My experience on Upwork is actually the same as yours! In our tests of the platform, it appears to be very difficult to find jobs due to the intense competition. I was unpleasantly surprised at first when I saw how difficult it was to earn money on Upwork as a new user. However, that was the whole point of the initial tests we did, so we expanded and have still been expanding the program to encompass other forms of virtual work that pay reliably and still have room to grow. Upwork will be a minor or non-existent part of our program.
If my program was just on Upwork, then I would be inclined to side with your analysis. Thankfully, it’s not.
I think I understand the point: hypothetically, this program would take work away from people more in need, possibly even making the world worse off because of that. But if I magically made half of the virtual workforce disappear, then the half of the people that were removed would be really poor and the other half would be twice as rich. But is that creating more good? No, because the richer half would not need the money as much as the poorer half. If I added more people who were earning less money before being added then I am creating a net good, and that’s what I am trying to do. I don’t think the impact of helping several dozen people (just at first!) get out of poverty is insignificant, and since the program could be expanded if our tests indicate it works effectively, I think it could be considered high impact it terms of the number of people it could help and how much it could change their lives.
Well the total pool of work available for everyone is imperceptibly decreased in the short run, not aversely affecting anyone to any significant degree, while giving more of the poor who really need the money work opportunities… Is employing several dozen more people a small net good? I guess it’s a matter of opinion.
We are continuing our search for similar projects, thank you for your suggestion. I hope that we have not missed any pitfalls, but like Strangeattractor wrote, we are indeed doing tests of the concept in various stages of development, and this project is kind of a pilot in and of itself, so hopefully we can catch anything we might have missed.
’In a charitable way” meaning good for the people. Just because there are for-profit companies out there doing this doesn’t mean they are doing what is best for the people, they are distributing wealth, but also keeping a lot of it for themselves. A charitable venture would give most of the profits to the people involved, and this project also involves providing many things to people like internet and computer access, training, opportunities, something a lot of freelancers have to acquire for themselves in developing countries. It is very difficult for a would-be-freelancer to find access to all of the technology, one-on-one help, etc, hence the value of this project. While there are virtual employment companies, there are no companies helping freelancers get started, which is unique and fills a need.
Thank you, that is one of the markets we are looking to branch out to.
I did not throw every detail into the video and fundraiser/my post in LessWrong, that is correct… I do think I described the jist of it. I explicitly stated that funds will go towards providing computer and internet access, training given by staff, and opportunities that staff have to find. As implied, expenses will go towards computer acquisition, internet, and helping staff implement various facets of the project. I could have explained each and every detail, but it would be too long for the target audience to read. The campaign is not noticeably more vague than other related Indiegogo fundraisers I have seen.
I especially do not think dishonesty should be assumed. It’s just common sense, but to try and put it in words, the effort put into the campaign and video, the numerous people involved, the fact that I’m a high school student putting my reputation on the line, the fact that we are a “verified nonprofit” shown by Indiegogo after confirming our 501(c)(3) status… It would be a very unlikely and elaborate scam, especially for the very low amount of money that this is likely to earn.
For the record, this project is operating under close scrutiny by the faculty sponsor mentioned in the video, by the nonprofit sponsor we have mentioned in the bio of Silicon Rainforest, by our adult volunteers, by our business partners, etc. If I wanted to do this as a scam, I would try to sell miraculously affordable virtual employment services, take the money, and run ;)
MTurk employs a lot of people in developed countries. I have read they are starting to reject Indian based workers because of poor work quality. I can find employment for people who can provide a similarly high standard of work relative to workers in more developed countries, but who need the income more. Member participants would otherwise have had difficulties joining, say, MTurk because of a lack of computers, internet access, proper guidance, training… I don’t think there are any companies helping freelancers find work because it’s not very profitable, and yet there is a great need to reach people who are not working to their potential.
I’m having trouble seeing how a for-profit corporation would create more good and be a more effective structure in this case. A non-profit organization can operate without income tax and attract donations which can be tax-deductible to donors. A for-profit organization could get investment capital, but I think it’s highly unlikely I would be able to find any interested investors, and it otherwise performs worse compared to a non-profit with the same business model.
