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Foundation, Firms Step Up to Help End Poverty

This article was originally published in the Cape Times.
Foundation, Firms Step Up to Help End Poverty

Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.

In 2005, Nelson Mandela delivered these remarks as part of an address on ending global poverty to a crowd of 22,000 gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square.

This week, the Rockefeller Foundation together with local and international.companies have stepped up to help end global poverty by launching the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC).

Economic inequality is one of the most threatening global challenges of our time, jeopardising stability and social progress worldwide. The World Bank estimates that 2.1 billion people in the developing world are surviving on less than $3.10 (R44.61) a day More than half of the world’s poorest people are in subSaharan Africa. For these individuals and their families, income inequality creates a cycle of poverty that can persist for generations.

One of the most sustainable means to reduce such inequality is to ensure that poor and vulnerable populations have access to formal employment and training.

Impact sourcing is an inclusive employment practice through which firms in global supply chains intentionally hire and provide career development opportunities to people who otherwise would have limited prospects for formal employment.

The practice has the potential to transform the lives of young men and women, while also benefiting the companies that employ them and the communities in which they live. Impact workers and their families often use their increased income to spend more on their children’s health and education.

The GISC is a group of companies that are committed to impact sourcing, including global buyers and providers of business services. Founding members of the coalition include leading private sector organisations, which support inclusive hiring practices that promote equal opportunity within their supply chains.

As the GISC advances the wide-scale adoption of impact sourcing, its companies will work to achieve the ultimate vision for every person in the world to have the opportunity to obtain productive employment, and earn a decent wage.

While the benefits to impact workers are clear, there is also a strong business case for companies to adopt inclusive hiring practices. The cost of impact sourcing to businesses is comparable to or lower than traditional business process outsourcing, yet it provides business advantages including 15 percent to 40 percent lower attrition rates, higher levels of employee motivation, access to new sources of talent and opportunities to complement corporate social responsibility and diversity objectives.

The Rockefeller Foundation has been working with the private sector to implement impact sourcing in company hiring practices for six years. It initially targeted the global business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in areas such as call centre and data entry, due to its fast growth and job creation potential.

Today, leading BPO providers have become early champions of impact sourcing and are eager to prove the business case for this hiring practice. However, impact sourcing is applicable across sectors and across industries. Here in South Africa, we’ve already seen uptake in banking, financial services and other service sectors, such as hospitality and retail.

Deloitte, a member of the GISC, is a fantastic example of a company that is making successful use of impact working. Over the past six to seven years, Deloitte has hired about 300 impact workers and today, impact workers comprise 10 percent to 12 percent of the company’s workforce in South Africa.

Preparing disadvantaged youths for formal employment is an essential part of impact sourcing. The coalition makes it easier for companies to hire impact workers by connecting them to a talent pool of selected young people who have undergone job readiness training.

The Maharishi Institute is one of the key players in South Africa for sourcing and training high-potential youth and is a member of the GISC. Harambee, a youth employment organisation focused on creating career paths for school-leavers from disadvantaged communities, is also a key participant. In Africa, impact sourcing offers advantages, not only for companies, but also for the millions of unemployed and underemployed youths who are just one opportunity, one connection, one chance away from a promising future.

Mandela called for a combined effort to eradicate poverty. Through its focus on unemployed youth, particularly in Africa, impact sourcing has the power to answer Madiba’s call.