Impact Sourcing

Impact Cultivating: A Cornerstone for Impact Sourcing

Impact sourcing is the new business lingo.  Companies are touting their approach to impact sourcing and showcasing their civic-mindedness. In many cases, they genuinely believe in the concept and have solid strategies and implementation plans for achieving real benefits that impact society. The goal, however, should be to achieve long-lasting change for individuals and communities.
A famous saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Let me change that: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you not only feed him for a lifetime but also allow him to feed others around him who cannot fish.” Impact cultivating is about not just impacting a person but impacting a community.

As crucial as impact sourcing is in creating a better world, we must consider the impact of “cultivating.”  To reforest a barren landscape, start with seeds and nurture the saplings until you have fully developed solid and resilient trees. It requires time, effort, and investment.  Cultivating requires ongoing skills and knowledge to allow participants to adapt to changing situations, so they will not be left behind again. We already see the effect of technology eliminating low-skilled positions, and many supporting fields, such as medicine, are underprepared and understaffed. In this article, let’s look at impact cultivation and the foundation it creates for impact sourcing.

WHAT IS IMPACT SOURCING?

So first, let’s define what is “impact sourcing.” According to Wikipedia: “Impact sourcing, also known as socially responsible outsourcing, refers to an arm of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry that employs people at the base of the pyramid or socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals as principal workers in business process outsourcing centers to provide high-quality, information-based services to domestic and international clients.” Some other sources define it as outsourcing work to economically disadvantaged communities.

As shown in the figure above, impact sourcing not only directly affects those engaged in the services but also provides economic and social contributions to the community at large. Engaging several disadvantaged individuals to provide a service is good, but the more significant impact on society should be considered when evaluating the results of impact sourcing. The societal implications can uplift the entire surrounding population, encourage others to become engaged in changing their lives, and provide,e a role model for that change. It can boost local businesses economically and, eventually, result in flourishing local economies that contribute to, rather than depend on, government support.

THE CHALLENGE BEHIND IMPACT SOURCING

Thinking about the disadvantaged population when considering outsourcing is commendable and worthwhile. It does make an impact. However, there are some significant challenges to a successful implementation:

  • Disadvantaged population may not have the necessary hard and soft skills necessary to perform the business function
  • The social framework in these areas makes it difficult for some to have a “regular” job. They may be engaged in supporting their elderly or young children who demand time and energy
  • Distressed locations do not have the adequate infrastructure to establish a viable center. Utilities generally avoid locations where there is little opportunity for a profitable growth

Many socially conscious businesses do not, or cannot, invest time and energy in solving the root problems and look for more accessible alternatives. As a result, some of the disadvantaged areas and populations tend to fall further behind. Such is the case for many geographic locations globally.

THE CORNERSTONE FOR CULTIVATING RESOURCES

Even though the government can support and encourage cultivating resources in the affected areas, this support usually comes from infrastructure investments and tax benefits. These alone cannot develop resources.  There needs to be a social ecosystem to establish and promote resources. There are three components to such an ecosystem:

  • Resource channeling: In disadvantaged areas, resources are not easily identifiable, and traditional means of recruiting may not be effective.  There needs to be a set of mentor organizations that identify and prepare these resources for a “professional” job. For example, they provide initial training and guidance on how to look (and dress) professionally and learn some soft skills necessary for a service industry position. They act as career guidance counselors for workers, many of whom may not have had an opportunity to be employed in a professional business. Most of these organizations are either charity-funded or local governmental organizations.
  • Familial umbrella: Creating a support system is crucial, especially when workers have not had a chance to be employed full-time in a structured environment. Resources like daycare, access to affordable medical advice, or transportation may not exist. Without these services, engaging them in a career-changing opportunity may be difficult.  Religious organizations, non-governmental entities, formal social networks, and even governmental agencies can provide the support needed to help the people.
  • Educational enablement: Generally, businesses do not want to be solely responsible for educating and training employees. Disadvantaged people also do not have the financial means or access to affordable education.  This lack of an educated workforce creates a never-ending cycle. To break this cycle, there has to be an ecosystem that provides affordable education, skills development, and coaching. This enablement has three critical parts:
  • Provide scholarships for students who cannot start or complete their education without financial support.
  • Provide mentoring for these people so that as they “graduate” from their studies, they can present themselves professionally and learn the tools of networking and job searching.
  • Finally, create job opportunities through an impact-sourcing-focused company that recruits them and provides engagement-specific training before fully deploying them in the workforce, thus creating a career path for them.

Businesses are considering global social responsibilities and are looking at impact sourcing to fulfill the obligation. Without this commitment, the social imbalance will remain and contribute to social unrest resources, which is critical to successfully implementing impact sourcing. It may take time, but it will be the start of the path of equity.

There is a famous fable: An older man was walking on a beach and saw a young man picking up a starfish and putting it gently in the water. He called out, “May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young man paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean, they have washed ashore with the tide. If I don’t throw them in, they will die”. The man asked, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!” The young man listened, bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “But, It made a difference for that one.”

Let’s together make a difference.

Impact Sourcing is the practice of creating opportunities for those that would not otherwise have it.

Aimed at supporting individuals from marginalised communities globally, the model encourages businesses to engage with individuals who may have limited prospects and help recruit, train and develop them and ultimately provide them with a career, income and a better life.

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