Baby Elephants & Tug of War

Samasource Team

August 17, 2016

4 minute read

Samasource Delivery Center’s One Year Anniversary


Samasource, a non-profit founded in 2008, has been focused on one guiding mission: to connect women and youth to dignified work through the internet economy. In this time, we’ve learned a lot about the complexities of giving work to people who’ve never been in formal employment. We’ve also learned how challenging it can be to make jobs for those un- or under-employed simultaneously dignified, sustainable, and motivating.

Last year, we launched our first owned and operated brick and mortar delivery center in Nairobi, Kenya. Here and at our partner delivery centers across the world, Samasource workers perform data services like image annotation, internet research and content moderation for clients such as Google, Microsoft and Walmart. This center offered us an opportunity to fine-tune our impact criteria and incubate new ideas on how to best support our workers.

We challenged ourselves to imagine what a traditional delivery center looked like, and then strove to build the exact opposite. Instead of tall cubicle dividers, tightly organized to maximize seating, we created open spaces and blue light. Instead of walled off offices for management and leads, we created common areas and bays where leads can sit with their teams.

We asked ourselves, “Could we transport the best practices from Silicon Valley and San Francisco to our Nairobi office, just walking distance from the harsh conditions of the slums many of our workers come from?” Some of these best practices, while modest in nature, have made a real difference in the sustainability of this work -- so much so that we have experienced less than 3% attrition since opening.

We provide transportation services and training stipends, as we learned years ago that if you make less than $2 a day, and transportation costs $2 a day, it’s hard to even begin interviewing and training for a well paying job. While drinking water and toilet paper hardly seem leading practice, believe it or not, they are not common in Nairobi. We required bank accounts for direct deposit and provided financial literacy training, as the concept of budgeting and savings is very new to the majority of our agents. And at a time when pensions are no longer the norm, we started a pension program that Sama contributes to, to inspire even longer-term savings goals. We further integrated our training program, Samaschool, to tie in not only digital literacy, time management and entrepreneurial training, but also laser market driven data service skills such as internet research and image annotation.

We strove to create an environment of empowerment and teamwork, opting to have chalkboards for agents to write inspiring quotes, instead of a bulletin board of metrics. We host team meetings that are less about listening to talk in an office and more about tug of war, petting baby elephants, a cappella singing and dancing. We invite our alumni to join us, growing our Sama family events ever larger.

As we pass the one year anniversary of our delivery center, we have an entirely new set of initiatives to test out: from health and wellness week and childcare vouchers to feeding giraffes.



Samasource Team

From self-driving cars to smart hardware, Samasource fuels AI. Founded over a decade ago, we’re experts in image, video and sensor data annotation and validation for machine learning algorithms in industries including automotive, navigation, AR/VR, biotech, agriculture, manufacturing, and e-commerce. Our staff are driven by a mission to expand opportunity for low-income people through the digital economy, and our social business model has helped over 50,000 people lift themselves out of poverty.