A licensed medical technologist, advocate and social entrepreneur, Ryan Gersava founded Virtualahan with the aim of providing remote employment opportunities, especially to people who are marginalized by their health conditions and disabilities. With his background in training and design thinking, Ryan is very familiar with the importance of engaging your community to become a Purposeful Organization.
Can you tell me a little bit about your backstory and what you do at Virtualahan?
I started Virtualahan in 2015 after being rejected from jobs as a medical laboratory scientist because of my incurable disease. This experience inspired me to set the vision for Virtualahan and that is to transform our labor system by equipping people who are vulnerable to social exclusion in the workplace with digital skills and providing them with employment support to work as remote employees for companies all over the world. We are using our hearts and technology to build the future of work where no one is left behind.
What does purpose and more specifically purposeful DOing mean to you personally?
Purposeful DOing is being mindful of the outcome of every task you execute and how it contributes to your overall vision that translates into positive systemic impact.
Which 3 keywords would you use to define a purpose-driven organization?
Ethical, Consistent, Genuine
What is your company’s purpose?
To eliminate social exclusion in the workplace.
How does Virtualahan encourage employees to explore their purpose?
We integrated a weekly well-being session as a pillar to our operations which creates a safe space for our employees to explore their purpose aligned with our shared vision.
As an organization with a uniquely diverse community, what are the values you see in an organization’s broader community?
We value the “intersectionality” of our community.
Are there certain measures Virtualahan takes to keep the community engaged and active?
We have a series called Human Connection where we gather our Virtualahan community members together with their family members and our partners in one room for a whole Sunday afternoon. It is designed to hold a safe space for healing, knowledge exchange, and building lasting human connections. It’s an in-person well-being session that aims to build each other up and strengthen our mission of leaving no one behind.
We have a very active Facebook group, Messenger Chat Groups, and other virtual channels where we share birthday greetings, personal updates, surveys, job opportunities, etc. We also do a lot of co-creation sessions where we engage our community to help us make decisions and set directions for the company.
How do you measure and assess your impact? Can you give some concrete examples?
We regularly conduct internal impact surveys and also engage research partners to measure the following:
- Completion Rate: # of people who successfully completed the training
- Employment Rate: # of people who were employed or started their own business after completing the training
- Increase of income: monthly income before and after completing the program
- Use of income: income allocation (e.g.: medication, therapy, food, etc.)
- Attrition Rate- # of people who sustained their job or business
- Increase in confidence, improved well-being, and positive outlook
- Decision making, embracing disability, and self-advocacy
- System change- influence in policy change, mindset shifts, and employer’s behavior
Do the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals factor into your organization?
Yes, we constantly align our strategies to the SDGs 1,3,4,8 and 10, which have been embedded in our model since we started Virtualahan. We do regular audits about contribution to these specific goals.
We are very intentional in the way we integrate the SDGs into the organization as they help us drive the direction of the organization. We actually didn’t realize that our model was built to specifically address the challenges on these SDGs when we started, but looking back now, our organization is by design aligned with the SDGs.