274 – USA Today Women of the Year Honoree, Ashleigh Chapman

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Sandie Morgan and Ashleigh Chapman take a deep dive into all the work Ashleigh has been doing through her various organizations, how her team is developing tools to identify and fill the gaps, and connecting organizations across the nation to collaborate with one another.

Ashleigh Chapman

Ashleigh Chapman has a Law Degree from Regent University and was recently named USA Today’s Women of the Year honoree from Wyoming, and has spent her entire career working to end human trafficking across the world. She runs a variety of organizations, including Altus Solutions, a “business for good” founded in Wyoming that powers solutions to end trafficking; the Alliance for Freedom, Restoration and Justice, a non-profit that’s connected more than 10,000 anti-trafficking advocates across the world; and Justice U, an online learning platform where “students” can learn the basics of how to identify human trafficking.

Key Points

  • We are in a transition of awareness education to specific education on how we all play a role in ending human trafficking.
  • Developing new tools for impact analysis so organizations can understand the impact of their activities and identify where the gaps are.
  • More awareness is being given to the intersectionality between missing and murdered indigenous women and human trafficking.
  • We need to address human trafficking with a high level of excellence so those receiving services are getting the best from our non-profits, government agencies, social workers, law enforcement, etc.


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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 274, USA Today Women of the Year Honoree, Ashleigh Chapman.

Production Credits [00:00:11] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave [00:00:31] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak

Sandie [00:00:36] And my name is Sandie Morgan,

Dave [00:00:39] 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, it’s such a pleasure to come together with you twice a month here on the show because we get to hear from so many wonderful experts who have received such incredible recognition all over the world from all kinds of organizations. Today is no exception. I’m so glad to welcome an expert today. We’re going to be able to learn so much from Ashleigh Chapman. She has a law degree from Regent University and was recently named USA Today’s Women of the Year Honoree from Wyoming and has spent her entire career working to end human trafficking across the world. She’s doing it by running a variety of organizations, including Alta Solutions, a business for good founded in Wyoming that powers solutions to end trafficking; the Alliance for Freedom, Restoration and Justice, a nonprofit that’s connected more than 10,000 anti-trafficking advocates around the world; and Justice U, an online learning platform where students can learn the basics of how to identify human trafficking. Ashleigh we’re so glad to have you with us on the show.

Ashleigh [00:01:52] Thank you so much, Dave and Sandie, well I’m just thrilled to be with you both and just so grateful for your advocacy and efforts through this podcast and so many other ways on an issue like this. It’s a joy to join you today.

Sandie [00:02:03] Well, I’m excited to have you here. First of all, congratulations on this important recognition. I met you at a conference in Philadelphia more than a decade ago. And yeah, so we we like we bond over those memories, but we don’t often end up in the same spaces physically. But I know you well enough that the recognition of this award isn’t your goal. So can you tell us what this award means to you?

Ashleigh [00:02:36] Yeah, thank you, Sandie. That’s right, it was such a joy to receive it. It’s certainly an honor, and I consider it a team award for all of the amazing women on our team and men who just work so diligently every single day on these issues. What it means to me, while I guess I don’t quite know how to answer that exactly, except to say what I hope it means, right? What I hope it means is that it’s going to increase awareness of an issue that is every day present in our communities everywhere. And I hope it calls people to action, right? So really wanting to see our world and all the people in it move from a general awareness of human trafficking to the reality that every part, every person can be part of the solution. And just, we really focus on building the solutions and the tools and the resources that usher people into becoming part of that solution. So I pray that it accomplishes that, but it was a real honor to receive it and just really grateful. Big shout out to USA Today for honoring women across the country who are doing great work in so many ways in their communities and just grateful to be part of it.

Sandie [00:03:39] I was thrilled for exactly the same reason because being featured in such a big platform really does bring awareness to the work that you’re doing, and it brings awareness in a way that challenges people to be more educated, particularly. And I’m kind of curious because our works have a lot of parallel. How do you think we’re doing? And how will we know when we’re done with our goals of educating others.

