Socially Responsible Outsourcing 101

This is my first attempt at simplifying some of the ideas behind Samasource and socially responsible outsourcing, based on talks I gave at the Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp on Saturday and the East Africa Investment Conference in New York a few weeks ago.

We’re working with oDesk on promoting our guiding principles within their growing community of service providers and buyers, an initiative that will likely launch in mid-December. In the meantime, please check out the presentation below– thoughts/comments are welcome:

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Socially Responsible Outsourcing 101

  1. This presentation does a good, convincing job of illustrating how outsourcing could be a force for good in the world. However, I think it needs to be refined, and include specific recommendations and examples for specific types of outsourcing (which, unfortunately, lumps all kinds of wildly different activities under one label).

    Another aspect of socially responsible outsourcing is how well the people doing the outsourced work are treated. We all know about the Nike stories/scandals, but even in the high-tech world, I’ve been unpleasantly surprised at how some of these operators treat their employees. I am sure none of us want to make some people wealthy at the expense of the rest of the folks who do the bulk of the work. How is samasource.org going to address this issue?

    At Nearsoft we like to think that we are helping raise our employees’ standard of living as well as their ability to compete in world markets. However, to make sure, we are going through the Great Places to Work process (http://www.greatplacetowork.com/) and we just got started with the WorldBlu process (http://worldblu.com/orgdemo/ten.php). There might some light weight process that samasource.org can drive to make sure that the wealth is spread fairly. That would make it more reassuring and attractive for customers to get involved.

    Thanks for the great work.

  2. Thanks for your helpful comments and interest in this model. I agree with your point about labor standards; in the first instantiation of these principles, we were focused on setting up a certification system for small companies that assessed social and environmental sustainability. After further research, we realized this wasn’t the biggest problem with the way the industry was structured– rather, it was that small, locally-owned firms in poor regions had a very hard time competing for Western contracts. So now we’re focused more on building something like a fair trade system for services that helps clearly disadvantaged firms compete more effectively by attaching a social label to their products.

    I think there’s much need for greater attention to labor standards (and other pro-employee measures, like revenue sharing programs) among more established firms like Nearsoft. Groups like B Corporation and Business for Social Responsibility are taking the lead here, as is the IAOP (http://www.outsourcingprofessional.org/content/23/126/1698/). Maybe we can get this on the agenda at the IAOP’s next world summit.

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