Slumdog Millionaires: Can Impact Sourcing Alleviate Poverty?

By Chacko Kannothra and Stephan Manning.

Call centers, tech support, payroll processing – more and more service jobs are performed abroad. Global outsourcing is one of the most controversial trends of our time. To some, it is mainly a cost-cutting exercise which has led to job losses in Western economies and has started a ‘global race to the bottom’. The recent shift of clients and providers to second and third-tier outsourcing locations to keep labor costs low is an indicator of that. To others, outsourcing has also generated new income and entrepreneurial opportunities especially in developing countries. Clearly, in particular for the young and educated in urban areas, such as Bangalore in India, the outsourcing sector has been a career stepping stone. But how about the vast majority who still live in poverty? Will the global service industry widen the gap between the new urban elite and the rest? Maybe not if we believe in the new trend of ‘impact sourcing’ – the creation of outsourcing jobs and training opportunities for the poor and disadvantaged, in particular from slums and rural areas. Impact sourcing was celebrated a few weeks ago at the 17th World Outsourcing Summit as a promising way of combining business and social benefit. The Rockefeller Foundation even calls it a means towards reducing poverty. But are these claims realistic?

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Harmony in Poverty? Or Can the Landfill Harmonic Project Really Transform Communities?

By Stephan Manning.

The new documentary “Landfill Harmonic” tells the story about a group of children from Cateura, a Paraguayan slum, who play instruments made entirely of garbage from a nearby landfill. A related Kickstarter campaign raised $214k in May this year to support not only the film project, but outreach programs and a world tour of “The Recycled Orchestra”. Is the Kickstarter campaign right in saying that “[such] creative and simple solutions can bring powerful social transformation to the poorest communities”? The campaign and a related video posted on Kickstarter, upworthy.com and other websites sparked a recent controversy about the real impact of such initiatives.

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