305 – Measuring Victim Service Progress, with Kelsey Morgan

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Dr. Sandie Morgan is joined by Kelsey Morgan and the two discuss the importance of measuring survivor progress.

Kelsey Morgan

Kelsey Morgan is EverFree co-founder and Chief Program Officer. In 2015, Kelsey founded Willow International to meet the growing demand for quality aftercare and to transform the systems that fuel trafficking. In 2021, Kelsey teamed up with Jeremy Floyd, CEO of 10ThousandWindows, to unite their two organizations to become EverFree. Kelsey is currently pursuing her Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine.

Key Points

  • It is important to include survivors in the process of creating a tool to connect them with resources. 
  • The Freedom Greenlight tool and program was created to be easy to use and incorporates survivor voices. 
  • Direct feedback from the survivor is given when using the Freedom Greenlight tool, to give the survivor individualized resources that will create lasting freedom.
  • The Freedom Greenlight program has adaptations in USA, Uganda, Philippines, Mexico, Bolivia, Kenya, and Cambodia.



Sandra Morgan 0:00
You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode #305: Measuring Victim Service Progress, with Kelsey Morgan.

Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast here at Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice in Orange County, California. This is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. I am so pleased to have my good friend and colleague, Kelsey Morgan for this interview. Kelsey is EverFree co-founder and chief program officer. In 2015 Kelsey founded Willow International to meet the growing demand for quality after care, and to transform the systems that fuel trafficking. In 2021, Kelsey teamed up with Jeremy Floyd, CEO of 10ThousandWindows, to unite their two organizations to become EverFree. Kelsey is currently pursuing her PhD from the University of California, Irvine. Thank you Kelsey for joining me today. I’m so excited to talk about the research that you’ve been doing. But before we get there, do you want to give us a little more background on how you became an advocate, a practitioner, and a researcher?

Kelsey Morgan 2:02
Thank you so much, Sandie. I’m so happy to be here with you and I would love to. So long story short, I am from Orange County, I learned about human trafficking in 2006, it changed my life, ended up changing my career trajectory, and I moved to Uganda, where I became the director of an aftercare program there. During my time on the ground, this was in 2010, I was really discouraged by the lack of evidence around what programs were effective in supporting survivors into a lifetime of lasting freedom. The team and I, on the ground of Uganda national staff, we developed programs, and we saw that they were working, but we wanted to figure out why they were working. What was special about them? We wanted to find tools to measure program outcomes and we wanted to include survivors in that process. We wanted to have them be the ones leading the process. So I moved back to Orange County and it was actually through our mutual friend Maria Hernandez, that I went knocking on the door of UCI’s School of Social Ecology, asking if maybe some grad students would come help me with this idea. It was the Dean of Social Ecology at the time, Nancy Guerra, who said, “Kelsey, if you want to do this, you are the right person to do it.” She marched me into admissions and we set out, through a PhD education, to develop a tool to help us connect survivors with the resources that they need, understand what their vulnerabilities are, what their strengths are, connect them to the individualized comprehensive care that they needed, and then to use that data to help us understand where aftercare programs were working, and where the gaps were so that we could finally have a tool to measure outcomes.

Sandra Morgan 4:06
Wow, what a short synopsis of your journey. But it is a stellar example that when we are committed to a goal, we can find a pathway forward, that builds hope for other people, and it’s important for us to do the follow through. So let’s get into talking about what kind of tool you are using to measure success. I just want to comment here for a moment. We have so many different ways of serving victims, and some are better than others, but we have a tendency to just say, “We opened a shelter, we have eight beds, they’re full, we need more beds.” Yet we’re not actually describing what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how we know when we have succeeded, because what we also know, is over and over again, we have victims, they become survivors, and then they leave our programs and our pack in really challenging circumstances, and may not be set up to sustain their freedom. That’s why I like the name EverFree.

Kelsey Morgan 5:37
Thank you. Yes, our organization is really aligned around what you just spoke about, Sandie, and that’s a commitment to ensuring that survivors do attain lasting freedom, that they have freedom and dignity, not just for a moment of time, but for their entire life. It’s true, many organizations, I know so many incredible people around the world who learn about human trafficking, they want to do something, and so they’re really working. I think, it’s like an emergency situation. People are working, doing the best they can, and they’re not thinking of the long term outcomes. Part of that is that we don’t have the tools, we don’t have a standard for doing that. We’ve set out, at EverFree, with our tool to make this approachable for organizations, to make data measurement, outcome measurement, actually an integral part of what they’re doing. Because the research shows that around the world, there is a lack of comprehensive support for survivors of trafficking, and very surprising little evidence on what works to prevent trafficking and support survivors into recovery. We know the impacts of trafficking on a human’s life, but we don’t know what works from a research, from an evidence standpoint, in helping them overcome and go on to that life of lasting freedom.

