20 – Community Engagement to End Human Trafficking

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Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak provide key principles on community engagement. They discuss the need to evaluate and assess what exists in the community and how to develop responsible and sustainable models of community engagement.

Key Points

  • Key Principles for Community Engagement
    • Be clear about the purposes or goals of the engagement effort as well as the audience and populations that you engage.
    • Become knowledgeable of your communities history, economy, political perceptions, etc.
    • Establish relationships, build trusts, and seek commitments for mobilizing your community.
    • Remember and accept community self-determination.
    • Partnering with the community is necessary to create change.
    • Recognize and respect community diversity.
    • Identify and mobilize community assets and developing resources.
    • Community engagement means community ownership.
    • Community collaboration requires long term commitment by the engaging organization and its partners.


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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 20, recorded January 2012. Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie [00:00:27] And I’m Sandie Morgan.

Dave [00:00:29] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. And this is our 20th episode, Sandie, so we are back for more conversation today about how we can start to end human trafficking by studying the issues, being a voice, and making a difference. And we’re coming to you from the Global Center for Women and Justice here at Vanguard University in Southern California, where in January, it’s about 80 degrees right now. So sorry for those of you in warmer parts of the world, but we’re certainly glad to be here and glad to be back talking with you today.

Sandie [00:01:07] Absolutely. And we have a new direct dial phone number.

Dave [00:01:12] We do.

Sandie [00:01:13] Yeah.

Dave [00:01:14] For audio feedback. It used to be you had to call a phone number and then call an extension. But now you can actually call a direct number to us. And that way you can either talk with us directly or if we’re not there, you can leave a message and we will respond to you on the podcast. And that number is 714-966-6361. Or, of course, you can always e-mail the center directly at GCWJ@vanguard.edu. And that stands for the Global Center for Women of Justice, which the podcast is produced out of. And Sandie, today we are going to be talking about the importance of community engagement and the ways to do community engagement the right way. But before we even do that, we need to talk about the conference that’s going to help all of us to continue this, to study these issues. And I’m excited because we’re just a few weeks away.

Sandie [00:02:07] I’m really excited because our conference focus is on community engagement, on the difficult issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Ensure Justice 2012 focus is standing together to end the exploitation of girls and bringing the resources to you to be able to engage in best practice models and efficient, effective ways of engagement is really important. We hosted at a summit, a human trafficking summit at Vanguard on exploited minors, and we had law enforcement, juvenile court representatives, judges. And one of the specific gaps that they identified in that two-day summit was the need for more community engagement. Well, it’s a really nice, Dave, to say community engagement, but what does that mean? And we want to do a little overview today and let you know that that is going to be the content of this conference to engage the community, to connect you to the judges, to the probation department, to the victim service people in your area. And if you want to register for that conference, you’re going to need to do it quickly to get the early bird rate. And you can go to Ensurejustice.com or you can go to GCWJ.vanguard.edu.

Dave [00:03:37] And the conference will be March 2nd and 3rd, 2012, and it will be here in Orange County, California, Costa Mesa. And on Vanguard’s campus here in Costa Mesa. And so if you want to enjoy some wonderful weather early in March and enjoy coming out to California, but also to educate yourself about these issues, it’s a great opportunity to do that.

Sandie [00:03:58] And I’m excited because people asked me who should come to this. Well, during the summit, they pretty much identified who the community is that they want to engage with in order to make a difference to end this kind of exploitation. And I’m going to read you the exact list that they came up with. So, you know, if you’re on this list, you can you can be sure that you’ll find something at this conference. School nurses, homeless student liaisons, people who work in sexual abuse or SART, the Sexual Assault Teams, school boards, lots of people on school boards are in all come from all walks of life. So you’re beginning to see how expansive this is. Nurses, staff in walk-in clinics and pregnancy centers, social workers, mall security. Are you a mall security person? Probation officers, hotel and motel employees, casino workers, foster care parents will find amazing resources here. Directors of group homes and shelters, child protective service staff, faith-based communities that want to dig in and become viable parts of this community effort. First responders, athletic coaches, teachers, truck stop service workers, immigrant communities, exotic dancing industry workers, business owners, and their associations, City Hall, Code Enforcement, Chamber of Commerce, law enforcement, and juvenile justice people. If your name isn’t on that list, we can add it.

