May 7, 2019 | Marieke den Nijs

What Intrapreneurs can Learn from Samasource: 4 Key Lessons

Last week, Outside Inc. organised an inspiration session together with Samasource. This was part of the Leapfrog 4 Impact innovation programme, which had a jumpstart on the 10th of April. In this programme the intrapreneurs of FMO are looking for solutions around the theme “value beyond banking”.

A great source of inspiration is Samasource, a social enterprise with a vision to measurably move people out of poverty through digital work.

"Samasource outsources digital work to unemployed people in impoverished countries."

The company has developed a technology platform for this end, the SamaHub, which breaks down complex data projects into small tasks that can be completed with basic English skills after a few weeks of training. These trainings are offered to people who previously earned less than the local poverty line. The founder of Samasource, Leila Janah, is an example of a true social intrapreneur; an innovative employee that became inspired while working for a company to develop an innovative idea that results in social impact. 

The way Samasource does business is successful and has made significant impact; by raising incomes and empowering women and youth with a living wage, it has lifted over 50,000 people out of poverty. The company has been named one of the Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies” and counts Walmart, Google and eBay among its clients. 

What can be learned from this inspiring social enterprise? We list 4 key lessons for intrapreneurs to take away from the way Samasource does business:

1. Digitalisation is everywhere. All major companies are looking at ways on how to make the most out of this growing trend. Samasource shows that working with AI and emerging technologies can become very concrete and manageable, connecting this development with creating social impact. 

2. While Samasource’s clients are major blue chip companies, it simultaneously creates impact from the bottom-up. Although these two ways of operating seem to stand at opposite sides of the spectrum, Samasource proves that they can be successfully linked, hereby using the capital of the bigger company to create bigger impact.

3. Although Samasource started as a non-profit, it has evolved into a hybrid for-profit/ non-profit structure. This allows the the company to attract more impact investment capital. The trainings Samasource provides for to small digital tasks remains majority-owned by a non-profit. This different structure shows the possibilities of finance methods that go beyond traditional ways.

4. The business model of Samasource gives an answer to the question how to connect the Western economy with emerging economies in a dignified way that adds true meaning to the lives of people, going beyond charity by giving work to fight poverty.