A White Paper, by Outsource Accelerator, exploring the potential for a community-led outsourcing initiative, aimed at generating 10,000 white collar provincial jobs.
Introducing the ‘CPO’: taking 10,000 jobs to the provinces: Executive summary
- The mission is to build 100 community-based BPOs (CPOs) in 100 provincial towns, which provide 100 jobs each.
- The CPOs will be community-led projects, and supported by the public and private sectors. This is a win-win for all stakeholders, not least the government, who benefits from 10,000 employed provincial workers, all of whom will be paying tax, whilst progressively up-skilling.
- The sector creates a middle class in which the workforce has safe work environments, good medical cover, strong labor laws and happy workplaces.
- Outsourcing employs one million people but there are still over 99 million more Filipinos; many of whom could really benefit from the proliferation of outsourcing.
- This would be a community led program needing minimal staffing, and minimal setup costs. It is critical to realize that in order for those CPOs to succeed, they must be seen and managed from the perspective that they are a community organization – one that is built by the community, and run by the community for the benefit of the community.
- For the jobs, we propose that people start on small basic jobs. Become competent and achieve good reviews and feedback, and then take on higher skilled jobs, which attracts more money.
I am a firm believer that free (and fair) market economics can provide a country with the necessary tools and motivators to take it from poverty, into a thriving educated state. Specifically for the Philippines, i think there is a huge opportunity to pull its 100m people from poverty and create one of the most prominent economic successes of this century. Outsourcing is the catalyst with which this can happen for the Philippines.
The Philippines is one of the world’s leaders in outsourcing. I believe that there is a very strong future for outsourcing, particularly as the world becomes increasing connected through ever-advancing technology and commerce.
The outsourcing industry is nothing short of an economic miracle for Philippines. In 20 years, it has gone from nothing into one of the country’s biggest earners. It now constitutes more than 10% of the country’s GDP and employs c.1.2 million people. Outsourcing offers abundant white collar roles, and the opportunity to upskill and climb a corporate ladder. It also allows it workforce to stay at home, and in the country – which has not been the case with the Overseas Foreign Worker (OFW) options.
However, despite contributing 10% ot the country’s GDP, it only employs less than 1% of the country’s population. And the vast majority of outsourcing, and its benefactors are concentrated in the main 2-3 cities. There is very little spread out into the provinces, where jobs are so sorely needed.
I wrote this paper one day after pondering how we could make a grassroots effort to propagate and disseminate the benefits of outsourcing out into the provinces. From a reductionist point of view, outsourcing is basically about earning money from doing work for someone from sitting in front of a computer. And in that respect outsourcing jobs, in so much as the provisioning of facilities, are highly transportable, and easy to set up. The dropping costs of technology and hardware means that the tools needed are, and should be, available to everyone that wants access.
There are now ubiquitous project based ’employment’ platforms such as Upwork, so there is now little need to setup the technical infrastructure. There is already a thriving ecosystem out there, that would-be ’employees’ can just log in and tap into.
As such, I looked at the possibility of setting up 100 facilities, across 100 provincial locations, with the ambition of employing 100 people in each. This employment would provide on the job training, and allow them to climb the – almost unlimited – ladder in terms of their knowledge, deliverables and income. The following paper is the result of those thoughts.
I had not originally intended for this paper to be ‘public’. It is not complete and it is not polished. It is just my opinion, and musings on how we could get 10,000 people quickly, and cost effectively employed in the provinces. A such, i ask that people read this with a tolerance for my raw candor.
Instead of this idea just sitting in Google Drive, I now feel it is better to be published and out there. It might at least start a conversation, and maybe start ‘a ball rolling’ somewhere. I would love to see a project such as this receive support, and gather momentum.
Derek Gallimore, Outsource Accelerator
I. CPO executive summary
The mission is to build 100 community-based BPOs (CPOs) in 100 provincial towns, which provide 100 jobs each. THIs is a total of 10,000 entry level ‘white-collar’ jobs where previously there was little opportunity for work, never-mind a white-collar role with progressive opportunities.
The CPOs will be community-led projects, and supported by the public and private sectors. This is a win-win for all stakeholders, not least the government, who benefits from 10,000 employed provincial workers, all of whom will be paying tax, whilst progressively up-skilling.
