Blog

Leila Janah

Posted November 4, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

Interview With Leila Janah

1. Leila, could you briefly explain your role and responsibilities within Samasource?

I serve as CEO of Samasource, a non-profit social enterprise which I founded in 2008. My overriding mission is to define and promote Socially Responsible Outsourcing as a fair-trade model for services. Samasource was created as the first marketplace for that kind of service.

My role as CEO is to create the programs that select, screen and train the service providers that give work to socially and economically disadvantaged people in impoverished areas of the world.

At the same time, I work to promote their services to clients in the United States, enabling companies in the US to contribute to economic development by buying services from people in places that need the jobs most.

2. Samasource’s mission to “reduce poverty by connecting women, youth, and other marginalized people to dignified, computer-based work” is quite impressive. Could you explain how the process works? What type of jobs do individuals receive?

Our goal is to empower the world’s untapped talent by giving disenfranchised individuals, from refugees in Kenya to women in rural Pakistan, marketable skills and connecting them to the global marketplace for services.

Our core belief is that work and opportunity are the keys to development. Samasource enables that by generating microwork: tasks that can be completed from any location in the world, as long there’s a computer and internet connection. This kind of remote labor adds up to a real livelihood in many places of the world, where a doing simple tasks can generate as much as 10 times the local average wage.

Our model is simple: first, we screen and select service partners who employ local people to provide services, relying on stringent social impact and quality criteria that verify our partners’ technical abilities and commitment to social responsibility. Next, we provide our partners with service-specific training and prepare them to further train their own staff using live sample projects and web-based tools. Finally, we market our partners’ services to paying clients.

We provide our partners with training in eight services: data entry and digitization, image moderation, video captioning, research assistance, website packages, application testing, content upgrading, and virtual assistance. These make-up some of the most highly marketable jobs available via the internet.

Our contracts primarily come out of Silicon Valley, but we find clients everywhere. We work with companies like Benetech, a non-profit that runs a program called bookshare.org and has hired two of our partners to help reach their goal of digitizing 100,000 books for blind readers, startups like Dolores Labs, and academic institutions such as Stanford University Libraries.

3. How many partner organizations do you work with around the world, and how do you screen them to ensure they are right for Samasource?

Right now, we work with 18 partner organizations in 6 countries: Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana, India and Pakistan.

Most of our partners are existing tech centers, ranging from non-profits with computing infrastructure and locally-owned small businesses, to groups of home based workers that simply have access to computers. We also have a program for Samasource-Incubated partners, who go through a more rigorous training schedule. Currently we’re working with 16 existing organizations, and 2 Samasource-Incubated partners.

We start by identifying and selecting partners that meet our social impact criteria. It’s our goal that a larger portion of the revenue currently generated by outsourcing goes to people living in un-developed regions. We want to make sure that outsourcing dollars flow to poor regions and stay there. In order to achieve that, we only work with locally-owned enterprises in high-poverty regions that are committed to improving the welfare of the people in their communities (see more on Socially Responsible Outsourcing at www.sourceoutpoverty.org). Our partners are located in the poorest regions of the world, where skilled workers face unemployment rates of up to 70 percent.
The second half of our screening is a due diligence process which ensures that service partners meet technical quality and fiscal responsibility thresholds. We do this through interviews, site visits, and reference checks. We also confirm that partners have reliable power, computer and internet access with sufficient bandwidth – an important consideration when working with service providers in Africa and South Asia.


4. Given the potential perception that individuals from less-developed regions may not have the necessary qualifications, have you experienced any hesitancy from organizations to employ the individuals that you support? If so, how have you overcome this?

We put all of our partners through a rigorous training program, including a combination of virtual training and site visits for on the ground training, followed by internal projects that service partners sign up for in preparation for real projects. It’s imperative that we generate real confidence in technical ability before we start marketing services to clients.

Probably the most common hesitation we encounter stems from negative associations with the concept of outsourcing. The word “outsourcing” has a connotation of huge numbers of jobs being lost when large U.S. companies send jobs overseas. That’s not what Samasource does. Our projects are small, between $70,000 and $100,000. We are more akin to fair trade as we try to enable living wages.

Furthermore, according to credible economists, every $1.00 of work sent overseas returns $1.12 of value to the U.S. economy. This is because most of what is outsourced is lower-end work, but work that can only be completed in the US for much higher wages than in other places in the world. By sending low-wage jobs to places that need them the most, US companies are able to capitalize on the wage differential to build up their businesses, invest in R&D, and more efficiently provide better services to consumers.

5. What type of impact has Samasource had thus far, and what does the future hold for the organization?

Samasource has generated over $220,000 in sales for our partners in the past year. We’ve provided technical training to over 500 people and connected them to dignified work. According to Maria Umar, founder of the Samasource-Incubated Women’s Digital League of Pakistan, “[For] me and other women in Pakistan, [Samasource] is our own ray of light, our way of escaping the claustrophobic environment surrounding us.”

This year Samasource was one of only two non-profit organizations to win the Facebook Fund REV. We have developed a Facebook platform that allows applications developers to outsource the testing of their products to trained Samasource partners.

Our goal for the next year is to expand to include 50 new Samasource-Incubated Partner sites in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

6. How can individuals and organizations get involved to support your efforts?

The best way to support Samasource is to give work. Non-profits, socially responsible companies, universities, entrepreneurs, or anyone who needs to outsource data tasks can get more information at www.samasource.org/contribute/givework.php.

