Leila Janah is the founder and CEO of Samasource, which connects people living in poverty to microwork. The microwork helps provide opportunities to get them out of poverty. She was inspired to help people by hearing stories from her parents of life in India. One story was one of them throwing a piece of bread onto the streets, and a street kid running from nowhere to snatch it. A great and challenging presentation. Here are my notes.

  • “What kind of lucky accident allowed me to be born here and not the streets of Calcutta?”
  • She graduated from high school early so she could get involved in helping others right away. So, at age 17 she was in Ghana, teaching English to sixty blind students who had three textbooks amongst them. They had a library of books that were mainly English with English themes. They couldn’t relate.
  • Despite their hardships, they had a passion to learn. They also wanted to leave Ghana and come to the United States because they saw it as a place of wealth and opportunity.
  • They were blind because they were poor, where only 1% of their country’s population gets decent healthcare. Talent is going to waste. They had passion and inspiration, but no chance.
  • 4 billion people live on less than $3 day, because they lost birth lottery. It’s not because they lack drive or don’t work hard.
  • Had boxes of student letters when returned home from Ghana. Kids didn’t have poor work ethic when writing letters asking money. They were allocating money and resources efficiently. Asking rich foreigners for money is much better allocation because they have no opportunities where they are. Many families borrow just to put one kid through school. Some places, the kids graduate and face 70% unemployment. More people are literate than ever before, yet face unemployment around the world. They are waiting on a chance to use their skills.
  • 144 million youth are unemployed, or working but living in poverty that keeps them there. They turn to unsavory menthods to get money. Some join militia because they thought they’d get paid. 50% will consider organized crime because of money. In Somalia, pirates get 17x what normal wage is. 80% of women workers in Africa or SE Asia face vulnerable employment.
  • Not seeing catalytic impact we were hoping for with micro finance.
  • Went to Harvard where I thought I’d find solutions. I didn’t though, in fact I was turned off because the experts were staying at 5 star hotels, writing papers and getting tenture. They weren’t thinking about how to get poor people out of poverty.
  • Got a job at World Bank thinking it would help me learn. Saw the motto that said, “Our dream is a world free of poverty.” Right across from it, at bank, was a sign for a seminar advertising, “How to finance your second home.e” Is this the culture to help me find solutions?
  • Trade can be a great leveler when the terms are fair. However, it helps the bigger countries than the smaller countries.
  • We think poverty is kind of inevitable.
  • “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Is it audacious? We’ve mapped the genome, everyone seemingly has a cell phone. I think we can and we will. It will take bold solutions.
  • The fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, by C.K. Prahalad.
  • True engagement means to value those less fortunate than ourselves as equals.
  • The Henry Ford assembly line. Took complexion of machine and broke it down into small tasks. This provided jobs for people.
  • Assembly line in 2000 is in China. It’s not sexy stuff the people are doing, but it empowers women and they aren’t trafficked. They have a wage now.
  • Digital work, our business processing outsource.
  • “Slumdog Millionaire”, The poor working in call centers for multinational companies. Possible for kids in slums to work. If it can work to in slums of India, how can it work in slums and poor ares around the US and world?
  • Over 200 million laptops and netbooks in the world.
  • Sama means equal in sanskrit. Samasource
  • A few dollars can represent a 300% increase in income in some of these locations for people. Workers doing work for some of the leading companies. People can escape proverty by selling their services to the world economy.
  • World’s largest refuge camp in Dadaab, Kenya. It houses 300,000 people in a place for 90,000 people that are in abject poverty. Middle in dadaab there is a computer lab that has a satellite dish next to it. Paul Parach is one of the individuals with that lab. One of the so-called Lost Boys. The fortunate ones earn 50 cents a day doing hard labor, breaking down big rocks into smaller rocks. Paul has a chance at opportunities through digital microwork opportunities.
  • Fighting greatest ethical battle in our time, a fundamental disparity to access to opportunity. We spend $14 on dog foie gras biscuits from a bakery, and yet many around the world don’t see that much in a week.
  • “If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.” -Howard Zinn

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