Ashleigh [00:04:13] Yes, right. So yeah, I think we do share a love for education and just the belief in the power of education to equip us, right? Education is a tool and every person has unique passions and skills and interests. But it’s getting those skills and getting equipped with those skills that’s going to make our ability to to change our world possible. So when will we know we’re done, man? When I quit having people ask me what human trafficking is, right, we still get those questions today. But I think that we are, we are reaching a saturation point. I will say, having been at this now for a couple of decades, you know, I think we’re reaching a point where people generally have an understanding of what human trafficking is. But the education that we’re really driving forward, that I know is on your heart too, is helping people really move from just a general understanding to really knowing precisely how their lives are going to interact or could be interacting with this issue in their own communities and what they can do, depending on what hat they wear in those communities to make a difference. Right? To make a difference in addressing trafficking head on or even supporting those who are most vulnerable in our communities so that this never becomes part of their story. So when we see people, not just understand that this issue exists, that it’s real, but that they really can make a difference in it and they know how to do that. I think that’s when we’ll, we maybe, you know, be able to start packing up. But we’ve got a ways to go yet.

Sandie [00:05:44] Well, this is a good point to ask you about all these different organizations that are on your CV. It’s kind of amazing because you’ve been such a catalyst. And I’m pretty interested in how you started with one and felt really compelled to launch others. So let’s start with AFRJ.

Ashleigh [00:06:14] So AFRJ was, I mean, I think the big umbrella for everything we’ve been doing is trying to understand what are the solutions that would that you need to build to help everyone succeed? Right? So if we’re facing over 40 million souls worldwide, what are the solutions that can reach 40 million souls? And from our perspective, from my perspective, it has been there have to be, there just have to be solutions that can help every organization out there do better. Every person who’s passionate about this understand what they need to do better, every community to strengthen its efforts. So what are those solutions that have that capability? And so the alliance was the first one we built and that was way back. I mean, to start a building that was in 2010 when we were researching everyone on the planet who was working on these issues. And we really felt that one of the big missing gaping holes in the movement at that time was that people did not know each other. And so, you know, trafficking was still fairly new to our world and certainly new to the United States kind of citizenry. And so people were either running and closing their eyes, right? Like, my gosh, it’s too dark, it’s too dark an issue. Or they were jumping in, right? They were just jumping in and we were seeing thousands of efforts start to proliferate, but they were disconnected from each other. So the first thing we built was the alliance and with the idea of how could we help bridge, how could we serve as a conduit between people so they could find each other, find resources that were already out there, really fill the gap in relationships and strategies and solutions so we could accelerate our ability to make an impact and not be spinning our wheels in spaces that people had already learned some great things from or even build upon, you know, with collaborating with others. So that was the dream with the alliance. We started with about 3,000 anti-trafficking efforts that we were supporting when we first launched, we’re well over 10,000. And our record day last year was helping, I think sixty seven organizations in one day around the world with being a conduit in that way.

Sandie [00:08:15] I love the image of connection and people who know me really well know I love to talk about the Greek jar from the palace in Crete called a Pithari that has handles all over it so that lots of different people can grab on and help move such a heavy issue forward. And that’s why I love the alliance. I think after that you started Engage Together. What brought about that?

Ashleigh [00:08:46] Yeah, so Engage Together– So we we kind of birthed the alliance, or the concept in 2010, really birthed it in real time. In 2013 and 2014, we birthed Engage Together. And this came out of so, I mean, literally thousands of conversations where we realized that communities, so while we were kind of supporting this world of people who were out there doing this work, from law enforcement to social work, the teachers, the parents, the faith based institutions, the business. I mean, it was just such a multi-sector cohort. What was going on in communities was it was all very still new to them, right? And so they didn’t realize literally everything that they need to be taking a look at to address human trafficking and all the ways they could work together to do that. So everyone was starting to get concentrated in raising awareness and building aftercare programs. When that’s two very important pieces of a very big puzzle, right, that need to be taking place. And then, of course, you know, on sector engagement, it was heavily nonprofit and government, and churches weren’t at the table, and businesses weren’t at the table, and civic clubs weren’t yet at the table. So the idea between Engage Together, maybe the best way to explain it, was how one of our interns put it one day. They said we were globalizing knowledge. So taking global knowledge about the issue and what works and doesn’t, and really localizing it to communities that were struggling to address it well. And that birthed Engage Together. And it’s grown every year since. We’ve evolved and evolved and evolved it. Now it includes technologies that can heat map down to a county level the strengths and gaps in a community, and really help that community gain the strategic insights that they need to make a massive step forward in transforming the reality on the ground.