Dave [00:05:41] Yeah, and really anyone who cares about children and cares about the issues that surround children, Sandie. And in addition to that, people who interact with children and of course, that includes all parents out there. Boy, this is an important conversation for anyone in that category to really be engaged with. And I know it’s an important conversation for us and for you and for us being able to do what we talk about so much on this podcast, Sandie, which is being able to prevent this from happening in the first place.

Sandie [00:06:14] Exactly.

Dave [00:06:14] And we absolutely need to serve victims who have already been victims, and in addition to that, we also need to look for the right strategies and tools and study the issues ourselves so we can be tools to prevent this from happening in the first place. And if we can do that, we have made substantial gains in ending human trafficking and not just reacting to the aftermath of human trafficking.

Sandie [00:06:34] Being proactive in our strategies.

Dave [00:06:37] Exactly.

Sandie [00:06:38] In the last podcast with Carissa Phelps, she said something that made me add to my personal list of who in the community we want to engage with. Media.

Dave [00:06:51] Oh, yeah.

Sandie [00:06:51] You know, Carissa said that victims who become survivors shouldn’t be on programs to be entertainment. And I thought about that. We want to engage media in effective methods of being part of standing together to end exploitation. Carissa identified some of that kind of program as further exploitation. Go back and listen to her statements. It was powerful. And she speaks from her own experience as a victim who is now a survivor and has become a survivor advocate.

Dave [00:07:30] And if you missed that episode, that’s episode 19. You can find that on iTunes or you can find it at our website at GCWJ.vanguard.edu. And actually, Sandie, that’s a great transition to our topic today, which is community engagement. And Carissa has started to talk about that some on the last episode. And that’s an important topic for us to look at today and how to, not just engage the community, but to do it in a way that’s really responsible and sustainable. So I know you have some strong thoughts on this and ways that this can be done well.

Sandie [00:08:03] I’m excited about this topic.

Dave [00:08:05] So let’s jump right in.

Sandie [00:08:06] Well, let’s look at the national frame of how we are combating human trafficking out of the Global Trafficking In Persons Office and our Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Dave [00:08:16] And the Global Trafficking In Persons Offices is out of the State Department.

Sandie [00:08:21] State Department. Yes. And they really give us a policy framework that is based on the original protection project with the three Ps. Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution. But they added to that last year with the fourth P, Partnership. And just the CliffNotes version of that partnership is based on two main components. When we partner in our communities on the prevention, protection, and prosecution that’s based on what we bring to the table. And those ingredients are expertise and resources, expertise and resources. And the intersection of expertise and resources becomes the leaping-off point of community engagement. So let’s look at some of the principles of community engagement. And I would encourage you to use the the document that the Center for Disease Control has established the principles of community engagement. You know, we can frame the issue of exploitation as a public health issue because a lot of public health issues are related to poverty and to exploitation in any case. And my background in nursing. And so the idea of looking at this from a systemic perspective as a community health issue is a great place to engage. And health care professionals have long ago established patterns of communicating and engaging the community. So let’s use their experience and apply it to this issue.

Dave [00:10:01] That’s interesting you say that. When I first saw you pull that article, Sandie, from the CDC, I was wondering what CDC would have to do with community engagement. And it makes sense, though, when you explain that that really there is a tremendous amount of expertise there and the health care industry of how to do this. And a good track record for doing this effectively.

Sandie [00:10:18] And for another podcast, looking at this framed as a public health issue, a community health issue will be a topic that we’ll go down. But for right now, we’re just going to look at principles of community engagement. The first principle, be clear about the purposes or goals of the engagement effort and the populations or communities that you want to engage. We use terms like community engagement and they begin to lose their meaning because they’re just big, big words, big thoughts, big ideas, but without specific goals. And we’re not talking about awareness. And I’ve heard so many people say we’re so done with awareness. We don’t want to do another rally. We don’t want to do another awareness event. And in fact, when Obama announced the focus for this year’s Human Trafficking Month, January, he called it Human Trafficking Prevention Month. So prevention means that we’re going to actually do something. And engagement means I’m going to do something. I’m not just going to talk about it. So that we have to have goals in order to engage our community. And that we can’t plan those goals unless, and it’s like these people have seen our podcast strategy study the issues, be a voice, make a difference.

Dave [00:11:46] Yeah.

Sandie [00:11:47] And the second principle is become knowledgeable, become knowledgeable. You’ve got to study your community in terms of its economic conditions, political structures. It has to engage the policymakers, the values, the demographics, the history, the experience. You have to learn about your community’s perceptions before initiating engagement activities. Dave, you’re a business professional. Tell me how important the economic conditions are to any strategy to start an engagement project.

