Samasource Shows How Impact Sourcing Delivers

Samasource is set to demonstrate how impact sourcing can deliver more than just socioeconomic change; it can also deliver top-class, professional service. Their Haiti project has yielded solid returns for client 360incentives and seen them expand into more complex projects.

Cantagalo favela (slum), next to Pavão/Pavãozinho slum, in Rio de Janeiro south zone, Ipanema. Photo by Hmaglione10.

While impact sourcing has been around for some time, little real detail has been available about the impact of such a model. Samasource – which operates in Haiti, Ghana, India, Uganda and Kenya – has received glowing feedback from clients, underlining the idea that impact sourcing is not just about alleviating poverty; it can also deliver top-class work.

Latin America and the Caribbean could certainly benefit from an approach to outsourcing that aims to uplift the poorest of the poor. Although there has been some improvement, according to the World Bank, one out of five Latin Americans lives in chronic poverty. Inequality is improving, though: “The regional Gini coefficient for per capita income, for instance, decreased by an unprecedented five percentage points, from 0.57 in 2000 to 0.52 in 2012.” The Gini coefficient is used to measure the level of inequality between rich and poor. The closer to one a country is the more unequal it is.

Delivering Quality Service

Samasource’s microwork concept breaks down complicated data-processing jobs into smaller components. The non-profit also offers contact center opportunities.

Ashley Grabill, Samasource Marketing Communications executive, explained that clients are most concerned about finding solutions to meet their business needs. “Most of our clients have commented that the fact that we’re a nonprofit is an added bonus; it’s the fact that we outperform other data service providers that continues to win us more business,” she said.

Steve Heck, CTO for Getty Images seems to agree: “I would recommend Samasource to other businesses because it is an enterprise-level professional service and is incredibly effective. They would be a good partner even if they weren’t trying to end poverty.” Samasource also counts Microsoft among its clients.

Whitney, Ontario-based 360incentives, a global SaaS-based company, turned to Samsource to source workers during a period of exponential growth. The need for French language fluency made Haiti a logical choice and Samasource helped 360incentives find the needed workers to bolster the team. As confidence in the team increased, 360incentives decided to outsource increasingly complex projects to Samasource’s worker pool, including a marketing research project.

Jason Atkins, CEO of 360incentives, said: “Samasource was able to find the right people that were trained and ready to go. It didn’t take us long to catch up and return to providing the high quality service that our clients were accustomed to.” He added that the number of people delivering customer service has doubled, and the Samasource team is now responsible for 80% of the manual processing we perform for our clients.

By The Numbers

Pricing is determined either by task or by hour. Within that, pricing can vary depending on the length and complexity of the project. As a non-profit the focus is on covering expenses. Although Haiti-specific revenue data is not available, Samasource recorded $5.9 million in revenue in 2014, doubling its 2013 intake. This was supplemented with almost $1.3 million in grants and donations, close to $1.2 million in contract service fees, and over $555,000 in special event revenues. Expenses still exceed revenues, but Samasource has made significant progress towards self-sufficiency.

The Samasource Haitian team for 360incentives has benefitted from the impact sourcing initiative and demonstrated that it can deliver top-class customer service.
The Samasource Haitian team for 360incentives has benefitted from the impact sourcing initiative and demonstrated that it can deliver top-class customer service.

Samasource brought in 1,450 new workers in 2014, bringing the total of workers helped through its initiatives globally to 6,397. According to the Samasource 2014 Annual Report, the average yearly income of a Samasource employee increases from roughly $804 to $2,974 by the third year after their involvement with Samasource. In Haiti the gross national income (GNI) per capita was $820 in 2014, according to the World Bank.

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The cost per Samasource worker (which includes all costs, not just wages) in 2013 was $3,525, rising to $5,158 in 2014. In addition to Haiti, the company tested a new vertical supporting Spanish transcription projects in Nicaragua. The GNI per capita for Nicaragua was $1,870 in 2014.

Do customers take it easy on them because they are a non-profit? Grabill is adamant that that is absolutely not the case – nor is the work of lower quality. “We’re held to the same standards as other data service providers and compete in the same space as for-profit companies. We are consistently chosen for our quality and report a 90-95% SLA,” she said.

Limited Impact, Growth Needed

American non-profit entrepreneur Leila Janah, CEO and founder of Samasource social business. Photo by Christopher Michel.
American non-profit entrepreneur Leila Janah, CEO and founder of Samasource social business. Photo by Christopher Michel.

Grabill said: “Latin America holds a lot of potential as an area that could benefit from the power of impact sourcing, namely because of the incredible wealth disparity that exists. We aren’t currently looking to expand in that region but it’s always a possibility, especially if a viable partner presented itself.”

Although Samasource is not currently looking to expand in Latin America, others are following their model in the region. Arbusta, an impact innovation enterprise (I2E) that provides digital services to the corporate world, started in 2013 and has 10 corporate clients. It seeks to empower under-privileged women and youth, and offers services including social media management and event coverage, software quality control, audio-to-text transcription and picture tagging.

The problem with most impact sourcing initiatives is that the impact is quite often relatively small. As of January 2015, for example, Arbusta had hired only 36 workers with 119 dependents. Samasource’s Haiti project had between 10 and 19 active workers each quarter in 2014. In order to really make a dent in the poverty level of the region, more such initiatives are needed and the existing projects like Samasource and Arbusta need to be extended.

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