We deliver insights that matter to workers

Social@risk™ services are based on scientifically sound concepts. Our services research intensive and each project is individually designed. We provide understandable intelligence on complex matters. We structure and interpret social media posts from workers and other stakeholders against the backdrop of abstract legal or ethical benchmarks such as freedom of association, forced labour, or living wages.

We develop effective project designs

We strive to deliver tangible results and ask our partners to critically assess our contribution. To ensure that no money and time is wasted on flawed data or misconceptions our team develops Social@risk™ services in two stages: an explorative study followed by a full-scale study.

During the explorative study we develop a preliminary research design, look for suitable experts if we do not have them already, collect data on a smaller scale, apply tentative analytical tools, and generate first insights.

The insights are evaluated against the backdrop of a partner’s needs and competences. If the explorative study provided promising results, a partner can suggest moving on to a full-scale study.

Elements of insight presentation

We communicate the results of an explorative study with a workshop and an insight presentation. Insight presentations usually consist of three elements:

 

  • Concept

    We find or develop frameworks for structuring and interpreting workers’ voices. Concepts are important to render connections visible, to understand causes and effects, and derive insights that matter for workers. However, concepts such as freedom of association, social dialogue, living wages, etc. are abstract and comprehensive while social media posts are concrete with brief messages. Finding workers’ voices and putting them into context is a complex puzzle that our experts need to solve.

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    Example: Structuring social media posts for an analysis on collective bargaining

    Workers have no fair chance to fight for their rights and interests when freedom of association and free speech cannot be taken for granted. Collective bargaining, which is at the heart of labour relations is ineffective in authoritarian countries that seek to keep workers’ wages low. Workers’ social media posts can offer unique insights into a process that is otherwise largely unknown to the public. Yet the process of selecting, sorting and evaluating social media posts is complicated. The structuring scheme below illustrates how we can link an abstract concept with fragmented and dispersed bits of information from workers’ social media posts.

    The structuring scheme above organises the following tasks: first, we need to search for information that tells us when and where a process of bargaining took place (hot spots). The next step is to find posts that mention involved representatives (parties) and the terms for negotiation (conditions). In order to evaluate the effectiveness of collective bargaining we also have to extract posts that inform about demands and outcomes. Finally, we have to understand how a specific collective bargaining event came about, i.e. is it a response to a strike or is it part of regular labour relations management?

  • Topics

    We group all workers’ voices into topics and identify problems and themes. Topics are essential to structure practices of human and labour rights violations. Topics are more concrete than concepts because they do not aim at explaining a causal relationship. Their function is to summarize practices belonging to a specific theme such as overtime, inhumane management, or social security. We use topics to find patterns of rights violations. To this end we try to match them with information about location and time.

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    Example: Inhumane management practices

    Effective prevention and remedy require to understand the systematic nature of inhumane treatment. In the below figure we structure social media posts for a qualitative analysis. The blue points are posts that belong to the topic “unfair management practices”. We overlap these topic-related posts with posts that can be linked to specific factory sites (purple circles), industrial zones (orange circles) and cities (green circles). The pink points represent posts that contain both information on location and inhumane practices. An expert can now, for example, select a specific factory site and compare it with issues in the same city in order to uncover systemic problems and their boarders.

  • Trends

    We monitor topics over time. These trend analyses can help to uncover cyclical patterns of rights violations and plan the design and timing of activities strategically. Trend analyses are also a useful tool to follow up on preventive action or remedies.

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    Example age discrimination

    Many codes of conducts do not tolerate age discrimination. Still, only a few audits look at this issue. In the chart below we depict recruitment advertisements posted in Chinese social media. All adds offer unskilled work at electronic manufacturers. We programmed an algorithm that differentiated between posts that mention an age limit at 35 years and at 45 years. The resulting monthly trend for both groups depicts cyclical demand which increases during the busy summer and autumn season. However, demand for workers under the age of 35 is more stable throughout the year compared to the 45 years limit. The trend analysis, therefore, gives us reason to believe that age is used to manipulate worker supply

  • Visuals

    Pictures and videos are important as means of communication in social media. Visual material often provides powerful impressions that help to mobilise decision makers and co-workers. Workers use visual material to provide evidence when they find it difficult or too time consuming to say something with words or when they want to avoid censorship (recognizing text in images is relatively hard for censoring software).

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    Example from a study on the Thai poultry sector

    Migrant workers in Thailand are exposed to many hazards. The work environment is not safe and accidents common. Fatal work accidents are so wide spread that many social media posts discuss issues on how to bring the dead bodies home – a financial and practical challenge. Pictures of work accidents and dead bodies of migrant workers provide individual stories that remind us that there are real-live tragedies behind the statistics.

Process

A full-scale study builds on an adapted research design that considers experiences from the explorative study. Data collection is comprehensive and analytical goals are more precise. Partners are now able to integrate Social@risk™-generated intelligence into their work. The full-scale study is evaluated and if considered successful transformed into a regular or continuous service agreement.

Results

Similar to an explorative study, we communicate the results of a full-scale study with a workshop and an insight presentation. In addition, we deliver a comprehensive report that seeks to gain deep insights based on comprehensive data and detailed research questions.

In addition to the four elements: “concept”, “topic”, “trend”, and “visuals”, a full-scale study entails a quantified social risk portfolio in order to compare the development and pervasiveness of different topics. Quantifying the risk of violating the rights to decent work and independent organising helps to define priority areas and manage resources effectively.

Example: Study on Chinese manufactures supplying Dell and HP]

It is important to understand how labour rights violations come about in order to take preventive action. It is equally important to define priorities for allocating resources and coordinating actions. The chart below is an example of a risk exposure comparison. We look at three different manufacturer groups and compare them along various labour issues. The measures suggest that 4 out of 10 topics account for more than 75% of total risk exposure.

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Social@risk™ INSIGHTS

The home of a factory worker in China

At the dorm there is no warm water to shower. None of the dorm toilets are ok. It is messy all over the place and the newcomers have no idea what they are supposed to do. The public bathroom is toxically dirty. Is there any way to get it into a somehow acceptable state? Many of us don’t use it at all. Will the water temperature be higher during wintertime?

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Social@risk™ INSIGHTS

Chinese migrant workers’ journey into an uncertain future

It is said that traveling is a trip from your own misery to someone else’s misery. Changing work is the same – you hop from one pit into another. […] A new place, new feelings, everything is new. Admittedly earning money is important. But even more important is to feel that you are somebody, to have self-esteem. Being a humble servant, one among a million flowers is not enough (Worker’s post).

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Social@risk™ INSIGHTS

Making ends meet with a minimum wage

In this era of high technology, high-tech parks, high wages, and posh streets with big cars, I am at Z. Corp. silently praying to get three meals a day. I am getting more and more hungry and lose more and more weight (Worker’s post)