Dave [00:12:23] Well, I’m thinking about the first two things you’ve just said here, Sandie, as far as being clear about the purpose and be knowledgeable. That’s probably the first thing that people should do when they write a business plan. Whether to start a business or to engage a community or to run a nonprofit is to be clear about who is being served. Who the, quote-unquote, customer is or the market is, whether that’s for a nonprofit or whether that’s for a business. And then, of course, to go out and to do what business people would call do some market research. But really, that’s just a fancy term for finding out what’s already out there and what resources is the market already providing, and also what resources aren’t there that then a new organization or a new person can step into and provide another service or product that will be helpful to the marketplace. And I think that that’s really very much in line with what we’re talking about here, Sandie. Is looking at, you know, what is the purpose if we’re going to go out and engage the community, what are we actually trying to do? What the purpose for what we’re trying to do? And then how do we educate ourselves first on making sure we’re doing it the right way before we go out and spend lots of money and resources and time and maybe even potentially make the situation worse if we’re not doing it in a way that certainly, may be well-meaning, but not really thought through as far as from a strategy standpoint.

Sandie [00:13:44] And I think we need to know when we do this, what we want to ask them to do. We want to know what we want them to do.

Dave [00:13:54] Exactly, exactly.

Sandie [00:13:55] So to set up those goals then we’re we’re going to have to really study our community and find out what’s already there. And one of my understandings over the last year is that we don’t necessarily need to start another nonprofit that has the term human trafficking in the name or even in the goals. What we need to assess is who is already doing prevention work. There are after-school programs, for instance, here in Orange County. One of the ones that comes to mind is Think Together. That’s a great strategy for community engagement. They always need more volunteers. And you may not be able to go and do something that is directly serving victims of human trafficking. But you could become a key ingredient. You could be one of the resources for partnership in prevention by volunteering at an after-school program. That is a great example of a sustainable community engagement strategy.

Dave [00:15:01] And we talk about, and I know you’re going to mention here, Sandie, two ways to really partner expertise and also partnering with people who have resources. In some cases, they may have both. But really looking at who can provide partnership through those two different lenses because there are different ways that different people can help and conserve. And if we can can tap into that and think strategically about how we would utilize those in an organization or in an outreach effort, that that is really a smart thing to do on the front end.

Sandie [00:15:32] Well. And if you’re knowledgeable about your community, and we’re still back on principle number two, you’re going to know what resources are available. And I don’t want to limit our thinking to about resources to money. We’re not talking about budgets at this point. A lot of our resources, especially in a community, are not found on the bottom line of a financial report. They’re found in the man-hours that can be volunteered. The professional services that can be volunteered. We had a project here in Orange County a couple of years ago, and hairdressers donated full haircuts and styling to our survivors as a kind of a get them started on their reintegration process that you couldn’t find that on a bottom line. But it was a great example of the community resources. Facilities, we host a lot of events at Vanguard University. We have a room. That’s hard to measure. Those are ideas that you can look at to be knowledgeable.

Dave [00:16:40] And this podcast is actually a perfect example of that, Sandie. You know, the center does not have an audio studio, or a recording studio and doesn’t need one. Because I serve on the board. We have a studio for our business. And so you come in and we record and that’s a great resource that we can provide. And it doesn’t, quote-unquote, cost us anything, you know, time and resources. And let you use the facility here, of course. But that’s a great partnership for you and for us of a way we can give back in a way that we can get the center’s message out there. So, you know, another example of how those resources don’t have to be someone writing a check or don’t have to be someone signing off on a budget. It can be existing resources and just looking for good ways to utilize those.

Sandie [00:17:28] And I have to say, I appreciate the community engagement of Innovate Learning with the Global Center for Women and Justice. Thank you, Dave.

Dave [00:17:36] Well, I’m very honored to help in a small way of getting your message out, Sandie. It’s a huge part of our mission, too.

Sandie [00:17:44] And actually, that kind of leads us into the third principle, which is go into your community, establish relationships, build trust, work with formal and informal leadership, seek commitment from community organizations and leaders to create processes for mobilizing your community. So we’ve built a trust relationship here. And so we keep on doing what we’re doing day in and day out. And it becomes very sustainable because I know that you’re going to show up and you know I’m going to show up.