Sandie [00:10:30] So people can go to Engage Together to see those tools, right?

Ashleigh [00:10:34] Uh-Huh. Engagetogether.com and start taking a look and knock on our door any time so that they feel like their community could need a resource or a tool like that.

Sandie [00:10:44] And then you started Justice U.

Ashleigh [00:10:47] Yes.

Sandie [00:10:48] And how did that happen?

Ashleigh [00:10:52] So we– So once we launched Engage Together, we were supporting so many communities, Sandie, and I was on the road. Pre-pandemic, I was on the road upwards of 40 to 48 weeks a year for about a seven year sprint. And sometimes multiple cities per day. And so this one day I had trained three separate cities in two states that day and I was flying home and I just thought, we are never, ever going to win the war on this. How we’re educating people is gathering them into a room and trying to bring them from a zero level of understanding, most of the time, to a 101, right? We couldn’t hardly get past that in one singular training. You know, we’d always start, and it didn’t matter who we were training. Whether it was law enforcement or social workers or you name the cohort, we’d start the day with a general understanding of the issue and end the day with everyone just flagging case after case after case of potential trafficking victims that they had interacted with and did not know it because they just simply lack the knowledge. So for me, it was, OK, how do we take the bits of knowledge that sit with so many of our global network partners, that every single community needs, but not just general knowledge, the very specific bits of knowledge that individuals within those communities need because the way a health care provider will interact with trafficking is very different than a middle school teacher. So, so we need some baseline knowledge, but very specific knowledge. And how do you build something that can scale to millions of people, right? All at the same time? And that’s when I learned about digital badging and digital certifications, and this was way back in 20, I don’t know, 2018, I guess. And we started to just build an alliance of tech companies and universities who are passionate about this, including Indiana University and several others, and just started to design it. What would it look like to create an online university for justice advocates? And we launched it in beta in 2020 and in full this past year. And our goal is to equip over a million learners in Justice U in the next three to five years. So it’s pretty exciting, but it’s a pretty aggressive timeline too.

Sandie [00:13:02] Wow! A million. That’s a big goal. That’s a big goal. Wow. And it’s all available online.

Ashleigh [00:13:10] That’s it. Yeah, it’s all online. It’s the latest educational pedagogy. So if you’re a visual learner, you’re kinesthetic learner, you’re an auditory learner, it’s got something for you. It’s mobile friendly. You’ll end up with not just knowledge, but certifications based on your field and accreditation, CEU’s, et-cetera. So we try to bake it all in. Make it as accessible as possible. Take it in five minute chunks or in a full hour or four hour long, however long your particular program is. And just our goal is to just disseminate knowledge as fast as we can so that lives can be saved.

Sandie [00:13:42] OK, so I knew about the alliance. I go to Engage Together pretty regularly. I followed the launch of Justice U. But I didn’t know about Altus until I read the interview with USA Today. What is Altus?