Sandra Morgan 7:02
So what I encounter is people say to me, “I’m too busy doing the work working with the victims, to do any kind of research. I don’t want to have to learn all of this research methodology, it’s too much work on top of what I’m already doing.” And I often explain to people, you do not have to be a research expert to learn how to measure so you can make good decisions. A young mom did not go to medical school, but with a simple thermometer can evaluate if the child has an elevated temperature that reaches a level where there has to be intervention. Using a simple tool does not require going back and getting a PhD like Kelsey Morgan. So tell us about this very simple tool.

Kelsey Morgan 8:07
I love that example. Yes, and it is true. Many organizations are overburdened, they’re under resourced, and because I’m a practitioner, because I started a small grassroots organization, I understand the challenges of being in the field of day to day work. I set out to create a tool that’s very easy to use and more of a tool, it’s a model. It’s actually a way of working with survivors, that incorporates measurement into the actual case management process and incorporates survivor voice into the very intake process that you would be doing anyways. And that’s the feedback we’re getting from our partners who are grassroots partners around the world, using this tool, is that it actually makes their work easier. So let me tell you a little bit about the tool. The methodology for this tool comes from an organization in Paraguay, and their tool is called the Poverty Stoplight Tool. They set out to help families overcome poverty. They were frustrated by these multilateral institutions explaining what poverty was, which was a dollar amount. If you make X amount of money a day you’re poor, if not, you aren’t poor. They said that’s not really what things look like on the ground, it’s more complicated than that. If we want to help families overcome poverty, it’s more than just the income, there’s other factors we have to look at. So they developed a multi-dimensionary level of poverty, different dimensions of what poverty looks like. They wanted to include the families in conducting this assessment. So many of you, if you are a practitioner, you know that many of the available tools to us across all different fields of development are kind of caseworkers, practitioners, program staff who were assessing someone else. Poverty Stoplight turned that framework up on its head and said no, we’re going to ask the participants themselves to assess their well being across these different dimensions. They gave them a simple level of measurement, which is a stoplight. So red, yellow, and green. Red being highly vulnerable or living in high levels of poverty, yellow being somewhere on your way out of poverty, and green being not in poverty. I heard the founder of this group speak in my very first course at UC Irvine and fell in love with the methodology. I said this could work in the anti-trafficking space because survivors have been excluded from the service planning provision, to implementation, to measurement, and that’s left our programs lacking. It’s more effective and efficient to ask survivors and to include them, but the mechanisms for doing so have been lacking in our space. So the research team and I at UCI, Angela Robinson, guided by Richard Matthew, we set out to figure out what our multi-dimensional measure of lasting freedom was. We worked with a global cohort of survivors from around the world. So these survivors had experienced different forms of victimization, they represented different cultures and countries, different genders and different ages. We came up with a set of questions or indicators, that addressed lasting freedom. We were shocked by the consensus. This group agreed on a core set of 50 indicators that represented what was needed to attain lasting freedom, and then we plugged those indicators into the poverty stoplight methodology. So the tool is a simple tech tool, it’s a web based or app based platform, it collects some demographic information about the survivor, and then it takes the survivors through a series of questions, and they simply select red, yellow, or green for each of the 50 indicators. These indicators are all illustrated, so above each level, there’s an illustrated version to help them conceptualize what the question is asking, and then at the end of the assessment, it empowers the survivor and the case manager with the results right there.It shows on a single page, all of the different colors, so reds, or yellows, and greens for each question, and then prompts them to say, “What is the most important thing that you need right now? Let’s work on setting goals.” So this is used to help create a case plan or a care plan. One of the coolest quotes we got from our pilot of this was a survivor leader who took the tool, she leads an organization now, and looking back as she went through the demo, she said, “What this tool did in 30 minutes, would have taken a case manager years to understand about me.” This isn’t a tool that’s adding to organization’s work, it’s a tool that actually makes their work a lot easier. They’re getting direct feedback from the participant on what their needs are, and what their strengths are, so that they can start building upon those strengths, connecting the survivor with the actual comprehensive, individualized resources, support and opportunities that they need.

Sandra Morgan 13:36
This is so awesome, because the old adage is: “Nothing for us without us,” and this has been truly survivor informed, but it goes beyond that. It’s not just survivor informed to develop the indicators, but the responses are not our observations, it’s their feeling. My experience is often when I’m talking to a survivor, they’re having a hard time conceptualizing and then saying something back to me to explain it for me. But if they just had to show me, that would save so much time, and the result is going to reflect their understanding of those indicators, and if it needs to be adjusted, they’re in a place to make that adjustment. The pen is not in my hand, it’s in their hand. So tell me a little bit more about what happens when an organization uses this to the way they implement it in adjusting and tailoring for individuals.

