186 – Building a Coalition and Building Capacity

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Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak discuss the value of collaboration with Helen Sworn, founder of the Chab Dai organization in Cambodia. Helen has provided a replicable framework that emphasizes the need for partnership in order to end human trafficking.

Key Point

  • Chab Dai established a coalition as a response to the rapid but uncoordinated growth of anti-trafficking individuals and organizations trying to combat the issue. The framework for being part of the coalition includes legal government registration as a way to provide accountability and child protection policies in order to ensure no harm to victims.
  • Helen speaks of the significance of collaboration, “I think that I have to kind of start with the problem that we’re addressing. And I truly believe that the reason that people are able to be trafficked and exploited all over the world, and it’s so interconnected around the world, is because those criminals that are behind it are super well networked. And that they don’t need to like each other, they don’t need to be friends, but actually, they have a common vision and that enables them to focus on their networking… And so, for us, collaboration has to underpin every single thing that we do.”
  • Finding common ground is how we can collaborate. Our common ground is not about serving these institutions, it’s ultimately about serving those who we have set out to serve.
  • Building a movement is important because this issue is going to outlast our lives and maybe even organizations. But the movement is our legacy, so in building the movement we have to focus on collaboration and capacity.
    • Collaboration: There is no one sector that can address this problem, so people need have a multidisciplinary view on it.
    • Capacity: In order to hold each other accountable, we must have professional standards that are a guiding set of principles, rather than a set of rules, that can be adapted to fit within specific contexts.
  • 5 Pillars in Chab Dai’s strategic plan:
    • Coalition and Capacity
    • Prevention and Protection
    • Justice and Client Care
    • Advocacy
    • Research


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Dave: [00:00:01] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 186, Building a Coalition and Building Capacity.

Production Credits: [00:00:10] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave: [00:00:30] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie: [00:00:35] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave: [00:00:38] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Sandie, we often talk about the power of partnerships on the show and today a conversation with someone who is a tremendous leader in this way.

Sandie: [00:00:58] Well, I am so, excited to introduce my dear friend and colleague, Helen Sworn. She is the founder of Chab Dai and absolutely has been a model for me to follow how she does international programming, how she builds partnerships. And so, we’re just going to dive right in, Helen, and welcome you to the show.

Helen: [00:01:23] Thank you very much. It’s great to be on is Sandie, with you.

Sandie: [00:01:26] OK. And for those of you who just heard Helen for the first time, she’s located in the UK, but she has lived in Cambodia for many years as well. So, tell us about Chab Dai and kind of the meaning and the history.

Helen: [00:01:44] Sure, so, Chab Dai in the Cambodian language means “joining hands”. And that really underpins the entire ethos and foundation and practice of everything that we do as an organization whether we’re doing prevention work, whether we’re doing our legal work, whether we’re working within the coalition, whether we’re doing research or advocacy, joining hands is how we do it.

Sandie: [00:02:17] Tell me just a little bit about how you came to be in Cambodia.

Helen: [00:02:23] So, yes very long story cut very short. I had been working for a number of years in a very kind of cutthroat business world in the UK and my husband and I kind of came to faith and really had a sense that we wanted to move outside that comfort zone and go into some type of full-time Christian work. So, we thought well we’d better go and study about this. So, we took ourselves off to seminary for three years and it was while we were there that we really got a heart initially to work with street kids and homeless youth and really Southeast Asia opened up for us. We went there for an internship and then moved there at the beginning of 1999 with a small mission agency from the UK with our two children. Our daughter at the time was four and our son was six months old. So, yes, we were those crazy ones that I think our families were somewhat shocked at and the work that we were going to do. My husband went to set up a vocational training school in I.T. and I actually went with my kind of research and strategic planning background to help the organization do its strategy for the next couple of years and in the work that it was doing. So, that was what took us out there originally.

Sandie: [00:03:48] And then I think what kept you there was what started Chab Dai right?