Ashleigh [00:14:05] Well, Altus is a solution that we built to a problem we were experiencing in scaling the solutions we had built. So, you know, with the alliance and supporting just literally thousands of organizations out in the field, with Engaged Together and supporting all these communities, and Justice U supporting all these learners, you know in the typical nonprofit skin, what that required was a pretty significant focus by myself, especially in our teams, to just consistently be out there trying to find donors to support all of this. And it would just became– I just began to realize this is not the skin for this. So what if we went after impact investments instead? What if we powered some of these solutions through are business for good, a benefit corporation. We found impact investors to kind of help us stand the thing up. Then we could scale, right? These are solutions we mean to scale to every community struggling with trafficking in every country that needs it. And we have learners in Justice U right now and forty seven states and eight countries, but we’re aiming for all 50 right and many more countries than that. So how do you scale that? These are not simple solutions. They require a massive team and a massive technological kind of under, you know, underbelly, if you will, to push that forward. And so we decided to launch a company that could help us power those solutions into the future. And so that we could play with things like impact analytics.

Sandie [00:15:32] Wait, wait. You have to stop and define that for us. Impact analytics?

Ashleigh [00:15:37] Impact analytics. Yes, sort of burgeoning new field, and we’re taking some steps to pioneer pieces of that puzzle. But the idea is on complex societal issues, the world has gotten better, I would say not great yet, but better at what what I would call activity analytics, right? So how many people did we train this last year. For instance, we have a training with doctors that that’s going on across the country in partnership with Anthem, right now. So I could say, Hey, we’ve trained four hundred doctors in this community, but what does that mean? Right? So does that mean that more victims were identified, that care improved, that the outcomes for survivors improved? Now we’re leaning into this world of impact analytics, not just activity analytics, and there are some things that we want to test and try in that space as well. And the nonprofit skin really isn’t the right skin for that, either. So we’re building those kinds of solutions and a business for good skin with the idea that the profits from that company will then pour out to all of our partners in the field, too. And then, you know, Lord willing, will not just sustain everything that we’re doing, but we’ll be able to mightily bless all those we’re doing it with as well. So that’s the big idea.

Sandie [00:16:49] OK, so lets drill down just a little bit because I am totally with you on the difference between activity analytics and impact analytics and just doing, doing, doing isn’t moving us forward. And I remember looking at how many presentations, how many people came, and being at some of those. And so now I want to know not just how much activity you did. So many of the community events, all the same people come and we still write down we did an event and we had 50 people, but nobody actually measured impact. So explain the difference and what that’s going to do as we move forward.

Ashleigh [00:17:36] Well, I might answer that in the inverse. So what it will do is it will let us know whether what we are doing is working, right? So because if we’re just monitoring what we are doing without knowing whether that is actually transforming the face of our community’s response to this, are we actually decreasing trafficking in their communities? Are we increasing care? Are we improving outcomes? And how are we going to define that. Then yeah, we all are going to come to the same table over and over and over. And it’s not that that coming to the table isn’t a good thing to do, right. But the point is not to do that. Our point is to end this right. So this is a bit like taking a look at this massive problem and saying, how do we work ourselves out of a job, right? How does this end? And what do we, how are we going to define that? And how are we going to then monitor that right? And so even back in the day when I was advising on the End Modern Slavery Act right here that our U.S. Senate passed with Senator Corker, right? So when we were building out this big bill that if you’ve heard about, you know, years ago, is meant to decrease trafficking in targeted locations internationally. But when we were designing that bill, you know, the big idea was, Hey, in seven years, let’s decrease the level of human trafficking in targeted cities. Well, I countered with, I think it’s going to take us seven years to even understand what the prevalence is in the first place. We’ve got to unearth what’s really the prevalence of this issue. Then we’ll discover whether we started to decrease. But you’re leaning into impact analytics at that point. And so, this is a new field. We got some great humans, you know, who are getting kind of specialized training and even MBAs, you know, degrees around this right now and trying to apply it to complex societal issues. And so I’ll keep you abreast of it, Sandie. It’s sort of a, you know, we’re taking a look at all the different ways and all the different people it would take. But let’s just take health care for a moment. You know, in this country, studies have shown that the overwhelming majority of victims in our country, just in the United States I’m talking right now, are presenting themselves to health care environments, sometimes as many between 15 and 18 times before they’re properly identified as victims of human trafficking. So we need to get that health care community trained. But it is no good if all we do is train if that training isn’t then being implemented in ways that actually lead to identification. And what good is identifying victims if we don’t have a way to care well for those victims, right? If we end up just kind of handing them back to the trafficker, putting them back out on the streets, which happens a lot in our community still to this day. And then if we’re caring well, are we building bridges between immediate triage to all the things that they need to start building a successful life? So it’s just really about taking that long view of what we’re trying to catalyze with all this activity we’re doing and making sure that it is doing what we intend for it to do. And without that, I think we’re a bit guessing at what we should do or we’re just repeating the same things over and over that we know how to do. And we just I just think we have to raise the level of excellence. And in fact, analytics will show us the way.