Kelsey Morgan 15:03
Yes. So our team provides training on how to use the tool, it’s in a new location. The tool is adaptable, I’m not sure if I mentioned that. But the wonderful thing about this tool is using the same set of indicators, we can adapt it locally for contextual relevance. So we can measure safe housing in Orange County, in Mexico, in Uganda, and the Philippines, and safe housing struggles for survivors may look slightly different, and each of those places and what the green level is may be slightly different, but we’re still looking at safe housing. They go through an adaptation process with us, survivors are included in that adaptation process, and then it gets gets translated into their local language. The way that we recommend organizations use the tool is as their case management process. Upon intake into a program when that survivor is ready, and that’s at the determination of their case manager or social worker, they go through this assessment, they select their priorities, the case manager incorporates their priorities into the case plan, and then they go about providing services. So for example, we’re partnering here locally in Orange County with Orange Wood, they had a participant select transportation as a priority. What they needed help with was getting a driver’s license, and their goal was to work with their social worker to get that driver’s license. In six months that survivor would retake the assessment, so they would take it again and go through and the organization would be able to see their process. Did they help the survivor move from reds and yellows into greens? Which areas did they move forward in, which areas were they stuck in, and did they help them meet the priorities? From there, they’re able to start brainstorming, “Okay, we’re really stuck here, we need to start meeting this survivor need for our program participants,” or, “Hey, look, we’re doing really well here.” It gives instant feedback to the organization. You don’t need a researcher you don’t need us, all of this data is available in their dashboard, for the tool.

Sandra Morgan 17:26
What I love about that is, I was interested in learning about the Freedom Greenlight program technology from the perspective of how it worked with the survivors. Then the bonus, afterwards, was that this tells you as a nonprofit leader, as a case manager, as a practitioner, how well your program is doing. It shows gaps, it shows opportunities for growing to better support in the six areas of well being, which we should probably identify the six areas. Kelsey?

Kelsey Morgan 18:11
Yes, we should. And to that, Sandie, I know many of the organizations that we talk to, they have to show impact to funders, right? More and more funders are asking to show impact. They’re asking for outcomes. This tool makes it so easy for organization, it helps them build effective case plans that are informed by the direct needs of survivors, and they’re able to easily show their funders their impact and ask for funding where it’s needed most, which really excites me. We had a network call with the eight organizations, eight sites using the tool last week and everyone was buzzing with excitement over measurement, which made my measurement heart sing. So the dimensions of freedom are health and sustenance, freedom, rights, and safety, housing and access, finance, education and employment, community, connection, and engagement and mental and emotional well being. Sandie, can I ask you a question?

Sandra Morgan 19:15

Kelsey Morgan 19:16
Which domain, which dimension do you think has the most reds and the most priority selected across all of our innovation partners?

Sandra Morgan 19:29
For me, my gut instinct is that safety and housing?

Kelsey Morgan 19:33
Yes, it is actually finance, education, and employment.

Sandra Morgan 19:39

Kelsey Morgan 19:39
By a landslide.

Sandra Morgan 19:41

Kelsey Morgan 19:43
Yes, isn’t that interesting?

Sandra Morgan 19:46
Well, wow. So where did safety and housing fall?

Kelsey Morgan 19:52
Let me look that up. I think safety and housing, let’s come back to that question and I will tell you, I have have data in here.

Sandra Morgan 20:01
That is the beauty of this is you can pull up your dashboard and see visually, you don’t have to read pages and pages.

Kelsey Morgan 20:12
It’s right there nd it’s beautifully visual because it’s red, yellow, and green, you’re able to get right to the point, right away. Summary by domain. This was for the US. First was finance, education and employment, and second was the housing and access. So you were close for Orange County.

Sandra Morgan 20:37
Okay. All right. That’s great. Okay, so now, let’s talk about how people, because once they listen to this podcast, the next thing, I’m gonna get a bunch of emails and say, how do we access this?

Kelsey Morgan 20:55
Yes. So we are in the process right now of developing our technology up. So right now we are operating in the Poverty Stoplight platform, and we have scaled the tool to seven different countries, eight different partners total. We have a waiting list actually, of organizations who would like to have the tool, the easiest way to join is if you are in one of the countries where we already have an adaptation. That would be the US, Philippines, Uganda, Bolivia, Kenya, a few more, we can put them in the show notes. That’s where we have adaptations. It’s really easy to join if you’re in one of those locations, if you’re not, you’ll have to get on a waiting list to have your adaptation done.

Sandra Morgan 21:44
And what does it cost to do an adaptation, have a dashboard, use it in your program?

