‘Gig Economy’ set to disrupt the global NGO sector

The ‘Gig Economy’ or ‘Task Based Working’ is the latest digital trend that’s going to radically transform the way that the global NGO sector functions. Increasingly organisations are choosing to acquire ‘micro tasks’. Online marketplaces allow for the purchase of labour from $5 per activity up to the many thousands, but always with a clearly defined outcome.

For years the ‘startup scene’ has utilised these online marketplaces to outsource various administrative and creative tasks to a flexible workforce allowing them to focus on their core activities. But recent studies by the University of Oxford[1] show that increasingly Fortune 500 companies are moving towards this more flexible and remote working model.

There are a number of factors driving the huge growth in this style of work, up 26% from 2016 to 2017 according to Professor Vili Lehdonvirta[2]. A combination of massive global education and a reduction in poverty over the last three to four decades has created a vast worldwide pool of talent.

In the last decade the potential value of this global educated mass has been hyper-charged by three major technology revolutions: high-speed internet continues to light up the world at an increasing rate opening instant communication to millions more every year. Secondly, the cost of hardware has decreased dramatically opening smartphones and laptops to billions. Lastly, online value exchange platforms have become commonplace and an accepted method of commerce in every corner of the plant.

The NGO sector is a ripe environment for this wave of disruption to hit. A global workforce, accustomed to working on global issues that don’t have physical boundaries and already using a consultant based workforce approach in many instances.

According to the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2017[3]international humanitarian aid has continued to increase, reaching $27bn in 2016 but despite this level of aid, over a third of needs are still not being met and demand is rising.

The ‘Gig Economy’ is causing us to ask important questions about employment and indeed immigration as the internet allows for ‘work without borders’ to thrive. However recent work from the University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute shows that between the broadly northern hemisphere and the broadly southern hemisphere attitudes vary greatly[4].

Premilla D’Cruz & Ernesto Noronha of the Indian Institute of Management showed in their 2016 work that many workers felt that the ‘positives outweigh the negatives’ when it comes to outsourcing platforms. Citing reasons such as being truly merit based and avoiding local ‘unfair’ power dynamics or more deeply engrained social hierarchy paradigms.[5]

Roya Karimnia, CEO of ImpactXchange (formerly NGOexchange), an online task based marketplace for social impact organisations, explained that in research carried out in 2017 they found striking results in the global health sector. “We had 170 responses to our survey which was in itself surprising. Those responses showed that over 70% viewed their future employment as including task based work as their principle income or alongside their ‘main job’. Bear in mind that these are all Masters graduates. From the other side only 17% of the NGOs we spoke to reported that they had 100% of the skills they need to achieve their mission. There’s a clear supply/demand dynamic that isn’t being met.”

According to The Global Journal there are 10 million NGOs worldwide with 3.3 million in India alone[6]. The NGO sector in the USA employs 1 in 10 people making it the third largest employment sector.[7]

Roya comments on why ImpactXchange (formerly NGOexchange) was created?—?“When you look at these numbers and you look at the increasing need in the world you can’t help but be moved to act. We set up the marketplace because there are millions, perhaps billions of actors in the NGO sector; all striving to make the world a little better. Connections between these participants create opportunities for ideas to flourish. We see the future NGO sector as one that shares more… more ideas, more resources, more assets, more talent, more successes, more saved lives. We hope ImpactXchange.co will be part of that.”

Article written by Joseph Telfer.

ImpactXchange.co (formerly NGOexchange.com) launched in March 2018.

[1] https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/publications/platform-sourcing.pdf

[2] http://fortune.com/2017/08/29/the-gig-economy-isnt-just-for-startups-anymore/

[3] http://devinit.org/post/global-humanitarian-assistance-2017/

[4] http://blog.gdi.manchester.ac.uk/podcast-richard-heeks-digital-gig-economy/

[5]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304158387_Positives_outweighing_negatives_the_experiences_of_Indian_crowdsourced_workers

[6] www.infochangeindia.org

[7] http://nonprofitaction.org/2015/09/facts-and-stats-about-ngos-worldwide/

June 17, 2018