Sandie [00:20:54] I’m so encouraged by that. I have been in a lot of, I don’t know if you remember my backgrounds pediatric nursing. So I’ve been involved in this health care conversation for a long time, and I remember helping a hospital that was open to developing algorithms and creating protocols. But the obstacle, the barrier was the legal ramifications. So when I went to meet with people about at the hospital for developing some of these protocols, I’ll never forget walking into the room and discovering that the attorneys outnumbered the nurses. Yeah, see, you’re an attorney, so you and I would make a great team. Oh, my goodness, yes. So impact is because we’ve done trainings. We’re back doing trainings at the same hospitals that we’ve done before, but they have so much attrition that you feel like you’re starting over all the time.

Ashleigh [00:21:57] Sure. Sure. Yeah. And it’s not, impact analytics isn’t replacing the activity. It’s just making sure the activity is accomplishing what we need to do, right. So they really are complementing each other. And we really are making this into EngageTogether right now, so being able to unearth down to a county level, literally everything being done by everyone in that community for labor and sex trafficking, adults and children, for nationals and domestic and getting a picture of an incredibly detailed picture about the strengths and gaps of all that. And then as that community shifts and changes based on those data insights, we start to fill in gaps, right? So those red zones go to yellow zones go to green zones and we’re starting to see kind of transformation there. So impact analytics has to blend. Yes, the people on the ground with the ability to share information, right? And as an attorney, you know, I am laughing at that right. So there are so many ways to do this that will still protect, right, all of the concerns that might be there. But we have to work together to see that or we’re just not making the level of impact we need to or we think we might be, but we may not be. And and it’s no good, right? People who are hurting deserve more.

Sandie [00:23:11] I’ve got two more questions, and our time is running out. I was really interested in your work with the Wyoming State Attorney General’s Office and the links to the missing and murdered indigenous women. Can you help our listeners understand that connection?

Ashleigh [00:23:31] Yes, so we worked this past year with the Attorney General’s Office in Wyoming and their Department of Victim Services to assess every single county’s efforts related to human trafficking. This would be this would fall into our Engage Together bucket. And try to understand where is Wyoming currently strong and where are there gaps? Where are there things that still need to be done? Wyoming was the last nation in the country to pass human trafficking laws and so that’s a bit of a yikes. But at the same time, they learn so much from all the other laws, and they baked in a really progressive, very comprehensive law. But even though that was 2013, that’s pretty short amount of time for implementation, right? So we were helping them really unearth everyone doing anything everywhere. And we’ve been able to give them all kinds of reports and ways forward and things to consider doing next. So that’s all good. But Wyoming, like any other state in this nation that has a large a minority population, especially those who are indigenous, that is a highly vulnerable population to human trafficking in this country. And the complexities there, I mean, you and I could probably talk about this forever, but I’ll just make it short for our listeners. The complexities lie in just the vulnerabilities exist in those cultures anyways, just their lack of access to resources and health care and the things that would make their communities strong, right? And there’s a whole historical context to that in our nation. But then the jurisdictional issues of sharing information when an individual does go missing or is murdered is almost nonexistent, as far as sharing data. And I have personally trained law enforcement in Texas who know that some of the women they have found murdered, who are Native American women on just their bodies literally dumped on the highway outside of a truck stop were trafficked from lands, tribal lands in Wyoming or Montana. But there’s no mechanism to trace that. No mechanism to activate a protocol, multistate protocol. I am very pleased to say our federal government right now is paying more attention to this than ever before, and Wyoming and several other states are realizing this nexus between missing and murdered persons, efforts going on in our indigenous populations and trafficking as well. And, you know, and we’re there to support any and every way we can those conversations because it’s an issue that must be addressed and is growing.

