Samasource – Providing Sustainable Careers in the Digital Economy

Sujata Narayan


It’s amazing how “microwork” can make a difference in peoples’ lives on such a macro-level. This is the philosophy behind Samasource, a San Francisco-based non-profit that delivers data services to large enterprises such as Google, LinkedIn, WalMart and eBay. To provide these services, Samasource harnesses the untapped potential of the world’s poor ̶ training and employing them to complete computer-based work for a living wage.

Since its inception in 2008, the global organization has provided jobs to over 6,000 impoverished women and youth. Drawing its workforce from the most disadvantaged areas of India, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti and Ghana, Samasource has impacted more than 26,000 people worldwide.

In 2013, Samasource converted nearly $10 million in revenue and donations into 2,143 jobs. It also became one of Equinix’s first employee-recommended $25,000 Equinix Impact Grant recipients. Equinix’s Impact Program grants support and advances the efforts of small-to-medium nonprofits dedicated to helping more people benefit from the opportunities of the digital economy.

I recently spoke to Joseph Jon Lanthier, Samasource’s Manager of Development & Grants, about the organization’s global mission and how it plans to use their Impact Grant to launch a new program to help improve its workers’ lives more sustainably.

Q: How did Samasource begin?

A: Our Founder and CEO, Leila Janah, started out in the business world working for a NYC-based consulting firm. While connecting with a number of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) organizations in her role there, she realized that many of the people working in these BPOs were from slums — especially in India. She then wondered if businesses could start hiring the disadvantaged more deliberately.

Out of this came Impact Sourcing — the practice of deliberately hiring poor/disadvantaged people to complete businesses’ outsourced digital work. Samasource’s goal is to make Impact Sourcing, especially for women and youth, a part of every major corporation’s standard business and technology practices.

Q: How does the Samasource model work?

A:Our microwork model takes large, complex data projects from global brands and identifies the small tasks within them. These tasks are simplified and then distributed to workers in disadvantaged areas that we’ve trained to do computer-based work. Our tech platform, the SamaHub trains these non-technical workers to become subject matter experts in specific digital fields so they can complete tasks with the highest degree of quality and accuracy.

Q: What skills do your workers learn and what is your external employment success rate?

A:Over 92% of our incoming women and youth workers are either unemployed or underemployed and most have never worked in the formal sector. Samasource and its partners provide baseline soft- and digital-skills training, as well as project-specific instruction — such as on e-commerce technologies skills for @WalMart Labs.

Lately, we’ve seen a huge demand for image tagging and transcription services. Training our workers in these specific verticals makes them more competitive job candidates.

We have a phenomenal success rate — approximately 90% of Samasource workers have gone onto external jobs or have gone back to school to obtain higher degrees, typically in business and technology.

Q: How will the Equinix Impact Grant help you train your workers for more sustainable careers and lives?

A: Equinix’s contribution enables us to launch an exciting new transition program to better help our workers succeed in the workplace. We will provide them training so they can access resources for healthcare, banking, job searches, transportation and daycare — you can’t imagine the difficulty of navigating these resources after coming out of poverty.

Based in our international headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, this transition program will help our workers more readily adapt to the full-time, 9-to-5, tech workforce. It will also help them carry the positive impact of the Samasource experience into their futures, and their families’.

Supporters like Equinix are essential to our vision of providing sustainable employment within the digital economy to the world’s poorest people. Your commitment, contribution and staff engagement set a magnificent example for smart, cutting-edge corporate social responsibility.

Learn more about Equinix Impact.

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