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John Snowden

Sep 10, 2013

Establishing Market Value for Workers in Developing Nations

CloudFactory is working to connect a million persons in developing nations to basic computer work, while raising them up as leaders to address poverty in their own communities. This is our mission statement. At the heart of what we do is our social mission. We’ve never hidden it and we love to talk about it.

In order to accomplish our mission, we have to establish a marketplace value to potential customers by setting up viable and helpful business processes. Therefore, we are a for-profit business that is married to an imperative of providing value to our customers.  We pitch ourselves to potential customers by saying we can help them scale by improving their business processes. As it stands now, we don’t pitch ourselves to potential customers as “help us help people.”

When telling a friend about CloudFactory, she asked why we didn’t position ourselves in the marketplace with our social mission. “Companies (and consumers) in America eat that stuff up”, she argued. Everyone seems to tout how “green” they are in their marketing now. Some companies give away a fractional percent of their revenue, produce a commercial about kids in Africa, and their entire marketing basis becomes about their social impact. Walk into a socially hip coffee shop on Melrose and you are barraged with various beans, gadgets, and impulse-buy items that are tied to messages of global mission.

On one hand, this excites me. Citizens of one country are often aware of and desiring to help those who are struggling in another less developed nation. At first glance, I resonate with this.

I asked my friend a question. I said, if I were selling water, and marketing that water with my social mission, how do you determine the value of the water itself? The value of any product is whatever people will pay for it. But the value of the water in this hypothetical case can’t be decoupled from the value of a PR channel that tries to capitalize on a good human instinct. The water itself is actually de-valued or perhaps un-valuation-able.

A person can likewise be valued in a marketplace. We could ask every person what their marketplace value is. What is your marketplace value? It’s the currency value of any service you’re able to sell to someone for that price. Maybe you’re a programmer. Your market value is whatever you’re able to earn. Are you a filmmaker? The value of your film is the total of what a distributor or end customers are willing to pay. Entrepreneur? The value of your company is based on what price someone is willing to risk for your company’s stock.

Let’s back up. Market value and human worth are not the same thing. I value humans more than I value a human’s market value. I know many people who offer zero to the marketplace but bring incredible worth to families and to fellow humans in their neighborhoods and to the world. But since a human’s physical situation, ability to contribute to family finances, buy bread, and self-worth are related to their offering to a marketplace, a family’s marketplace value is worthwhile. Because we value humans, we want to help those humans engage with opportunities to contribute economic value around their strengths.

Aid is helpful. It helps hurting people. Sometimes it brings clean water, warm clothes, baby-care supplies, and more. It is dignifying to a human in need. Aid does not, however, increase a person’s dignity in the marketplace. It usually does not bring long-term sustainability to a person. The only long-term sustainable economic provision for a family comes through one or more of its members having a measurable marketplace offering.

Because we earn business solely on the merits of our business, CloudFactory is directly helping people realize a marketplace value within a global marketplace so that they can support themselves and their families. We’re exporting labor from Nepal and Kenya without a worker having to leave his home . Each of those workers has a demonstrable contribution to a very real business process. Each also has the opportunity to put that on a resume toward future growth in their ability to provide for themselves and their families.

And while establishing marketplace value, we’re also calling our workers to leadership in order to address poverty around them. Did you catch that? We’re also offering aid through marketplace contribution. As a worker establishes his or her marketplace value, they’ll have free time and disposable money to offer aid to those around them. Aid organizations go around and raise money to give away, which is great. CloudFactory raises people to work and give away their time and treasure, sustainably.

Some assume that profit undermines aid and polarizes resource distribution. But profit can actively provide marketplace value for the disenfranchised, while integrating poverty alleviation and social mission right into their core business. Aid no longer needs to be seen as foreign, external, or paternalistic. It can simply be a neighbor loving a neighbor. And that is one thing that that CloudFactory wants to be all about.

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