Sandie [00:26:00] Well, I’m going to stay tuned to learn more from you. We’re taking a team to Navajo Nation in May working around building resilience, particularly for children. Yes, so. OK, here’s my last question. I loved your interview answer that you gave about one of the problems that we have is that we’re giving people who are hurting in our world our leftovers. Our leftover time, our leftover talent, and our leftover treasures. What do we have to do instead?

Ashleigh [00:26:43] We have to address this with excellence. And, you know, when I was born, I promise this will be fast. But my dad was the pastor of the homeless mission downtown Nashville. And I feel like my whole life I have grown up seeing hurting communities and hurting families and hurting individuals. And certainly my whole professional life has been aimed at supporting those who are desperately hurting in our world today. And it is maddeningly frustrating that when let’s just stop and take federal budgets or state budgets, when those get slashed for any number of other reasons, you know, the budgets that tend to get slashed the fastest are those that protect those who are most vulnerable. Or even in our own communities when we’re looking at addressing issues of domestic violence or child abuse, and certainly human trafficking, homelessness, poverty. You know, we’re relying on overwhelmingly nonprofits and our government agencies, and we’re just giving them never what they need to fully accomplish that well. And so it’s just we are never going to win the war on issues of human trafficking or all of the many things that led to the presence of human trafficking at the level it is today. So all of these vulnerabilities that were not addressed well and are not being addressed in our communities that are leading to this reality, where people can be exploited in such a horrific way in our country and all around the world, if we are just going at this as though it’s just not that important. So we have got to raise the level of excellence at which we are going at these issues. Everything we’ve talked about in the course of this podcast, you know, is aimed at that, which means I hold myself to a certain level of excellence. Our team holds ourselves at a certain level of excellence, but we’re just pushing for excellence in this field because we’re just never going to win this war if we’re just giving people our leftovers. And I just think that for whatever reason, that’s been baked into our culture for decades. And that has to change.

Sandie [00:28:43] I love it. Well, everybody knows here at the Global Center for Women and Justice, we are not giving our leftovers. We are giving our students all of the tools they need to be successful in joining the fight. So will you hang around after? We’re going to close this episode up and answer one more question for me for our Patreon subscribers?

Ashleigh [00:29:08] Absolutely.

Sandie [00:29:09] OK. Dave.

Dave [00:29:12] Ashleigh and Sandie, thank you so much for this conversation. We’re inviting you to take the first step if you haven’t already, take a moment and go online to our site at endinghumantrafficking.org. It’s a great place to download a copy of Sandie’s guide, The Five Things you Must Know: A Quick Start Guide to Ending Human Trafficking will teach you the five critical things that Sandie’s identified in her work here at the Global Center for Women and Justice that you should know before you join the fight against trafficking. You can get access to it by going over to endinghumantrafficking.org. And Sandie mentioned a conversation coming after this. Patreon is a wonderful way for you to support the work that Sandie and I are doing through the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. We’re working on continually expanding our community of advocates. And if you become a patron, you can get access to exclusive content, including bonus conversations, episodes, and you’ll join a community of advocates around the world who are fighting human trafficking in their community. If you just go over to endinghumantrafficking.org, you’ll see a button there right on the home page for Patreon and you get access to content such as exclusive resources, toolkits and also conversations. After our episodes. You can become a patron for just $5 a month and will access all of the benefits, or you can give more if you like, just go over to endinghumantrafficking.org for more info. And for those who are already patrons, thank you so much. Stick around for a bit more here in just a bit. And we’re excited to bring you more this year as we continue to do the work here at the Global Center for Women and Justice here at Vanguard University. And of course, will be back for everyone in two weeks for our next conversation. Thanks a ton, Sandie. Have a great day.

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