the mission to reduce global poverty by outsourcing digital work to unemployed people in impoverished countries. One of the first organizations to engage in impact sourcing, Samasource uses an internet-based model called "microwork" to break down large-scale digital projects from clients into smaller tasks for workers to complete. These workers are trained in basic computer skills and paid a local living wage (as determined by the Fair Wage Guide) for their labor. Samasource has been named one of Fast Company's "Most Innovative Companies" and counts Walmart, Google and eBay among its clients.
Samasource has offices in San Francisco, California and Nairobi, Kenya. The organization currently owns and operates delivery centers in Nairobi and Gulu, Uganda, and partners with additional delivery centers in India, Kenya, and Uganda. Samasource previously had paid workers in Haiti, Pakistan, Ghana, and South Africa.
Samasource's proprietary technology platform, the SamaHub, breaks down complex data projects from large companies into small tasks that can be completed by women and youth in developing countries with basic English skills after a few weeks of training. In Kenya, this training is offered through Samasource Digital Basics, an immersive hard and soft skill training program to help prepare marginalized youth for the workplace. Samasource delivery centers, both owned and partnered, follow Samasource's social impact guidelines, which includes hiring workers who were previously earning less than the local poverty line. Samasource staffs in-country experts to execute the recruiting process, which targets women and youth without formal work experience who are earning below a local living wage. Samasource also invests in training, salaries, and benefits for their agents, offering free or subsidized meals, transportation, healthcare, and professional development.
The Samahub technology features a five-step quality assurance mechanism that continually gauges the success of each individual worker. Workers are not, however, in direct competition with one another as they are in crowdsourcing models. Samasource's staff also makes a point of understanding the skills native to each region so that it can channel projects to centers best equipped to handle them.
Samasource currently offers five categories of digital services to its customers, including content moderation, digital transcription, and machine learning. Its current clients have include Google, Ebay and Walmart and past clients Intuit, LinkedIn, and Microsoft.
In 2013, Sama Group launched a pilot program in northern California called SamaUSA (now Samaschool), designed to give low-income community college students digital skills with which they can earn a living. The model focuses on training students to perform digital work competitively, to prepare them for success on online work sites like oDesk and Elance. Leila Janah first introduced SamaUSA in a 2011 TechCrunch article which attracted controversy for its assertion that Americans could compete with African and Asian workers who can afford to take assignments that pay lower fees.
Samahope is a crowdfunding platform that directly funds doctors who provide life-changing medical treatments for women and children in poor communities. Samahope lets donors fund doctors around the globe so they can treat more patients suffering from treatable medical conditions like birth injuries, birth defects, burns, blindness, and trauma-based injuries. Leila Janah introduced Samahope in 2013 and it gained widespread recognition for the Honor Your Mom campaign. Samahope enables a new community of donors and change makers to come together to fund these life-saving treatments for a few dollars at a time. In December 2015, Samahope was acquired by Johnson & Johnsons, and became a part of CaringCrowd.
The Samasource website states that the organization defines successful social impact through its Breadth x Depth formula, which looks at two main components:
1. Total workers paid and trained
2. The change in income per worker
Samasource measures its impact by focusing on the relationship between earnings and quality of life- and the role that formal work can play in increasing both. They define a permanent departure from impoverishment as: the ongoing ability to provide one's self and one's dependents with safe housing, nutritious food, education and savings. Samasource's mixed methods measurement and evaluation is focused around three mission-relevant questions:
- Are we reaching our target population?
- How does employment through Samasource change worker's lives?
- What are the longer-term changes in our workers' lives that are attributable to Samasource?
Samasource uses three core tools to effectively measure impact: a baseline online survey, follow up online survey and baseline and follow-up assessment tests. It supplements these tools with household surveys, post-Samasource interviews, worker interviews and project data.
As of September 2017, Samasourcel has employed 8,697 workers. The program currently employs more than 600 workers across India, Kenya, Uganda, and Haiti. For most of Samasource's workers, this job is their first formal job. The organization reports that 84% of workers continue to work or pursue their education after they leave Samasource. Of those that continue working, 98% remain in the formal sector, primarily in technology related fields.
Samasource's data further suggests that the benefits of a living wage reach far beyond financial security. An impact report published by the organization in 2013 claims that 76% of their workers reported improvement in overall physical health, and several others were more willing to "engage with their communities…this effect is even more pronounced for women."
Third-party studies that have been conducted on Samasource's model have reached similar conclusions. A student from the London School of Economics and Political Science found that workers training on the Samahub in rural India improved their problem-solving abilities, their social intelligence, their confidence, and their political perspective. When several workers staged a protest against what they felt were unfair managerial practices at their delivery center, they cited the empowering nature of their new jobs as an inspiration.
Entrepreneur Leila Janah founded Samasource (now Sama Group) in 2008. Janah's father sensitized her to the issue of poverty from an early age, and she became interested in global development while teaching English and creative writing in rural Ghana through a high school scholarship. Seeing her students' ambition combined with the rise in global literacy and access to technology during that time provided the initial inspiration for Samasource.
After completing a degree in African Development Studies from Harvard University, Janah worked as a consultant at Katzenbach Partners (now Booz & Company) and at the World Bank. She quickly became disillusioned, however, by the lack of insight she perceived from World Bank officials into the needs of those the organization was attempting to move out of poverty. While working with multiple clients in the outsourcing sector and nonprofit world, Janah developed the business plan for Samasource.
The organization received its initial funding from the International Business in Development Challenge and the Stanford Social Enterprise Challenge in 2008, and has received additional funding from grantors including The MasterCard Foundation, the Mulago Foundation, the Peery Foundation and Google.org. The organization has since grown into a team and board with backgrounds in distributed work, economic development, and outsourcing.
Press and Accolades
Samasource has received numerous awards and grants, including the 2012 Secretary's Innovation Award for the Empowerment of Women and Girls and the 2012 TechFellows Award for Disruptive Innovation. The organization was also part of POPTech's 2010 Class of Social Innovation Fellows. Fast Company named Samasource as "One of the Most Innovative Companies of 2015", saying that Samasource is "defining what it means to be a not-for-profit business". Samasource has also been profiled in TechCrunch, Wired, Business Insider and Forbes, among other publications.
Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Sama Group, was included in Conde Nast's Daring 25 list in 2016 and as one of the New York Times T Magazine's "Five Visionary Tech Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World" in 2015. She was also named a "Rising Star" on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in 2011, one of the 50 people who will change the world by WIRED, and one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company. Janah is a frequent speaker and writer on social entrepreneurship, outsourcing, crowdsourcing, and digital work. She is the recipient of a 2011 World Technology Award, a Social Enterprise Alliance Award, and a Club de Madrid award.
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