Dave [00:18:17] Right. Exactly. And that’s something that I think, you know, whenever I’m thinking of things that we do in our business, what are things that are going to be sustainable? I’d rather do two or three things well that we can do with longevity and over a long period of time than try to do 10 or 15 or 20 things that will put half of our energy into if less than that. And so, I think that when we talk about community engagement, Sandie, that that’s a really important thing to think of, too. When we’re planning and thinking about resources and thinking about who we are, we’re going to reach is: what is going to be something that is going to be sustainable? It’s not just we’re doing it for a month or two months or 10 months, but something that, you know, is we look five, 10 years later is still going strong and that the foundation is there to really build that. And I think any business would think that way. Unfortunately, a lot of times when nonprofits and volunteers go out into the world to really try and make a difference in ending an issue like human trafficking is a lot of us don’t think strategically like that and we don’t think out long term to what can we really do to provide sustainable foundations. And so I’m glad you’re mentioning that because I think that that’s essential for really ending this issue because human trafficking isn’t going to go away in a month or two. As much as we’d all love it, too, it is going to be an issue that’s going to be with us for some time. And we need to create resources and engagement. That’s going to be a part of what we do long-term.

Sandie [00:19:44] And the reason why that is so important in this principle of establishing relationships and building trust is when we over promise and under deliver. When we don’t have a sustainable plan for what we say we’re going to do, we lose trust and it reduces our overall effectiveness.

Dave [00:20:08] Yeah, and trust is such an important part in this, Sandie, particularly, when we’re talking about community engagement, we have to start with trust. And so it’s key to us being effective and doing whatever it is we’re going to be doing out in the marketplace.

Sandie [00:20:21] And the next principle, we have to hurry along here, remember and accept, remember and accept that community self-determination is the responsibility and right of all people who comprise a community. No external entity should assume it can bestow on a community the power to act in its own self-interest. So we don’t create a template, bring it in, put it on you, and say, okay, community, here’s what you have to do. This is self-determination, and that is going to also contribute to building trust because it demonstrates respect. Any comments on that before we move right into number five?

Dave [00:21:03] Yeah, I think it’s so true, Sandie. You know, we have to be able to again, look at that long term and build trust and form relationships where they’re going to really open up doors that are going to build relationships that are going to last over the long run.

Sandie [00:21:20] And, you know, this whole idea of identifying the issues that are important in this particular community as opposed to a community in New York, that is going to drive that community’s mobilization and engagement.

Dave [00:21:35] Yeah. And I think that this is one of the biggest mistakes that business people make. And also people in nonprofits and people who are very well-meaning and want to do good volunteer work is, deciding what they’re going to do independently and then going out into the world and saying, I’m going to do this, I’m going to provide service to rescue victims. I’m going to go out and I’m going to launch a campaign to raise money. I’m going to do whatever it is that they’ve decided they’re going to do. And again, very, very well-meaning. Unfortunately, many times those people, this goes right back to the beginning, Sandie, when we talked about becoming knowledgeable. Really finding out what does that community need. The thing that they want to provide and the service they want to provide may not be the thing that the community needs. And this is where very well-intentioned people can go out into the world and try to provide things that actually not only does community not need but maybe doesn’t even want and worse even causes the situation to be worse than it was before. And so that’s where this going back to educating oneself about what’s going on in your community of asking questions. And this huge word that I teach all of our clients to do when they’re working with people because we work a lot with leaders and organizations, listen first. Go out and ask questions and listen. One of the things we tell people whenever they get into a leadership role is to spend a lot of time upfront listening first and understanding what people need from you and need from your leadership. And if you can do that on the front end, you’ll learn a lot and genuinely, do not just sit down and not talk for 20 minutes, but really listen to what people are saying. You will find what people need and you will hear about what people need. And that can guide what resources that you or your organization might be able to provide.

Sandie [00:23:34] I think that’s really important, too, especially with the focus that we’re talking about with the exploitation of children. One of the findings from the human trafficking summit is that what these victims need to become survivors is very individual. There isn’t a one size fits all treatment modality. And what the community can offer is very varied and each community is different. And so finding a one size fits all community engagement model is also not very effective.

Dave [00:24:12] And think about it when you show up to a service provider, Sandie. You know, you and I go out to a business or to an organization, we don’t want to be treated like a number.

Sandie [00:24:22] No.