Helen: [00:03:57] Yeah. What kept me there was a very strong vision that God gave me on a physical journey that I took from Phnom Penh up to the Thai Cambodia border later on in the year 1999. And we had seen a lot of street kids and families going missing and we couldn’t work out what was happening. We really didn’t have the language ourselves or even of human trafficking. We’re just trying to work out what happened to these kids. So, I took a very challenging journey in a very old Russian prop plane that had chickens in the aisle that I did not know whether we were going to get there safely. To then in a very old Land Cruiser in these like horrendous roads that something of which I had never seen the light of day before. So, it got to the border area and started to see these children being traded through the border into them finding out what happened. And many of them of which we now call it human trafficking was being traded through the border. Many of them going into Thailand as beggars. I can remember strikingly one four-year-old girl who had a six-month-old baby on her hip which was the same age as my own kids at the time. And she was totally responsible for this child. She didn’t know where her family, her parents, had been. She just had lost them on the streets in Bangkok somewhere. And it was at that moment that I knew that this was going to be my life work. And that kept me in Cambodia for 19 and a half years.

Sandie: [00:05:37] So, what was the first step in starting Chab Dai?

Helen: [00:05:40] Yeah. The first step in starting Chab Dai was really meeting with a lot of people who had seen the NBC Dateline documentary, I think it was 2002 in the US of a live brothel raid, which there’s a whole other discussion that we could have around that. But anyway, there was a lot of people that were coming from the US primarily Christians who were coming from churches, mission agencies, and others who wanted to be a part of the response. And what I saw, I’d been living in Cambodia for about five years at the time, I started to see an environment that was chaotic and I liken it really to you know when you have a disaster situation somewhere in the world and all of these you know agencies go to the ground to try and address that disaster. The most critical thing at the beginning is coordination. If you don’t have coordination of those disaster agencies, you’re going to have people who are going to have you know seven meals a day in two shelters while others are starving to death with no shelter. So, that coordination is critical in order to make sure that you’re actually serving the entire population. And so, what I observed was everybody was coming with really great intentions, but I don’t believe that good intention is good enough. I think there is a great start. But what was happening is we were seeing all of these siloed responses and organizations didn’t know one another existed. So, I started to see that we needed to do something about this. We needed to try and bring people together. So, in my naivete, I thought well, of course, they’re all going to want to work together right? They’re all Christians, aren’t they? Why would not want to work together? So, I started visiting them and saying OK we’ve got a problem that is way bigger than our organizations on their own can address, what we need to do is we all need to get around the table together. You know that was primarily Christian organizations responding to this issue at the time. So, we said let’s get around the table, the body of Christ, right? And address this together. Of course, they all claim flocking to me. Not.

Sandie: [00:08:07] Ya, so, you had a great first meeting.

Helen: [00:08:09] Absolutely. And it took about 18 months or even two years finally to get everybody around the table. And it’s interesting because people say oh it must have been easy in Cambodia, I’m like no no no no it wasn’t. You know isn’t it Richard Branson who says it’s amazing how long it takes to become an overnight success right? Yeah. Two Years later I finally got everybody around the table and said let’s look at these issues that we’re addressing. Let’s look at the priorities that we’re all trying to work on. And then I really did this very crass baseline mapping and I said OK let’s look at who’s doing what and where. Not just the Christian organizations around the table but let’s look at what government are doing, and others are doing. And then let’s look at where are the gaps and where are the overlaps. And it was striking to everybody around the table where when we only had 11 organizations but about eight aftercare shelters, no prevention, no businesses, a couple doing an intervention. And it spoke for itself. And that really, I still use that today as the powerful tool in getting people to come together.

Sandie: [00:09:27] Wow. So, you used your corporate experience when you engage this so, it wasn’t just you had good intentions, but you wanted to have a practical framework for that. So, you had that first meeting but then as it grew, how did you create, I don’t want to use the word rules but that’s the first word that comes to mind, some guidelines maybe for how this coalition works?

Helen: [00:09:57] Yeah. So, I wanted to make sure that it was helpful and something that people could get around. But something that was non-negotiable for us. So, we really only had some very simple frameworks at the beginning and we kind of really just held to these. The first one was that everybody who wanted to be a part of this had to have legal government registration in Cambodia. And that’s probably in the US, that sounds kind of like what, but I think one of the things about Cambodia and probably a lot of developing nations is that because there is a lack of rule of law and government oversight, a lot of agencies go in and just do what they like and there’s very little in the way of accountability. And I think that if you don’t have accountability in terms of even your government registration, often that permeates through your organization and ultimately through the practice that you do. So, we saw organizations that basically refused to get government registration because they felt that morally they were above the government and didn’t need that. And I could see that accountability was not something that they hold strongly on to. The second thing was that they must have or be willing for us to work with them to get a child protection policy. Again, working beyond the good intentions and really kind of starting out that baseline of doing no harm. And most of the organizations did not have any type of child protection policy or stakeholder protection policy. So, that was a non-negotiable for us at the beginning. So, two very simple principles that really undergirded what it was that we were trying to do which was create an accountability network and create something that was safe ultimately for all of the beneficiaries that all of us were working with.

