Despite a rapid economic and marketing development the world experiences last century, people still have to deal with frightening poverty in some world corners. Young American management consultant Leila Janah launched Samasource. Her initiative offers an innovative solution for reducing the world poverty. She is also an author of several books on marketing and economics suggesting techniques to drive a meaningful change.

Familiar with poverty herself

Leila Janah is a California-based social entrepreneur, was born in a family of Indian immigrants who had nothing when they came to the USA seeking a better life. From her early childhood, Leila knew how difficult life could be when it’s contingent on the lack of funding. As a teenager, she had multiple jobs from babysitter to a tutor as money her parents earned was never enough. In high school, Leila proved to be a gifted student, and her amazing performance was awarded numerous scholarships. Leila spent them on her teaching in Ghana, where she gave lessons in English to small children. Later this experience grew up into a serious professional interest, and she committed a fieldwork on the continent of Africa during her studies in Harward.

Leila Janah was only 26 when she set her initiative in motion. Well-educated Harvard-graduate, Janah had always been interested in peculiarities of the economic system of the developing regions. After the graduation, Leila worked as a management consultant and had to manage a call-centre in Mumbai where she had an opportunity to watch local employees life herself. As she remembers, among her colleagues at the call centre there was a young man who travelled to work by rickshaw from one of the largest slums in South Asia, Dharavi.

This experience, as well as her solid knowledge of economic problems of the African region, became an impulse for thinking about the solution of the existing difficulties. Thus, an idea of offering a productive business strategy aiming to help the neglected was born.

Realization of a life-changing initiative

In order to raise funding for the business, Leila Janah took part in a business-plan competition in Stanford, where managed to win $14 000. After that, by winning a European business-plan competition she raised additional  $30 000.

The not-for-profit initiative Samasource was founded in 2008 as a strategy aiming to reduce world poverty by offering people all over the world small digital jobs. The strategy is based on an internet model microwork. This model requires dividing large digital projects into small tasks to be completed at delivery centres with a focus on five services, including data verification and image annotation. The first contract was signed with Benetech, a social enterprise providing technology solutions. Now, such well-known corporations as Google and eBay.

Realizing the necessity of educational services, Leila founded Samaschool. This programme allows people get a basic education in the area of digital technology and get out from poverty by implementing newly gained skills directly in work. Thereby internet-based jobs bring sufficient money to fund the living. Samaschool offers regular classes which are open in the US and Kenya, and distant education available worldwide. The courses also train students to build a portfolio, be computerate and workforce-oriented. The pilot school programme started in 2011 and caused controversy since African and Asian workers who can take assignments will pay lower fees in comparison with Americans.

Another addition to Samasource is Samahope, a platform providing poor communities with directly-funded doctors. It also helps women and children in poverty get vital and essential medicine. Samahope’s philosophy has a core idea that transparent funding strategies will supply all the people all over the globe with qualified medical treatment. In 2015 Samahope in association with Johnson & Johnson created a new platform CaringCrowd.

Why we need Give Work

Summing up her experience, which had been accumulated in the sphere of social entrepreneurship, Leila prepared a book where she narrates her views on how to solve the problem of poverty. It becomes essential to elaborate new efficient points in poverty control because the world economy juncture is changing dramatically. The situation worsens especially in less-developed countries, where the growth potential of national economies is significantly limited. Despite the approved economic growth, 5, 5% in average in 2016, and international aid, the percent of poor people in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa has enlarged and now stays far beyond 50 % of all amount of population. Among the other reasons of social poverty, underemployment holds one of the main places. The lack of workplaces is fuelled by the lack of educational competences when a person can offer nothing in a labour market.

But not only the economic growth is able to provide the poverty reduction. The big business is usually not tended to lay down any aims of social development. Governments often experience problems with national account balance and in cases of developing countries can hardly cover even fundamental social needs. The practice of China, where the power used the economic growth with governmental measures to promote functional social lifts and fight poverty quite successfully, cannot be implemented to the full in less developed countries because the national business swallows all the incomes and leaves nothing to its co-citizens. Thus, a vicious circle appears and it seems at the first sight that there is nothing to change in this situation and poverty becomes immanent for countries out of the Golden Billion.

Leila Janah, who knows literally all the angles of social entrepreneurship, has tried to give their own opinion how to win in a battle with poverty without hard redistributions of national wealth or similar radical steps which are able to lead to social collisions and escalation of tensions between groups of the population. Her idea is quite simple: she wants to implement her invention Samasource and strongly widen it on whole countries and in a far perspective – even on continents. The book Give Work is a guide both for an inhabitant of a poor country looking for a job to feed himself and for an employer, who wants to help people in a reasonable way, reach all work aims and not to lose benefits at the same time. Of course, that is an ambitious goal, but the author has an opportunity to prove that her ambitions have a right to existence and turn into efficient outcomes in the future.

Source of equality: practical solutions

In the first place, she tells a story about her way in business full of troubles and methods of negotiation the difficulties. The idea of Samasource, which conjuncts a digital company, a “workhouse” and an educational centre, was not created in one moment. It took enough time to overwork and revise the mechanism and possible consequences before Janah got a grant for the development of her project. So, Samasource (“sama” can be translated from Sanskrit as “equal”) had been a well thought-out project before it got a practical approbation.

After that Leila explains the implementation process in different countries and regions, which was difficult as well. As an NPO, Samasource helps people to find a job in the digital sphere, and a work is usually not a real position with full salary and insurance, of course. Leila uses the term “microwork”, which includes all the simplest and low-qualified types of digital work, such as data processing or internet sites moderation. These kinds of activity still demand a human control and involvement, so they cannot be fully automatized. Leila supposes that this is a window of opportunities for most of the poor people: they do not have a specified qualification, but they can get it in the process of working in Samasource. With her crew, she pulled off a massive operation to gear her business model to India, Haiti, Kenya and Uganda and to different conditions. So far, Samasource has helped of about 35000 victims of pauperism in countries above.

Finally, it explains that Samasource is not a universal panacea. However it helps to struggle the poverty and offers workplaces, it can still resolve one particular segment of the poorest people’s problems. The digital market changes permanently, and a situation may develop in a way that “microwork” completing by thousands of employees will become outmoded, so the system should have a flexibility and feel the influences of technologies sensitively. On the other hand, Leila’s attitude towards alternative methods and innovations to fight against poverty is critical; she strongly believes in her creation and pertly overestimates its meaning. She considers the market problems from the perspective of the market and tries to use non-sophisticated market tools to level the situation. The point that is belittled by Leila is that the amount of workplaces is limited, but poverty as a social phenomenon is not, it enlarges all the time and swallows more people. The reasons are deeper, they exceed the scope of just economic features.

“The fact that at least 1 billion people work extremely hard and still earn less than $2 a day for toiling away in mines, on fields, and in homes. It’s a disgrace. But there are solutions — Sama is one of them”.

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