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Technology Allows Capitalism to Work for the Many, Not the Few

A version of this post originally appeared in The Independent.

Impact-Sourcing - CROPPED

Today, some of the world’s most influential policymakers and business leaders will come together in London at the 2015 Conference on Inclusive Capitalism. The goal of the meeting, in its second year, is to ensure that leaders are undertaking the business practices and policies that enable capitalism to be a means of creating a more inclusive economy with more opportunities for more people everywhere.

People like Ike, a young Nigerian who made the nine hour walk from his home in Lagos to the headquarters of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria in the wee hours of the morning. His mission? To obtain training to help African youth learn skills to do a range of digital jobs, such as transcribing, database management, and photo tagging. Ike only had £20, which he borrowed from a friend—not enough to cover food or accommodation. But over those few days, he learned how to operate popular computer programs and websites, such as Microsoft Word and Facebook, skills that would be highly marketable to employers. And he was taught how to obtain work through E-lance an online freelance platform where clients from all over the world can post ads for digital work.

“Businesses must take a more inclusive approach to employment to create these opportunities at scale.”

Upon his return home, Ike logged on from a cyber café and landed his first job managing online advertising for a client. Since then, he has been able to earn enough money to buy a laptop and Internet modem, and has enough to take care of his siblings and pay back the money he borrowed from his friend.

While this is just one story, it represents the great potential at hand to build economies where more people like Ike, who have traditionally come up against barriers to opportunity, can see pathways to employment and livelihoods. But access to training is only part of the equation—businesses must take a more inclusive approach to employment to create these opportunities at scale.

The good news is that the rise of digital technology now means that businesses can more strategically target populations that may benefit from these types of jobs. One model is already showing results, a practice referred to as “impact sourcing,” which is the deliberate, targeted employment of high-potential, disadvantaged youth. By hiring these workers, impact sourcing helps to provide a burgeoning demographic with more marketable and versatile skill sets, increase disposable income, and allow for greater investment in family health and education. Impact sourcing is a more inclusive way of doing business across the world, including targeting disadvantaged communities in the UK.

Not only does this benefit the worker—who might not have other means of employment—it helps connect businesses with the workforce they need to strengthen their foothold in the regions where they operate and cultivate a workforce of trained, talented, motivated, and committed employees. Indeed, a recent study indicated that companies can drive family income increases of between 40 and 200 percent through impact sourcing.

And companies that integrate impact sourcing into their employment practices reduce costs and save in the long-term in comparison to those using only traditional hiring methods, due to lower training costs, decreased rates of attrition, and stronger employee engagement. Already corporations, such as Deloitte and Teleperformance, are seeing these benefits. Deloitte has hired approximately 300 impact sourcing employees for its accounting business. Now, impact workers comprise 10-12 percent of the company’s workforce in South Africa. Having completed their professional accounting courses, a number of them now occupy managerial roles. Teleperformance’s programme has delivered improved attrition rates, increased operational efficiencies and bottom-line growth driven by high morale and work ethic among impact workers.

“The leaders gathered in London today must act to adopt a more inclusive approach to doing business to ensure capitalism is working for the many, not just the few.”

To accelerate the uptake of these practices by more companies, The Rockefeller Foundation has helped to build the impact sourcing sector over the last several years, working closely with our grantees to prove the business case. In the weeks ahead, we will create a coalition for impact sourcing and will be calling on businesses to join.

Because as vital as discussion is, it is not enough: the leaders gathered in London today must act to adopt a more inclusive approach to doing business to ensure capitalism is working for the many, not just the few. Impact sourcing offers one such approach. And for young people like Ike—and millions of others around the world—it could make all the difference.

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