Leila Chirayath Janah of Smasource.org: In Conversation with Women 2.0
Primary Language: English
Leila Chirayath Janah, founder of Samasource.org, discusses how she became interested in socially responsible outsourcing and why she set up shop in the Bay Area.
My Recent Work
You did not do any work on this video
Subtitles in: English
Start End Subtitles
00:00:00 00:00:04 I'm Emily Golagosky with Women 2.0's In Conversation Series.
00:00:05 00:00:07 I'm here with Leila Chirayath Janah from Samasource.org,
00:00:08 00:00:11 a social enterprise that aims to provide jobs for skilled
00:00:11 00:00:13 but economically disadvantaged individuals.
00:00:15 00:00:16 Samasource is a social enterprise.
00:00:17 00:00:19 We are working on two main programs right now.
00:00:19 00:00:23 The first is defining what we're calling socially responsible outsourcing,
00:00:24 00:00:28 which is really a new brand of outsourcing that focuses on small and medium sized
00:00:29 00:00:32 service providers in very poor parts of the world.
00:00:32 00:00:36 And the second is we're connecting these small companies
00:00:36 00:00:38 to a global market for services.
00:00:39 00:00:41 We're running a Pilot now with eight small firms,
00:00:41 00:00:45 in Nairobi, rural India - Bihar, and Kathmandu, Nepal.
00:00:46 00:00:50 And we do diligence, do due diligence on the firms rather,
00:00:50 00:00:52 and then connect them to clients, based on,
00:00:52 00:00:56 a number of different skill sets they may have.
00:00:56 00:00:59 So, how did you get interested in this work, and why is it important?
00:01:01 00:01:05 This interest has had a really long incubation period.
00:01:06 00:01:11 I first got interested in social justice as a high school student, in Los Angeles.
00:01:11 00:01:14 I actually did work for the ACLU, and a couple of organizations locally.
00:01:15 00:01:17 But, as a child of Indian immigrant parents,
00:01:18 00:01:21 I was always curious about poverty in India, where they had grown up,
00:01:21 00:01:24 and I never really had much direct exposure to it.
00:01:24 00:01:27 When I was about 16 years old, I decided that I wanted
00:01:28 00:01:31 to leave my cushioned, suburban life in Los Angeles
00:01:32 00:01:34 and get out there and explore the world a bit more,
00:01:34 00:01:39 and I ended up getting a scholarship, that I convinced the organizers of,
00:01:39 00:01:42 to let me take and use to travel in Africa.
00:01:43 00:01:48 So, I found a volunteer opportunity in rural Ghana, in a small town called Akuapem,
00:01:49 00:01:51 and it was sort of a shock to there as a 17 year old.
00:01:52 00:01:56 But it was also the best thing that I've ever done.
00:01:57 00:01:59 I think it really impacted me.
00:01:59 00:02:03 My students, and I had about 60 of them, they were middle school aged,
00:02:03 00:02:07 were incredibly bright, heartbreakingly bright.
00:02:07 00:02:10 I had a student in particular, Femi Abbas,
00:02:10 00:02:13 who would stay after class with me, for two three hours a day,
00:02:14 00:02:16 and ask me about opportunities outside of Ghana,
00:02:17 00:02:20 and how he might become a writer, and, you know, where he might be able to get funding,
00:02:21 00:02:27 and it really crushed me that people with Femi's talent were unable to succeed.
00:02:27 00:02:30 And I think that as an American, especially this Election Year,
00:02:31 00:02:34 we've all become very excited about meritocracy,
00:02:34 00:02:37 and about providing people with opportunity,
00:02:37 00:02:40 if they have the skill and the drive, to take those opportunities.
00:02:41 00:02:44 And I think that for a vast, vast portion of the world,
00:02:44 00:02:47 there simply are none of those opportunities.
00:02:47 00:02:51 And I think that's the biggest moral challenge of our time.
00:02:51 00:02:54 So, this seed was planted about ten years ago,
00:02:54 00:02:56 and I ended up studying African Development,
00:02:56 00:02:59 working for the World Bank in a couple of development projects,
00:03:00 00:03:03 and getting kind of frustrated with the large scale approach
00:03:03 00:03:06 to economic development in places like Africa.
00:03:06 00:03:11 I think that while large infrastructure projects are certainly needed,
00:03:11 00:03:15 what I found time and time again, is that the Femis of the world were being ignored
00:03:15 00:03:18 by these development programs.
00:03:18 00:03:22 And I decided, that as an individual, the area that I could have the most impact,
00:03:22 00:03:24 was in starting some kind of an organization
00:03:24 00:03:27 that could provide more good job opportunities for people like Femi
00:03:28 00:03:31 and that was the initial inspiration behind Samasource.
00:03:32 00:03:35 And how have you found the Bay Area and Silicon Valley,
00:03:36 00:03:38 as a place to make this idea come to life?
00:03:38 00:03:43 I think that Silicon Valley, and I was there for about a year
00:03:43 00:03:46 before moving up to San Francisco a month ago.
00:03:46 00:03:53 I think that Silicon Valley is unparalleled as a nexus of entrepreneurship,
00:03:53 00:03:55 of Social entrepreneurship, and the regular kind.
00:03:56 00:04:00 And I think that being around technology companies,
00:04:00 00:04:03 and around the sort of innovation that's common here, has been really beneficial.
00:04:04 00:04:07 We share office-space with several Y combinator startups,
00:04:08 00:04:10 and their work ethic has been really inspiring, and I think,
00:04:10 00:04:13 frankly, many of the non-profits that I know about,
00:04:13 00:04:16 just don't kinda have that same approach.
00:04:16 00:04:19 So, I think from that perspective, it's been really helpful,
00:04:19 00:04:24 and I think from the perspective of being a socially focused organization,
00:04:24 00:04:26 the Bay Area is an incredibly receptive place.
00:04:27 00:04:29 There are tons of non-profits active here.
00:04:30 00:04:34 There's a whole, there's a nascent movement around social capital,
00:04:34 00:04:37 that's really rooted in the Bay Area.
00:04:37 00:04:40 There was a Social Capital Markets's conference here a few weeks ago,
00:04:40 00:04:41 that we participated in.
00:04:41 00:04:44 So I think there's also this sort of enabling environment
00:04:44 00:04:47 that you need to succeed as a social entrepreneur here,
00:04:47 00:04:51 in a way that doesn't exist elsewhere. - Thank you so much.
Copy and paste the embed code above
Copy and paste the embed code above