Technology allows capitalism to work for the many, not the few

Economic View: Back in Lagos, Ike logged on from a cyber café and landed his first job managing online advertising for a client

Judith Rodin
Friday 26 June 2015 01:09 BST

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Louise Thomas

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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 leaders are undertaking the business practices and policies that enable capitalism to create 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 Lagos home to the headquarters of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, a social enterprise, in the wee hours of the morning. His mission? To train to help African youths 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 learnt how to operate 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 Elance, an online freelance platform where global clients can post ads for digital work.

Upon his return home, Ike logged on from a cyber café and landed his first job managing online advertising for a client. He has now earned enough to buy a laptop and internet modem, take care of his siblings and pay back the £20 to his friend.

While this is just one story, it illustrates 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 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 known as “impact sourcing,” which is the deliberate employment of high-potential but disadvantaged youth. By hiring these workers, impact sourcing helps to provide a burgeoning demographic with more marketable and versatile skillsets, to increase disposable income and to 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 to connect businesses to the workforce they need in order to strengthen their foothold in the regions where they operate and cultivate trained, talented, motivated and committed employees. Indeed, a recent study indicated that companies can drive family income increases of between 40 per cent and 200 per cent through impact sourcing.

And companies that integrate impact sourcing reduce costs and save in the long term in comparison with 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 the outsourcer Teleperformance are seeing these benefits. Deloitte has hired around 300 impact-sourcing employees for its accounting business, comprising 10 per cent to 12 per cent 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 a strong work ethic among impact employees.

To accelerate the uptake of these practices by more companies, the Rockefeller Foundation has helped to build the impact-sourcing sector over the past few 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.

Capitalism must work for the many, not just the few. Impact sourcing offers one such approach and, for millions of young people like Ike, it could make all the difference.

Judith Rodin is the president of the Rockefeller Foundation. The Inclusive Capitalism 2015 conference is taking place at the Mansion House in City of London today, with speakers including Bill Clinton, Mark Carney and PepsiCo’s chief executive, Indra Nooyi

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