Outsourcing – a commercial force for good
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is a huge contributor to the Philippine economy, with c.10% of GDP, double-digit year-on- year growth and employment of over one million people. The primary contribution is accompanied by countless other positive secondary and tertiary associations. Outsourcing provides a range of medium-to-high skilled jobs within companies which offer good career ladders and continued professional development. The sector creates a middle class in which the workforce has safe work environments, good medical cover, strong labor laws and happy workplaces. It allows for skilled labor to stay in the Philippines (as opposed to OFWs), with their family, and earn a world-competing salary from their home country. This is a virtuous circle which further strengthens the Philippines and broadens the education levels and skill-base.
However, despite the outsourcing sector contributing c.10% to GDP; it only employs c.1m people – under 1% of the population. Computer-based and white-collar roles produce high income, but typically provide low levels of employment (compared to heavy industry or farming etc.), so there is a need for proactive development of mass-outsourcing activities, so that outsourcing’s employment prospect can trickle down to the masses.
Taking the benefits of outsourcing to the community
Outsourcing is making the Philippines richer, and is creating a middle class, where previously there was none. However, the benefits of outsourcing are mostly confined to the highly educated and urbanized parts of Philippines. There is little penetration of outsourcing into the remote provinces, nor into the less affluent or educated parts of the country.
Outsourcing employs one million people – which is fabulous – but there are still over 99 million more Filipinos; many of whom could really benefit from the proliferation of outsourcing. Despite enjoying the highest growth rates in Asia, Philippines suffers from one of the greatest wealth disparities in the world, with more than 20 million people live below the poverty line. Outsourcing provides an opportunity to spread the opportunity to earn – across the Philippines.
Defining and harnessing outsourcing
Outsourcing takes on many different guises.
The ‘traditional’ outsourcing is typically very structured and complex, which serves sophisticated multinationals, for which the country has built a sterling international reputation. This might be considered the top-end of outsourcing. However, there are a vast array of outsourcing activities that aren’t so sophisticated, that work on more basic tasks, and that need far less infrastructure.
Taken to the extreme, this ‘basic outsourcing’ can be done by relatively uneducated people, with only the most basic access to the most basic hardware (and internet connection).
The fact that there are people ‘out there’ looking for someone to do tasks, jobs, and activities for them, at an affordable price, provides a great opportunity for the less affluent people of the Philippines. The matching of people that ‘want things done’ with people, that will ‘do those things’, forms the basis of all trade. But more recently, there have been vast numbers of online marketplaces popping up that match people from both sides of the equation.
These marketplaces are more common that you might realize. Uber is a well-known marketplace. This matches people that want a journey/ride, with drivers that are willing to provide that journey/ride. There are dating apps that match males and females. And there are jobs boards that match potential employers with employees.
Of late, there has been an explosion in outsourcing, project and task based sites. The biggest examples of these are Upwork, and Freelancer. However, there are many other examples such as Task Us, Fiverr, 99 Designs, Task Rabbit, and many many others. These are by no means new. There are unofficial estimates that Upwork and Freelancer already have one million Filipinos working on, and earning an income from these sites.
These marketplaces typically work on a project based contract – there is not so much full-time employment. But the jobs on these sites are abundant, they offer good money for Philippine standards, allow people to work from home, and are infinitely varied.
Anyone can ‘apply’ for these jobs. Regardless of your background, and where you are sitting. These jobs are based on pure meritocracy – i.e. how good you are (plus some marketplace ranking algorithm) – which presents a huge opportunity for people sitting in the Philippines.
This paper proposes to take advantage of the huge flowing rivers of jobs from these platforms. With the provision of simple computers, a desk to sit at, and some basic education and guidance from community supervisors, provincial workforces can be created and mobilized. An empowered provincial workforce would then quickly be able to benefit from the fast-flowing deep rivers that these job marketplaces provide. To stick with the metaphor, we just need to provide people with some basic fishing equipment, and teach them how to fish.
Scope of founders
Outsource Accelerator and the organizing party are from now referred to as “founders”, but due to the lean nature of the organization, they are limited in scope and depth of work. This project will best success through a coordinated, self-motivated community approach of local partners.
