Localization to Globalization and Back Again

A look at how and why Living Goods moved their headquarters from San Francisco to Kenya as presented at #OpExDC2019

In this age where we hear so much about globalization and how remote talent can help organizations all over the world from anywhere in the world, Living Goods recently moved their headquarters, and all leadership roles, from San Francisco to Kenya. In this age of globalization, they’ve embraced localization, says Laura Wigglesworth, Director of Talent Acquisition for the organization, which provides community health workers to underserved populations in the developing world

Wigglesworth delivered a presentation, designed with colleague Catherine Gitau who was unable to be present, at Humentum’s #OpExDC2019 conference last week. She outlined the trends in the workforce that are enabling globalization and localization, and explained why Living Goods chose this path. It may be the best choice for other NGOs as well.

4 Trends in Today’s Workforce


“We either have to compete with machines or build them,” Wigglesworth says. This technology has infiltrated all stages of recruiting. Numerous sourcing programs will text people who are qualified for jobs and have a conversation through a chatbot and then route them to a recruiter, if qualified. Assessments and video interviews can be done through HireVue or Mettl. Talent Vine can look into an employee’s referrals on LinkedIn and Skill Survey can check references, she says.


“People with less experience but more technology can now do the work of very specialized jobs,” Wigglesworth says. WebMD sees more queries every five days than all in-person doctors do in the U.S. in a year. Legal Zoom has enabled people to perform their own legal tasks with help from technology. Khan Academy allows lay people with certain skills and information to share to become teachers, despite possibly having no formal education training. 

The Gig Economy

“People are no longer being hired for a full role in many cases. They’re hired for bite-sized pieces of work,” Wigglesworth says. The recruitment firms which assist Living Goods, for example, are only paid if they find the winning candidate. Contractors and freelancers are here to stay.


Organizations can now support movement of roles from high wage countries to low wage countries. Ask a Doctor, an online health assessment tool, has most of its physicians in Alaska and South Dakota, Wigglesworth says. The lower cost of living there enables these remote physicians to get more work and saves money for the company versus paying higher wages to doctors in more expensive areas. This is true on a global scale as well.

Globalization also opens up an international pool of workers and ideas, she says. Outsourcing work to another country is an option even if part of the work remains local. For example, with recruiting assistance, you may sign a contract in-person in Washington, D.C., but the sourcer is in India and the lead recruiter is in the Philippines. People in these other countries will increasingly adjust their hours to your time zone, also, she says, so you needn’t be working at 2 have a call with another continent.

Localization and Looking to the Future

There will be challenges and opportunities in the future, Wigglesworth says. More jobs will be on contingency as mentioned earlier, but also climate change will be a future problem. Water security will be an issue and organizations will have to contend with more employees and customers suffering from non-communicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and cancer, she says. Wigglesworth says tobacco control, road safety, and agricultural and economic development will also be factors in future global development endeavors.

To contend with these challenges, the most in-demand jobs will be different in the future, also. There will be many more roles in marketing and communications, Wigglesworth predicts. One such communication role will be that of empathizer. 

Say a community health worker visits you in northeast Kenya. She’ll work with a telemedicine specialist from Arkansas to find a diagnosis and then will help prescribe treatment. This is just strict translation and medicine. But if there are questions about how to take the medicine or a serious diagnosis is reached, the community health worker can offer the human element needed in medical care. She can interpret information and empathize with the patient in a way that technology simply can’t, Wigglesworth says.

Product and program development will also be important career paths. As technology evolves, it needs to be updated and implemented. In finance, NGOs will be looking for someone who can get investors in the private sector and work seamlessly with both the private and nonprofit worlds. 

“Living Goods provides a smartphone and solar charger for every employee. They contain apps which enable the health workers to detect heartbeats or do 3D scans,” Wigglesworth says “The technology is there, but we need to know how to find for-profit companies who provide the services we need to make our program better.”

Another job likely to take off as automation, globalization and climate change affect the world? Drone operator. Why send a human to deliver prescription refills when a drone can do it?

Globalization to Localization

Given all these trends and challenges, Living Goods moved nearly all positions, including the entire C-suite, from San Francisco to Kenya. It’s more cost-effective to have workers in Kenya, especially considering Living Goods doesn’t offer a huge relocation package, Wigglesworth says.

It’s easier to attract talent in areas close to where the work is being done and it fits their model of last-mile delivery. They have contracts with local and national ministries of health, so having leaders in the region to negotiate such things demonstrates a commitment to the population being served. And since so much of the work is neighborhood-based or branch-based mentoring, it makes sense for us to be as local as possible, Wigglesworth says.

They’ll use technology to keep in touch with fundraisers and freelancers around the world, but in the meantime, they’ll be working in Kenya, Uganda and Myanmar supporting networks of “Avon-like” health entrepreneurs who go door to door teaching families how to improve their health, and selling health products such as malaria and diarrhea remedies, safe delivery kits, fortified foods and water filters.

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