Another great way to get involved is to donate to one of our programs, which will receive 100 percent of your gift. We are currently running a Refugee Work program in Dabaab, Kenya, a Youth Work Program in Sub–Saharan Africa, and a Work for Women Program in East Africa and Northern Pakistan. To donate to one of these visit www.samasource.org/contribute.

7. Any additional thoughts?

As the proverb goes, “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Samasource is teaching men to fish. The most powerful way to alleviate poverty is to give work, not aid.

From: DevelopmentCrossing.com/October, 2009

Speakers' Spotlight represents a wide variety of motivational speakers who present energetic talks that will inspire you and your staff to take action, be it in your personal lives, your workplace, or both. Read More

Conference Speakers

The Impact of a Speech Can Last Forever

Speakers' Spotlight represents a talented roster of some of the world's most extraordinary conference speakers. Our conference speakers' experience is as broad as it is deep, and they are all leaders in their fields, which include business, politics, sports, the media, academia, science, technology, culture and entertainment. Our conference speakers are thought-provoking and action-oriented and leave their audiences, whether speaking to a group of 10, 100, 1000 or more, enlightened and inspired.

Speakers' Spotlight's conference speakers frequently go the extra mile to be in touch with meeting planners - or even CEOs and presidents of companies and organizations themselves - in advance of their talks in order to tailor the message and hit on key points specific to the client's needs. Our conference speakers arrive on time, and will have conferred with you in advance to ensure they have everything they need in order to deliver an impactful speech. Our conference speakers frequently use well designed visuals, such as photos, slide shows, or video clips to bring other elements of interest into their talks, and our conference speakers frequently build-in time during their talks to allow for an audience Q&A, ensuring your staff has a chance to ask questions of the particular conference speaker they have just heard.

Some of our conference speakers in high demand include David Chilton, Bruce Croxon, General Rick Hillier, Clara Hughes, Ron James, Amanda Lang, Stephen Lewis, Patricia Lovett-Reid, Mark Kielburger, Kevin O'Leary, Jeff Rubin, and Margaret Trudeau.

Speakers' Spotlight is committed to serving the diverse needs of the corporations, organizations, companies, non-profit and government groups that contact us when seeking conference speakers, and we work hard to find the conference speakers that will best meet and exceed your needs. Whatever you require are when it comes to conference speakers, Speakers' Spotlight will work had to ensure that you get the conference speakers that are right for you.

Keynote Speakers

Speakers' Spotlight: The Key Ingredient To Finding Your Perfect Speakers

Speakers' Spotlight represents a vast roster of some of the world's most extraordinary keynote speakers in fields such as business, politics, sports, the media, academia, science, technology, culture and entertainment. Our keynote speakers run the gauntlet from spoken word poet Sarah Kay, to business guru Simon Sinek; from young athlete Olympic athlete Adam van Koeverden to the wrongly incarcerated former boxer Ruben Carter; from Margaret Trudeau to her son Justin Trudeau. Whatever your needs are for your keynote speakers, Speakers' Spotlight the keynote speakers that will fill them.

Our keynote speakers can adjust their talks to suit your needs, whether you're looking for an address by keynote speakers of 15, 30, or 45 minutes or more, our keynote speakers will confer with you before your engagement to ensure that their talks meet your needs. Our keynote speakers frequently adjust their speeches to include important talking points your organization or company needs emphasized, and will also often adjust content so it is individually tailored to your audience. For instance, if your audience is primarily those in the auto industry, our keynote speakers will draw on anecdotes from that industry in order to ensure their speech is relatable. Our keynote speakers are usually available in the days and weeks prior to your event to discuss your needs and go over any details (such as audio visual requirements) that arise.

Speakers' Spotlight is committed to meeting the different needs of the corporations, organizations, companies, non-profit and government groups that contact us when seeking keynote speakers, and we work hard to find the keynote speakers that will provide the best match for your event. Whatever you require are when it comes to keynote speakers, Speakers' Spotlight will work had to ensure that you get the keynote speakers that are right for you.

Motivational Speakers

Motivating the world

Speakers' Spotlight represents a wide variety of motivational speakers who present energetic talks that will inspire leaders and employees to take action, be it in their personal lives, their workplace, or both. Speakers' Spotlight's motivational speakers address everything from encouraging audiences to adapt healthy lifestyles to unifying groups to achieve professional goals. Our motivational speakers work with an astonishing range of companies in sectors such as science, technology, finance, advertising, and manufacturing, as well as professional organizations, cultural institutions, and non-profit entities and government, throughout North American and around the world.

Motivational speakers that work with Speakers' Spotlight frequently go the extra mile to be in touch with meeting planners - or even CEOs and presidents of companies and organizations themselves - in advance of their talks in order to tailor the message and hit on key points specific to the client's needs. Our motivational speakers arrive on time, work with the client in advance to ensure the proper set up of their audio/visual needs so that everything will go smoothly when they hit the stage, and often include Q&A sessions in their talks so that your staff can ask any questions of our motivational speakers that they may wish.

Using Speakers' Spotlight to book your motivational speakers obviously offers many advantages. You reap the benefits of our experience and expertise, as we can help you select the best motivational speakers for your motivational speakers' engagement.

Our motivational speakers include prominent motivational speakers - and many of them household names -- such as Roberta Bondar, Michael "Pinball" Clemons, Terry Evanshen, Scott Harrison, John Izzo, Simon Jackson, Craig Kielburger, Dr. Samantha Nutt, Simon Sinek, Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Brett Wilson.

Whatever your needs are when it comes to motivational speakers, Speakers' Spotlight has the motivational speakers that will both meet -- and exceed -- your expectations.

Zync is a marketing agency specializing in corporate brand identity and responsive web design.