Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry with only $124 million appropriated globally in the fight against it. This billion-dollar industry adapts, innovates and is not scant of resources to fuel the sale of a human being. Unfortunately, non-profits and government institutions are not innovating and face major obstacles such as:
1. Lack of data about the magnitude of the issue and in most cases not addressing the root cause. Just look at mental health alone, there are limited studies on the effectiveness of mental health services for survivors of sex-trafficking because of data gaps.
2. Lack of collaboration at the programmatic level. When you have organizations competing for limited funding, they often take the adversarial position as opposed to working together to better serve the constituent. In rare cases when they do work together on programs, it can be administratively taxing because many organizations do not have adequate staffing on the ground to implement new partnerships at greater level of impact.
3. Technology gap. Anti-human trafficking organizations don't have access to the latest technology or security networks to protect their systems. One US based anti-human trafficking organization that provides access to shelter does not transfer any data about their beneficiaries online because they speculate a high probability of hackers accessing their network and systems. Why aren't these systems protected in the first place?
4. Lack of evaluation on survivor based organizations. There are not many impact evaluations conducted in the anti-human trafficking space to measure outcome instead of output and activities. In order to really make an impact, there needs to be more organizations and interventions being measured so that can be scaled up. The donor community and governmental institutions need to be more aware of these programs that are truly making an impact.
5. Lack of funding in combating human trafficking and modern day slavery. That is why there is a need for the business and technology community to band together and join forces with the anti-trafficking service providers who are operating on limited resources and high demands to serve survivors of human trafficking.
The journey to freedom is a difficult one and service providers need to be more entrepreneurial in doing less of what is not working and more of what is working. Peter Drucker puts it well "If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old."
ATHack! Inc. and Microsoft Reactor are hosting an ATHackathon in the Bay area from April 29-May 1 where 100+ participants including software engineers (half of which will be women), designers, NGO service providers, and community leaders will be solving for technical solutions to fight human trafficking.
This is a critical and timely initiative that deserves much attention in the anti-trafficking and not-for-profit community at large. There needs to be more cross-sector collaboration and discussion around how we can overcome some of the large-scale issues of our generation - human trafficking being one of many.