Give Work | Leila Janah

Summary of: Give Work: Reversing Poverty One Job at a Time
By: Leila Janah


Dive into the powerful message of ‘Give Work: Reversing Poverty One Job at a Time’ by Leila Janah and discover how providing well-paid job opportunities can help combat poverty on a global scale. This book summary focuses on Janah’s journey to eradicate poverty, the challenges faced by aid organizations, and the significance of impact sourcing in reducing unemployment. Learn about her transformative initiative, Samasource, that trains and employs impoverished individuals in digital work, leading to improved living conditions and brighter futures. Explore the role of governments, businesses, and individuals in fostering a world where everyone has a chance at a decent livelihood.

Fighting Poverty with Technology

Janah’s journey from teaching blind children in Ghana to founding a social enterprise that aims to tackle extreme poverty by providing people with dignified work.

At a young age, Leila Janah embarked on a mission to address world hunger and poverty. Her experience teaching blind children in rural Ghana under the American Field Service program changed her perspective on meritocracy – the belief that hard work alone guarantees success. Witnessing the smart, ambitious but poor kids struggle to access life-important medicine for lack of a few dollars made her realize that talent and brains don’t translate to equal opportunity.

These experiences led Janah to establish a social enterprise that aims to empower people with dignified work using technology. She believes that providing well-paid work to those living in deep poverty will transform their lives and counter short-term survival thinking, allowing them to make long-term plans and enjoy life. She founded Samasource, a non-profit that provides artificial intelligence and data annotation services to tech companies. Samasource’s business model ensures that people in disadvantaged communities can access work opportunities and earn a living wage.

Janah’s journey from addressing poverty through teaching to founding a social enterprise embodies the importance of supporting people’s basic human needs to trigger a self-sustaining pathway out of poverty.

Effectiveness of Aid in Eradicating Poverty

The book challenges the traditional approach to aid organizations and their impact on poverty reduction. The author emphasizes that aid needs to be effective, efficient, and measurable to benefit the poorest people. While aid can reduce conflict, preserve natural resources, and confront corrupt governance, most aid agencies don’t consider the poor as their clients. They focus on large infrastructure projects executed by big corporations, which fail to serve the poorest people. The author argues that aid should not replace capitalism, which is the mechanism that reduces poverty. Instead, social enterprise models like Planned Parenthood’s condom distribution program in Ghana and outsourcing programs in India can help empower the poorest of the poor with jobs that pay a living wage. The book advocates for aid agencies to build in feedback mechanisms, measure outcomes and results, and hold agencies accountable to make aid effective in eradicating poverty.

Samasource: Empowering Women, Eradicating Poverty

Samasource, formerly known as Market for Change, is a social business founded on the principles of ethical outsourcing by Janah. Its goal is to reduce poverty barriers, provide a living wage, and practice environmental responsibility. The company recruits and trains poor people in digital jobs, teaching them valuable skills. Samasource focuses on helping women because they reinvest an average of 90 percent of their income back into their families. Women are also the main source of income in one out of every three households globally. Empowering women uplifts entire communities and raises their status within families. As workers earn more, they leave slums, educate their children and eat healthier. Samasource’s philosophy is aimed primarily at eradicating poverty, and profits earned are reinvested to expand and improve the company. Samasource has been successful in helping people move out of poverty; for instance, the workers’ average wage at Samsource went from two to more than eight dollars in their first four months.

Impact Sourcing for Refugees

The international community should incentivize impact sourcing to create job opportunities for refugees. Samasource trains refugees to do “microwork” which is simple and in high demand. Entrepreneurs who work for Samasource can change their lives financially, as Juliet Ayot, a Ugandan refugee, did. Her Samasource job paid her three times more than what she could earn in Gulu. Juliet used her earnings to buy two pigs, which she later sold their piglets, and cows. Samasource is transforming the lives of refugees, natural disaster survivors, slum dwellers, and those in remote villages with borderless digital work.

From Textbook Proofreading to Global Delivery

Samasource started as a partner-owned business focused on providing proofreading services to Bookshare. However, their model shifted to a mix of partner-owned and self-operated delivery centers, starting in Kenya. As demand grew, they expanded to India and partnered with local companies to source remote workers. This move proved critical when an Internet cable outage shut down their Kenyan operations.

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