Dave Haft

Outsourcing for Good: The current state of Impact Sourcing and how we can accelerate it

In recent years, the concept of traditional outsourcing has been a topic of intense political debate. These arguments focus not on the costs and benefits of the practice – they imply instead that outsourcing is an evil force that ushers domestic jobs away from those who deserve them, and that only the most miserly of white-collar executives are capable of committing such an injustice with a clear conscience.

Not only does this outlook apply a terribly narrow view of the pursuit of operational efficiency, its claim is precisely backwards: Outsourcing doesn’t impair, it empowers.

As our industries advance from the analog to the digital, there’s plenty of work to go around. This is the principal tenet of Impact Sourcing – bringing traditional outsourcing work to impoverished communities.

Imparting Dignity

The numbers, however broad, don’t lie: 80 percent of humanity lives on less than $10 a day and 1.8 billion people can’t get a formal job. Dignified employment is what individuals, their families, and their communities need to thrive.

The good news is that plenty of digital work needs to be done: entering data, online research, tagging videos, curating content and so on. Impact Sourcing brings this work to economically depressed areas, including women, youth and the disabled, so they can earn a living wage. Impact Sourcing workers can pay for college, support family members in need, and are quickly becoming role models for the next generation.

Sateen Sheth, manager of Research Project of Implementation at the William Davidson Institute, wrote a series of blog posts on NextBillion dedicated to this growing industry. In them, he provides insight into where the Impact Sourcing industry stands today and what it requires to scale up. At Impact Hub, we’re exploring ways to grow this sub-sector of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry by connecting all parties involved.

A Global Resource

ImpactHub.org is the first website to list Impact Sourcing market players (service providers, countries, and advocates) in one place, and our directories are growing. Historically, industries in the BPO sphere have relied upon online marketplaces to locate service providers and third-party information resources, such as blogs, to help purchasers react to changing landscapes and verify the credibility of these market players.

Why provide a repository of the players involved in Impact Sourcing?

Many service providers get donor support, but not for business development. To scale Impact Sourcing, and its social impact, more business deals need to happen. When you take a closer look at Impact Sourcing service providers, they need sales and marketing support – but not necessarily from their donors.

Donors are more concerned with helping service providers cover the costs to address the challenges that Impact Sourcing service providers face, such as dealing with inexperienced workers. If a service provider receives donor support, we say that they’re “interim supported,” since they’re provided a boost to train staff and build out their delivery infrastructure. To date, this has left service providers to fend for themselves when it comes to customer acquisition.

It’s a call for centralized, industry-specific profiles and contact information, to help service providers tell their stories and make the connections to usher Impact Sourcing along.

Bridging the Gaps

The Impact Sourcing industry relies upon business deals between customers and the service providers they contract with to complete digital tasks. With more customer relationships and contracts, service providers will invest more in delivering social impact and human development. They’ve told us so.

If more business deals translates to more social impact, how can we accelerate deal flow?

Most Impact Sourcing service providers have limited business development resources and it’s difficult to build and maintain customer relationships. This begs the question: can service providers generate more revenue with additional sales and marketing staff and resources?

We think so. Service providers would benefit from communal sales and marketing resources, which is why we are working to index such resources online.

Impact Sourcing market growth (and therefore social impact) can be accelerated by investing in sales and marketing resources for the industry as a whole. We’re currently developing an online resource for managers of Impact Sourcing service providers to learn about industry best practices and business models for success. Indeed, we’re positioning ImpactHub.org as an information resource and sales organization designed to connect service providers with businesses who need work done. We’re helping our first customer contract a service provider in Kenya. We’ll profit from the deal, but we’re also seeking donors to support our public-facing research.

We hope to provide the community with stats, breaking news, and tools to accelerate industry growth. To date, Impact Sourcing has created over 500,000 jobs. We’re looking to bring that number to 2 million by 2020, and we want every certified Impact Sourcing Service Provider to have their profile on Impact Hub.

What are the end results of an accelerated Impact Sourcing marketplace? People in disadvantaged areas will be proud that they’re supporting themselves, their families, and their communities. Business executives will be able to say that they delivered their products and services while making a difference for thousands of people in need.

We aim to…and we will….make Impact Sourcing work for the world.

Dave Haft is the founder of Impact Hub, an information resource and sales organization that’s designed to connect Impact Sourcing service providers with new business customers and forward-thinking business processes.