Posted by Amanda Lotz, Financial Inclusion 2020 Project Coordinator, CFI

Schwab Foundation describes a social entrepreneur as possessing a healthy impatience. Leila Janah arrived on a red eye to Washington to speak at the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) and then traveled back to San Francisco for another engagement that afternoon. I’d call that a little healthy impatience.

I was fortunate to attend the Global Corporate Citizenship Conference at the BCLC in the company of a highly socially conscious audience to listen to Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource.

Initiated in Kenya in 2008, Samasource provides people at the base of the pyramid, currently earning less than a living wage, with the opportunity to earn a sustainable source of income in support of complex digital projects needed by large enterprises, such as Google and eBay.  Through in-country partners, employees are recruited and validated. Using the internet, Samasource equips its employees with technological skills and 2-4 weeks of training. It then connects them to digital work that requires a “human touch” and is not easily completed by automated systems. Even better, the target employees of Samasource are women and youth (two client populations to consider when discussing current financial inclusion challenges). Since its inception, Samasource has expanded operations to a total of nine countries, including India, Haiti and Pakistan  more evidence of healthy impatience.

CFI’s Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign identifies the client perspective as a central component to its campaign for full financial inclusion. The campaign promotes a message found in the CFI paper “Opportunities and Obstacles to Financial Inclusion”: The message is, “It’s the clients, stupid.

Women are a core client population in microfinance, while youth are less likely to have access to financial services. Organizations such as Women’s World Banking have taken steps to evaluate gender differences, as in their report, “Microinsurance That Works For Women: Making Gender-Sensitive Microinsurance Programs.” The YouthSave Consortium, a collaborative initiative spearheaded by Save the Children, the Center for Social Development, New America Foundation and CGAP, consider what youth need to reposition themselves on a path to their best possible economic future. Save The Children conducted particularly interesting research exploring “What do Youth Savers Want?” One key obstacle for the youth identified in this study is the lack of secure, safe places to save (where parents or siblings cannot access their money). These studies serve as only a pair of many insights into how to better serve clients and inform providers of financial services.

Janah’s talk generated questions about Samasource’s client population and microfinance. Are the women and youth who find work through Samasource saving their money? In a financial institution? Do they use M-PESA to move their money and make payments? Have any of them received financial literacy training?

I wondered whether Samasource works with any microfinance institutions or organizations. Janah expressed interest in exploring these questions but did not suggest that it is part of the current model. As Samasource continues to scale up and increase its reach, I hope that it begins to consider the opportunity to maximize its impact through partnering with organizations or MFIs who provide inclusive financial services.

For more information about CFI’s Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign, sign up for updates here.

Image Credit: Google Africa Blog

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