Can the Gig Economy Bring Relief to Refugees?

Handmade Banner Refugees Welcome - Can the Gig Economy Bring Relief to Refugees?

Can the Gig Economy Bring Relief to Refugees?

The recent presidential debate reminded me of the importance of sharing the responsibilities across nations to help solve the refugee challenge. I talked with colleague and friend Daniel W. Rasmus at Serious Insights about innovative ways to approach the refugee crisis [see his post here].

I started with the work I did a few months ago with the U.S. State Department, where I learned about the plight of refugees inside of countries across Europe and elsewhere who find it hard to find work, or are denied work in their skilled profession based on local regulations around certification and licensing.

We started thinking about the Gig Economy which Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, called the secret weapon of the US economy in his last interview on The Street.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - SEPTEMBER 15, 2015: Female Syrian refugees are picking donated clothes at charity collecting point. They are listening to an announcement made by aid worker.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – SEPTEMBER 15, 2015: Female Syrian refugees are picking donated clothes at charity collecting point. They are listening to an announcement made by aid worker.

Considering how technology enables more of that “gig” technology, we started discussing it as the solution to bringing much needed paying work to refugees, reducing the burden of acclimation by local governments and reducing the incidents of violence spurred by perceptions of refugees displacing native workers.

Samasource is helping with what they call “the bottom of the bottom,” by providing projects to people inside refugee camps that pay significantly more than equivalent hours of manual labor.

We kind of both started saying the same things. What if we flipped the model so that businesses around the world provided access to remote jobs for skilled workers around the world, who may be displaced by circumstance—but still highly qualified to deliver their expertise.

And at the core of this, those companies could increase the value of these workers by helping them learn English, which would reduce their costs by ensuring the understand work assignments, and that they deliver quality results.

While experiments like the Samasource and Crowdflower to GiveWork app attempted to bring together refugees with quality monitor in the U.S., no one has scaled a solution. What we need to do is take the flipping idea even further and help make the landed refugees citizens of the world first. I’m not suggesting that they abandon loyalty to the country in which they settled, but that in order to contribute locally they will need work, and it might well be that global work will be more accessible than local work. The faster we can make them citizens of the world, the better it is for them, for their employers, and for the local economies.

There is no magic formula that is going to help the millions of displaced workers tomorrow, but we believe that the world needs innovative ideas. The number of displaced grows daily and we have to find new engagement pathways—and encouraging global companies to take on not just citizenship efforts that pour money into third-party programs—but programs that bring refugees into organizations so they can contribute through global collaboration and communications systems.

I’m committing that in the next six months I’m going to find a way to hire a couple of recently settled refugees. I ask my fellow leaders to join me in finding an answer to the question: Can the Gig Economy Bring Relief to Refugees?