Dave [00:24:22] We want to be treated like an individual. Certainly, there may be a process or procedure that an organization follows. You know, I’m thinking about my wife and I bought a car in the last week, and there’s nothing worse than going into a car dealer and feeling like you’re a number or someone. And it’s just such a good experience when someone really treats you like an individual. You know, there’s gonna be a process of negotiation and all that. But when someone really treats you like an individual, like we were treated this week, it really does make a difference to how much trust and engagement you have with that person. And we need to do the same thing when we’re talking about how do we best serve people who are victims, how do we engage community members? Is, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. There are best practices are systems that will follow, of course. But we really do need to step back and to listen and to engage people on an individual level and treat people the way we would want to be treated as individuals.

Sandie [00:25:17] And being successful at that. Being successful. Engagement to succeed. Number five, partnering with the community is necessary to create change and improve the community’s health and at all levels. And so when we start talking about organizing concepts and in fact, the American Heritage Dictionary defines partnership as a relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility as for the achievement of a specified goal. So the organizing concepts that we talk about with social ecology and community participation and organization, they speak to a relationship between community partnerships and positive change. That’s going to come out of empowerment and equity in those partnerships. I love the word equity. It means I own something. And if the community doesn’t own this, it’s not going to be sustainable and it’s not going to succeed. The number six principle is based on all aspects of community engagement must recognize and respect community diversity, which I think that really is also a part of the the idea of understanding who your community is. I want to kind of move through this real quickly because our time is running out and just hit on these last few principles. Community engagement can only be sustained by identifying and mobilizing community assets and developing capacities and resources. Now, when I opened up this session, we went back to the fourth P in the model for combating human trafficking. The fourth P is partnership, and the two ingredients that our State Department model has identified is expertise and resources. So when we take this community engagement can only be sustained by identifying and mobilizing community assets, we find the intersection of community engagement and the battle to combat human trafficking and every community’s assets are going to be different. So it’s going to be a unique opportunity to evaluate and assess what expertise and what resources are available in your community.

Dave [00:27:47] And I think that’s probably one of the reasons partnership has been added as that fourth P, Sandie, is us officially as a government recognizing the importance of this. And in fact, you and I talked about this in detail that that fourth P back in episode seven of this podcast. So for those of you who haven’t yet listened to that episode, you may even want to go back and pull that off iTunes, just search for Ending Human Trafficking and you’ll find it. And that’s a great reminder of that addition to that concept now and that strategy to what the State Department is doing and looking at about how we can really prevent human trafficking in the first place.

Sandie [00:28:26] I agree. We have two more that I’m just going to briefly touch on. Number eight is really tough for me. An engaging organization or individual change agent must be prepared to release control of actions or interventions to the community and be flexible enough to meet the changing needs of the community. When we come in with our great ideas and our exciting agenda, we have to remember that we need to release control because this is going to be community engagement. And if it’s going to be community engagement, it’s community ownership. I’m not in charge.

Dave [00:29:04] And it’s not sustainable if the day the organization who’s, you know, has started that leaves or is not engaged anymore if the community just stops doing it. You know.

Sandie [00:29:13] Exactly.

Dave [00:29:14] We need to partner in a way that the community is going to really continue to provide that service for themselves and hopefully to others eventually, but that it’s going to take root and be sustainable.

Sandie [00:29:24] And that’s what the final principle really is all about. Community collaboration requires long-term commitment by the engaging organization and its partners. If we want a sustainable change, it has to be long-term. It has to be owned by the community. And that commitment is not going to happen by passing out one size fits all plans.

Dave [00:29:47] And that’s one of the reasons that if you’re listening to this episode, that you should be thinking about coming to the conference that the Global Center for Women and Justice is hosting here March 2nd and 3rd. And Sandie had mentioned the information about it up front at top of the episode. But if this conversation has motivated you to think more about how to engage the community, check out our website, GCWJ.vanguard.edu. And of course, you can always call us with comments or questions about that conference or anything else that the center is up to at 714-966-6361. And Sandie, that’s going to just about wrap up our time today. I’m so glad to be talking with you again on this important issue of engaging the community. So look forward to our future conversations on this podcast and in many other venues.

Sandie [00:30:39] Thank you. I look forward to seeing many of you at our conference March 2nd and 3rd.

Dave [00:30:44] In the meantime, all the best to everyone out there. Continue to call in questions and comments for us that you want to see answered. And if you have suggestions for us on future topics for this show, send us an email. We’d love to hear about it. You can reach us at GCWJ@vanguard.edu. And we’ll jump in to that topic and research it and come to you with our resources. Thanks again, Sandie. And see in two weeks.

Sandie [00:31:09] Okay, bye.

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