Leila Janah is founder of what she describes as one of Silicon Valley’s few “intentionally” non-profit companies.
She started the company eight years ago, and Janah told the Fortune + Time Global Forum in Rome on Friday that its latest effort in the United States is aimed at “formalizing” informal work. In the past, Sama has helped connect low-income Americans with so-called gig economy jobs like driving for Uber or shopping for Instacart. Now, it’s preparing to launch a partnership with Care.com, a job site for caregivers, to create a “care institute.” The program will train low-income people to be caregivers—a service that’s offered by few, if any, state or federal entities.
Janah, who was named one of Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2013, said part of the idea behind the care institute is to give caregivers “reputational equity.” Many workers in the caregiving industry—along with gig economy workers and day laborers—lack a formal track record of their on-the-job performance. White collar workers have benefited from reputational equity for generations through performance reviews and, more recently, networking sites like LinkedIn. But if you’re a day laborer who does good work on Monday, your performance is “zeroed out” on Tuesday, she said.
Fortune assistant managing editor Adam Lashinsky asked Janah if the kinds of jobs Sama is helping facilitate—driving for Uber or image tagging for large technology companies—are of high enough quality. In answering, Janah referenced some individual cases of workers using such jobs to pull themselves out of poverty. “Digital work,” she said, “is a stepping stone into new economy jobs: it exposes [low-income people] to the internet and the knowledge economy.”