With over 2.5 million freelancers using its platform, Elance plays an important role at the intersection of global employment and small business success.
By Arthur Woods, Partner, Imperative
Let’s face it, when you think of Silicon Valley, social impact isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. Despite constant innovation on the tech front, ingenuity and inventiveness of the space hasn’t always extended to global betterment. But the tides may be turning.
Online freelancing platform Elance, which recently repositioned itself in the market as the place to "Work Differently," has released its First Annual Impact Report. The objective, according to Elance CEO Fabio Rosati: to share the company's mission and measure their progress against it.
With over 2.5 million freelancers using its platform worldwide – with many in economically challenged regions like Serbia – Elance had more than a hunch that its platform was enabling global progress. But the full story of Elance's impact had never been tracked or shared. Our charge at Interactive was to create the company’s first Annual Impact Report that would involve a deep study of how the company was impacting its users community worldwide.
We began by assessing three stakeholder groups: Elance employees, freelancers and the clients hiring through its platform.
Our study involved everything from customized questionnaires to individual interviews and even a data collection installation in the Elance office to track employees’ commutes. The blended system of data not only ensured we were collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, but also that this proved to be a meaningful experience for everyone involved.
We also wanted to not simply produce a healthy report for Elance but also offer them a measurement framework that the company could use moving forward. So we leveraged the company mission to derive a set of six impact indicators: happiness, flexibility, equality, productivity, community and opportunity.
Using these key indicators, Elance reported on the year that was and established specific improvements for each area going forward.
All in all, we captured over 100,000 data points to form a report that blended personal stories, images and data infographics. The report assesses everything from economic impact to the ways Elance has led to lifestyle improvements among its very diverse community. It leverages a framework from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Positive Psychology, called PERMA, which measures happiness and well-being in a 16-part indicator.
Based on national benchmarks, Elance’s happiness score looks positive.
- 48% of Elancers report freelancing as their main source of income
- 67% report finding 10% or more of their income through Elance
- 57% say their income increased after using Elance
- 71% feel more productive than in their traditional jobs
- 69% are happier freelancing than working in a traditional job
- 90% of Elance clients are small businesses
- 83% are owners of their companies
- 38% report reducing financial costs by hiring through Elance
- 54% say Elance helped them find talent otherwise hard to source locally
Elance hasn’t sat idly through this process though: the company has set out to act on the results by exploring a new series of programs to specifically address some of the challenges and opportunities unearthed, starting with the happiness measure.
Now, the company is passing the torch and encouraging peers in the Valley to approach their social impact with a similar process of measurement, reporting and improvement. Will Elance's efforts to raise the bar on its impact influence others in Silicon Valley to do the same?