Sandie: [00:12:04] And over the years then that has become a standard not just in that region but for people like me. I’ve never been to Cambodia. I’ve followed what you’ve done. I’ve followed your model and I recommend to people often that they should look at what you’ve done because you’ve figured out how to help people value what the people around them have to contribute that we don’t all have to do the same thing and in fact we’re stronger if we do different things and operate in our own strength creating space for that. So, can you sort of give me a bit of your understanding of the value of collaboration just a little bit deeper in your practice?

Helen: [00:12:51] I Think that I have to kind of start with the problem that we’re addressing. And I truly believe that the reason that people are able to be trafficked and exploited all over the world and it’s so, interconnected around the world is because those criminals that are behind it are super well networked and that they don’t need to like each other, they don’t need to be friends, but actually they have a common vision and that enables them to focus on their networking. And as the responders, we are much more interested in building empires, and reputations, and egos, and not working with people because you know they have a different theology or they may have upset me or whatever. And I think that it’s coming right back down to a basic problem trait of saying if you have got a network problem and you don’t have a network solution, we’re done, we’re never going to be able to address this. And so, for us, collaboration has to underpin every single thing that we do, and we know that it’s not just about there is no one organization that has the competency to address this. There is no one sector that has the competency to address this. This isn’t just about the NGO sector. This is about academia, right? It’s about the government. It’s about working with community groups. It’s about working with churches and individuals and so, everything that we build, we realize that we have to A get people to work in the area of core competency. And B to see that people view the problem, if we do not get that multidisciplinary and Multi-Sectoral view on it, we are only ever going to be able to address one tiny piece of this problem. Now, of course, the challenge is how do you get everybody to even focus together? And I think that this is what I talk about when I talk about the common ground. So, quite often when we’re trying to address something, I think it must be just human nature, Sandie, that we end up talking about what is not common between us. It’s like Oh you like that, and I do this. Oh, you do your programs that way, but I do my programs this way. And so, it’s saying what common areas do we have? What common ground do we have? Like we may have a small amount of common ground. We’ve worked with some organizations where we have a lot that is very different. But we have found an area of common ground that is beneficial to those that we’re trying to serve because it’s not about when I say these institutions it’s about who we’re trying to serve. And so, our common ground is ultimately serving those we serve. Common ground is not serving us as an organization. And I think that that has been one of the challenges within the movement is trying to get people to see this as we’re actually serving those vulnerable populations and we’re not serving our organization. This is about building a movement and not building an organization.

Sandie: [00:16:33] Tell me what you mean by building a movement?

Helen: [00:16:37] There’s been a lot of academic study on social movements over generations and generations. And I truly believe if we look at what has happened within the anti-trafficking sector is that over the last 20 years, we have seen the emergence of a movement. We know that trafficking both spiritually and academically is a wicked problem. So, this is not going to end by the year 2020. So, what we have to do is we have to come together to build a movement for the long term. This isn’t a three-year program cycle or a five-year program cycle. This is something that people before us have worked on for hundreds of years. And I believe you know generations after we are going to be working on. And so, what we need to be able to do is to build a movement. Movements are the thing that’s going to make this last, it’s the thing that’s going to continue beyond my life and your life, Sandie, to the next generation. And our organizations and may or may not outlast us. But the movement is the thing that outlasts us and that’s why we need to focus on building the movement. And so, in building the movement, there are two things that we have to have and that is collaboration in order to build a movement. And the other thing is capacity. And that is why the second thing that underpins what we do is we need to be able to have the right tools, the right professional standards, and hold one another accountable to that. If we are going to build a movement that is going to grow and become more professional.

Sandie: [00:18:28] Who decides that these are the right professional standards?

