Impact Sourcing: Creating a Socially Responsible Offshoring Ecosystem

April 6, 2016 7:34 pm | Updated 6 months ago.

Ever since the initial outsourcing projects were outsourced to India in the 1970s, offshoring attributes have changed dramatically. Come 1990s, Philippines had started to take over. With the 2000s ringing in and the world undergoing rapid technological advancements and evolution, other lesser known economies, more often referred to as emerging, like West Asia, South East Asia, Latin America, Africa are coming of age, trying to establish their hold in the global outsourcing market.

The big question still lies underneath global companies cutting costs and emerging economies evolving across technology platforms, i.e., are companies able to generate employment in the areas that require upliftment? Are leaders of innovation in the developed world aware of the socio-economic objectives that are met by outsourcing? Are the companies able to create a new social responsible model called impact sourcing, going beyond age-old outsourcing? Some are, but more work needs to be done.

Impact Sourcing is a term coined by DDD (Digital Divide Data), with an objective to not only re-brand the traditional exercise, but putting social perspectives into place. DDD co-founder Michael Chertok rightly mentions that “while international aid for economic development often fails, businesses have the potential to bring millions of people out of poverty”. How else could one explain the willpower behind what iMerit is trying to achieve in Metiabruz, a Tier-2 metropolitan area of Kolkata, Eastern India by transforming lives of hundreds of women by engaging them into digital tech support projects outsourced by its CSR partners in Western developed economies? iMerit calls it ‘global smartsourcing’.

Likewise, there are organizations like the San Francisco based Samasource which are working in similar socio-economic welfare models in Latin America, South East Asia and large parts of Africa which not only need educating rural youth and women, but also helping them apply in real-world scenarios, imparting them with not only life sustenance lessons, but also giving them a professional platform where they can hone their skills and dream about competing in first world corridors.

Critics and contrary are not pointless, either. Impact sourcing is a necessary benchmark, however, with such rapid technology disruptions around, there are people losing jobs too, employees of the digital innovators. While few lines of code can replace someone’s job, it is also not fair if the reason is another person, be it at a cheaper cost or faster delivery. This is where effective management and forecasting comes into play. Pink slips are not welcome, just as prolonged poverty or being underprivileged. Top management of such companies should on one hand realize the importance of impact sourcing, at the same time, implement efficient HR and hiring policies. A long-term positive effect of such policies would also be creation of new jobs and departments coordinating and overseeing delivery of the outsourced contract itself.

While inclusive sustenance is the key, there are other challenges that breed under this new paradigm of corporate social responsibility (CSR). One such is the growing risk of rights violations and harmful practices, thanks to a culturally diverse digitally equipped workforce. Ranging from labor rights to data privacy, there is always so much to do. In a conversation with Devex, the social enterprise community, Heather Franzese, head of California based Good World Solutions, another social enterprise rightly puts across saying “Ensuring basic compliance with international labor laws is the first step, but that’s table stakes now, and that’s what people are expected to do as a minimum”. She also laid emphasis on the fact that there is a plethora of opportunities for global development organizations working for the upliftment of the bottom of the pyramid, to work alongside the technology and digital behemoths thereby helping them better connect with workers and so that they can graduate from compliance to overall well-being.