The way I see it, making the project a nonprofit allows it to better compete with for-profit companies because of tax-advantages. It can also get donations. A for-profit corporation has the advantage of attracting investments from people hoping to make a profit, but I am quite sure that I would not be able to attract large sums of investment capital. That pretty much gives starting this program as a nonprofit the only logical choice.
Regarding your point about re-compensation, I don’t think I cannot extract the value, it will just be difficult to pay myself an extraordinarily large sum of money all at once, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If that ever did become a reality, then hypothetically I could create a for-profit branch of the organization that could partner up with the nonprofit branch in managing core revenue generating operations, thus allowing me to siphon income out of the nonprofit.
Belizeans would probably be competing with wealthier people for work because their high level of English mastery allows them to compete for more advanced positions. The websites I mentioned have many workers from more developed countries. For example, half of MTurk’s users are from the United States.
Many people in developing countries do not have access to the technology needed to participate in virtual employment, so we will provide computer and internet access. We will be doing marketing in a way, yes, although it is guidance and training as well. In the future, we will move on from guiding people through using third party systems to directly selling virtual employment services, which should be much more profitable.
Thank you for your suggestions. I have in fact surveyed people and organizations in Belize. The general consensus is that there are a lot of people who are unemployed or working for very low wages, and getting higher paying employment would improve their standard of living. You mentioned a small scale pilot, we have actually run many such pilots, which is how we found that it would be possible to help people earn around $3 USD an hour. We are currently working on remote testing of our program before actually sending staff to Belize.
There is definitely no prominent implementation of this concept and its related variations. Many nonprofits offer job training and give people computer and internet access, but starting what is essentially a virtual employment company to help people is not something I have heard about before, hence this program. It is possible that this idea was not implemented before in a charitable way because people start virtual employment companies for for-profit purposes, and those companies are very successful. As to the idea of connecting the impoverished with virtual employment services, it is possible many people are not aware of virtual employment services and thus have not implemented the idea.
The venture could be profitable, yes. Would it generate massive amounts of income? That is also possible. I did not consider a for-profit version of the idea because the project itself was supposed to be charitable in nature. I am considering starting a for-profit branch of this idea, and would be open to hearing other people’s ideas and motivations. Is your motivation and other’s in getting involved in a for-profit implementation of this idea to earn money?
To elaborate more on profits, the initial implementation of this idea might not be incredibly profitable because we are relying on third party virtual employment services like the aforementioned upwork.com to ensure the initial implementation (this summer!) would be a success and members would be able to find guaranteed work. Directly contracting with people and organizations wanting virtual workers is expected to be a lot more profitable.
Thanks for your question! This particular project is charitable in nature and would probably require funding to get off the ground and expand more rapidly. Since it is not expected to attract for-profit support, especially because it would probably not be a particularly profitable venture, most funding would probably come from people/organizations with non-profit motives. People/organizations with non-profit motives generally only donate to nonprofits, which have a better public image and are more trusted to pursue altruistic goals like donors expect. We can also offer tax-deductible donations to donors, and we do not get taxed on donations or income, which gives us a financial advantage for attracting more donations and for earning more income. The only benefits to starting a for-profit venture I can think of would be greater freedom in compensating supporters and in our operations, but since this project is not expected to be a huge profit maker and has charitable intentions, I did not choose the for-profit path, although of course I could consider it in more detail.
Thank you for your help! I have edited my post with additional information. My audience is a general youth audience, think of promoting content to an entire high school, with “average teenagers” and people that might be more interested in content. Of course, some people will be more interested than others, so a wide variety of recommendations for different interest groups is better. I’m primarily looking for books that promote ethical/altruistic behavior, I’m not sure if any of your beforementioned recommendations do so.
Thanks for your recommendations! I’ve edited my post to make it more specific, I am looking for content that promotes altruistic behavior, either fiction or nonfiction.