Helen: [00:18:34] This is the thing, and this is the challenge. And I think that we’re looking at professional standards. We have our negotiables and our non-negotiables. We have to think fit within one context and things that fit within another context. And interestingly enough I came together with a group of nine other practitioners over a two year period and all of those practitioners were from all over the world from the Caribbean to Cambodia to India to Denmark to Africa and we looked at how do you develop principles of practice and they were very general in terms of you know their inclusivity and diversity and being victim-centered and collaborative and so, rather than a set of rules, what we’re talking around is a set of principles. And what I’ve seen with those principles now is a couple of regions of the world are now beginning to take those principles that are broad and say how does this look in East Africa or how does this look in Southeast Asia. And I think it’s in similarly how we get around human rights, how we get around the Convention on the Rights of the child? It’s these guiding set of principles that we then work together to interpret into professional standards. And yes, they’re going to look a little different in every country in the UK a number of organizations have pulled together a new document, the Slavery, and Trafficking Survivor Care Standards. We’ve done the same in Cambodia. I know the other countries have done this and I believe that this is about 183 pages of how to work with survivors in the UK. And so, this is very specific but there are still guiding principles that can help us build the capacity and the competency of the movement.

Sandie: [00:20:40] So, I keep hearing words that I love capacity and competency, but it goes back to the movement because that’s what’s going to sustain us. Organizations come and go. So, I want to keep this conversation about the movement we’ll have to do another podcast. So, I was with my friends in Greece and we were talking about this concept of a movement. And when you’re talking about coming together one of my friends started talking about a river and how the streams begin to join that river. And so, my stream joins yours and that river then really carves out a pathway that is unstoppable. Whereas if we stay in our own little creek, that’s never going to happen.

Helen: [00:21:30] Yeah, it’s so, true. It’s so, true. And we’re trying to build what goes beyond us. Isn’t that what a legacy is, right? We all want to leave a legacy and a legacy is what goes beyond us. A legacy isn’t for us, a legacy is not for our lifetime, a legacy is what we leave and what others pick up and learn from. You know a legacy is what William Wilberforce left for us. A legacy is what those who went before us left. And so, I think that as we look at how can this movement mature. We need to look at the future and not ourselves. We do not need to look at what are the next generation of anti-trafficking practitioners and advocates and academics, what do they need to learn from us? And I think that this is what we need to be building. So, obviously we’re addressing the issues of our present day. You know we’ve got cases to work on and work to be done in communities but also, we have to have our vision and our focus as to how are we leaving a legacy. And what does that legacy look like.

Sandie: [00:22:50] When you’re talking about the legacy of chop die I noticed you have five pillars in your strategic plan. Can you really quickly run through what those pillars are and why they’re important in your strategic plan?

Helen: [00:23:07] Coalition and capacity building is our very first pillar of course. You know Chab Dai, joining hands, is now primarily a coalition in Cambodia of about 54 organizations who is all working on anti-trafficking on the ground. And so, the coalition is the critical piece that we get around building this legacy and the capacity building. I mean Cambodia is a little different in that it went through a civil war and through that civil war the country was driven back to being peasant farmers. And so, as organizations began to work on anti-trafficking, they realized there were no counselors, there were no social workers, there were no psychologists, and so, capacity building of national staff and really leaving a legacy in Cambodia of competent Cambodians who had these skills has been a primary focus for us since we started 13 and a half years ago. And actually, now when staff leave organizations and they go on to work with other organizations, I think wow this is the legacy. It’s not about an organization, it’s not about a staff member leaving Chab Dai, but a staff member who’s got that capacity and is going to be the change that they want to see in Cambodia right. So, the next pillar is prevention and protection and that’s where we start because what we want to be able to do is prevent this happening in the first place, and protect those vulnerable communities, and build safety mechanisms. In one of our programs we have something called community heroes and it’s a little tongue in cheek, but we called them our community heroes because these are Cambodian villagers who may be policemen, they may be village leaders, or school teachers, or religious teachers, and they have been amazing in protecting their own communities.