III. 100 X100 CPO program
There is a fantastic opportunity to take outsourcing’s employment potential out into the community, and deep into the provinces.
We propose a provincial outsourcing employment plan – referred to as: 100×100 CPO (Community Process Outsourcing). This plan boldly proposes:
- 100 provincial towns to receive CPOs
- 100 employees in each BPO
- 10,000 jobs created
- 1,000 days to implement
- Development of a profitable, self-sustainable community-based enterprise
Note: the term ‘CPO’ is a play on the BPO term. It refers to these BPOs being a community-based and self-managed organisaiton, hence Community Process Outsource (CPO).
This 100×100 CPO plan would create 10,000 jobs where they are most needed. It would take skilled job opportunities deep into the provinces.
The only minimum requirement is that the community has a reasonable internet connection, and a basic ‘internet café’ type facility provided. There would be capital requirements to set this up, but the requirement would be relatively minimal compared to any other development which would provide 100 jobs in each location. There are many ways to fund and develop these CPO facilities – they can potentially be done very cheaply, and can also attract private-sector partnerships, and even, sponsorship.
There is also a requirement that the chosen community has a good supply of 100-200 willing and eager ‘job candidates, where they minimum thresholds of computer literacy/ability, but also the motivation to learn, the discipline to reliably show up to ‘work’ each day, and the drive to earn a reasonable income.
Each CPO facility would be profit-generating and a self-sustainable exercise. Once the seed of this plan has been sewn into the communities, it is likely that private-sector opportunists would even emulate this model, which would mean a further proliferation of community CPOs, which would add even more jobs.
This would be a community led program needing minimal staffing, and minimal setup costs. It is critical to realize that in order for those CPOs to succeed, they must be seen and managed form the perspective that they are a community organization – one that is built by the community, and run by the community for the benefit of the community.
The program would provide on-the-job training, quality control and employment opportunity.
IV. Project constituents
For a sustainable program, it is essential that these CPOs are completely community based. It is essential to stress from the very start that these community based BPOs are run by the people, for the people.
Centralized support will come in the form of limited guidance, but its main value-add will be in the form of providing education and training and enhancing sophistication of the overall project.
A board (of directors) – consisting of a range of stakeholders – should first be created. This is the first activity to be completed, before all others commence. Once the CPO Board (CPOB) has been created, they can make key decisions and take key actions to set up everything, including house rules and vision, from day 1.
The CPO workers should be made aware that it is a privilege and not a burden to have the opportunity to work in this environment. They will be referred to as something like CPOAs (CPO Associates), to give them a sense of pride of their title, but also to give them a sense that they aren’t employees, but they are a critical part of a team, which requires everyone to work their hardest.
Whilst the CPO founders can be involved strategically, due to budgetary constraints and the projected scale of the organisaiton, they cannot have extended operational responsibility. The founders will guide the process and provide a structure for the exercise.
The exercise needs to be (i) self-sustainable, (ii) cost effective with low setup costs, (iii) low friction in terms of setup paperwork, (iv) have buy in from local town hall, and private partners.
Ricardo Semler of Semco and “Maverick” fame has a community-led commercial model which is celebrated and ascribed to by companies spanning the globe. There are various existing business models which ascribe to ‘’democratic workplaces’. This is something that should be a central tenet of the development of the CPOs.
For profit, thus sustainable
The objective for this exercise is to be profitable, and sustainable. However, support from the community is encouraged. The nature and sources of partnership will vary from location to location. Some possible likely partnerships include:
- From big corporate (Globe, San Miguel)
- From big BPO (Accenture, Convergys)
- From Govt, Church, Education facilities.
- Seek support from the platforms – Upwork, Freelancer and PayPal
- Support from Udemy for cheap/free access to online courses.
CPOA activities and income
The CPO will be taught how to educate the CPOAs. The CPOAs will be taught how to utilize the online freelancer ecosystem, and taught skills for which they can complete jobs, and earn money. As briefly mentioned above this worldwide marketplace offers an endless river of project/job opportunities. The vast majority of these jobs are well paid (for Philippines standards), and literally anyone can register and apply.