[00:25:22] People said that will never work in Cambodia. There’s been too much war and mistrust within communities and I said but you don’t know unless you give them a chance. And so, we have two or three hundred community heroes who literally train tens of thousands of people every year. They get no salary at all. People say that would never happen but we’re seeing that when you invest in communities you start seeing prevention happen and you start seeing protection mechanisms and frameworks develop. Then the next piece, of course, is justice and client care. So, we know that we want to see justice happen. We know that for those who have had the horrendous traumatic experience of being exploited they not only need healing but a part of that is seeing justice. And in the Bible always we are being called to seek justice, right? Justice is a huge center point that we see is also, a huge spiritual piece for us to see justice. I was just looking at some of the figures from our lawyer and some of the cases that are going through court and the compensations now that are being paid to our clients. And that actually they’re beginning to see justice. It’s a long road but they’re beginning to see justice. Our next pillar is advocacy which seems kind of controversial in a country like Cambodia, but we don’t see ourselves as activist advocates what I term, and I don’t even know if this is a term is a diplomatic advocate. And so, what we do is we work with and through the Government on things that need to change. We don’t stand back and throw stones at them and tell them this is what you have to do, but actually we know that if, again about leaving a legacy, if change is going to come to Cambodia and every other nation in the world you have to work with them through the government and some of those governments are not easy to work with. But we need to find good people in the government and support them and work with them. So, advocacy is critical. And number five, last but not least, Sandie is research.

Sandie: [00:27:42] That’s right.

Helen: [00:27:43] And we’re fellow research nerds just that you’ve managed to actually work through and get your Ph.D., I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. But anyway, research and the research that we have really dedicated the last nine years to is our butterfly longitudinal research which is a 10-year research with 128 survivors of sex trafficking in Cambodia. To our knowledge, it’s the only research of its kind anywhere in the world. I say that part with pride but also, partly with a great sadness because I think that this is about the movement again. As we started this 10-year research, you know most people said why are you doing a 10-year research with survivors of trafficking. Just do it like one or two years. I said this is not going to be finished in one or two years. And for those who are wanting to build programs we need to know what’s happening in the long term with people who have been trafficked and following them for a year, it’s not going to give us the answer we need. So, it has taught us so, much and people can kind of look this up but I would really just like to say that one of the things that have been very challenging and one of the things that we’ve noticed through the research is that, you know there was this assumption that the first year would be the hardest for the survivors going back into their communities and it isn’t. Of course, there are challenges but actually the longer they’re in community the more challenges they face, and the honeymoon period wears off with their family, they begin to try and find a long-term partner, most of their long-term emotional relationships are violent, they end up still being in very abusive relationships, and a lot of them are feeling very socially isolated. It’s so, interesting to see that nine years later. They’re saying that that interaction with our butterfly team is probably the only interaction that they get in their lives where they can be honest about who they are.

Sandie: [00:30:00] Wow. We’re going to have to do a podcast just on the butterfly research project. I love that.

Helen: [00:30:07] Yes, I would love to do that.

Sandie: [00:30:07] We’ll put a link to that in the show notes. Our time is all gone. So, now that we know how to do this when you’re in the UK and I’m in California we’ll set this up again because I know our listeners are going to write back and say Can we hear more from Helen soon. So, you’ve left me with a few taglines now that I’m going to start talking about diplomatic advocacy. That’s exciting accountability and a common vision. These are keywords that we want people to listen to as they go back. And this is a podcast where I hope you go back and hit replay and then share it with somebody else. And I just can’t thank you enough Helen for staying up late to talk to us.

Helen: [00:30:59] I’m very happy to Sandie and I look forward to our next conversation.

Sandie: [00:31:03] Alright.

Dave: [00:31:04] Thank you both so, much for this inspiring conversation. Sandie. So, much of what we have learned together and through wonderful partners like Helen over the years is just the importance of partnership in our work. And there are so, many key foundational principles for being able to work together with us to end human trafficking. And if you haven’t already, we’re inviting you to take that first step. Hop online and download a copy of Sandie’s book, the Five Things You Must Know, a quick start guide to ending human trafficking. It will be a great starting point especially if you’re listening to this episode for just maybe the first time or the first couple of times, it’ll teach you the five critical things Sandie’s identified that you should know to join the fight against human trafficking. Get access to it by going over to endinghumantrafficking.org. While you’re online also, make sure to investigate the next Ensure Justice conference it’s going to be coming up here in Orange County California March 1st and 2nd 2019. You can find out more by going to ensurejustice.com. Have a fabulous week and Sandie I’ll see you in two weeks.

Sandie: [00:32:22] Thanks, Dave.

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