Kelsey Morgan 21:55
Right now our goal is to give this tool for free to grassroots organizations. So we are fundraising on our end, to provide this tool to organizations. We have some pretty awesome funders involved who want to scale out this tool, but we don’t have funding for any partners at the moment to join. Hopefully in the beginning of the year, if not, you can reach out to us, and we can talk to you about what that would cost for you.

Sandra Morgan 22:24
We’re going to put your contact information in the show notes for this program,

Kelsey Morgan 22:31
Great! Yep, you can reach out to our team and we can work with you!

Sandra Morgan 22:35
So let’s, in this last summary time here, I want to talk about the impact of having this global tool to measure progress. Green light is an image that says I can go, I’m not stuck. There are four areas of consideration in impact, and I’d like to talk first about measured efficacy of programs and scale of effective solutions. Why is that so important?

Kelsey Morgan 23:14
Well, it’s incredibly important in our sector, and in the anti-trafficking space, because we don’t have data on what works, and yet we’re doing programs,

Sandra Morgan 23:25
And we’re spending a lot of money on those programs!

Kelsey Morgan 23:28
We’re spending a lot of money and we don’t know if it works, and most of the time, we don’t know if it’s what survivors want. Through this process survivors tell me horror stories of going into a program and being forced into programs that they did not want to participate in, they were maybe triggering for them, they were forced to do art therapy, art therapy was not what they wanted to do, they wanted to do something else. Right now our sector is not as effective or efficient as it should be. In order to scale, we have to know what works to first scale what works. Part of what excites me about the green light is the community that we’re building. Because as we come together, we will begin to identify what these best practices are, and they’re more than best practices, they will be evidence based practices. And then the organizations who develop them will have a network to share that with, they can scale their program. So this isn’t about EverFree saying we have all of the answers, this is about EverFree creating a space where we can support equipping the global movement to end trafficking with the tools and the programs that are necessary. That’s where the real scale gets in, is where we have a language to collaborate. This isn’t collaboration for collaboration’s sake, it’s real impact based collaboration.

Sandra Morgan 24:53
Well, and that really is defining the second element of impact, the more effective efficient strategies to end human trafficking. That leads into empowering communities to prevent trafficking, and ensure survivors stay free. Can you address the prevention element?

Kelsey Morgan 25:19
Yes. One of the aspects of the tool that we are so excited about is its potential as a prevention tool. Because this tool can address the impacts of trafficking, it has all of what it takes to attain lasting freedom, it can also be used beforehand, so before victimization, to find key vulnerabilities. This tool, the data from the tool will show us what are the core vulnerabilities when someone first joins a program. Right after they’ve exited exploitation, we can use that data for targeted prevention programming, we will know what those vulnerabilities are.

Sandra Morgan 26:03
And it doesn’t matter if it’s labor trafficking, or sex trafficking, right?

Kelsey Morgan 26:09
And that was what was so amazing about this initial research we did. Our cohort was a mix of different forms of trafficking, and there was full consensus among the group.

Sandra Morgan 26:21
Which that kind of leads into the final impact. More survivors receiving the services they need to achieve lasting freedom. What survivors need is not on a real general menu, it’s very individual and specific. When I was trying to explain this to someone who was telling me about a wonderful program, that kind of sounded like a one size fits all and I could imagine one of my survivor friends scrunching up her face and going, “Ugh.” It’s like someone took me out to dinner, and Kelsey you know I’m a vegetarian, it was a fabulous restaurant. They had filet mignon, they had all kinds of wonderful pork chops, all these things, and then they were disappointed that I didn’t want any of those things. But they didn’t offer me what I need. I think the Freedom Greenlight tool is going to help us be much more sensitive, in a way to provide for survivors as they come into our care, as our organizations strive with good intentions to provide the very, very best. I’m just really excited about this. I want to make sure that our listeners can follow you as you keep adding to the research. How do we find you?

Kelsey Morgan 28:10
Yes, thank you. We’re so excited about it too, and Sandie, thank you for sharing in your excitement and for your support with the research. For all the listeners, Sandie has been very supportive in this research, she is part of my dissertation committee. So thank you, Sandie, for all your support and making this a solid project. You can reach us at @everfreeorg. We’re on Instagram, we are on I think every social media except Twitter, or whatever Twitter is called these days. EverFreeorgorg or you can go to our website everfree.org. You can follow me, I’m Kelsey Ray Morgan, and you can reach out to our team. We would love to connect with you if you’re interested in the tool. We’ll be doing some events here locally in Orange County to share about the data and where you can connect with partners using the tool, so reach out. We’d love to include you.

Sandra Morgan 29:05
This is great. Kelsey, thank you so much for joining me today, and for all of our listeners, I want to invite you over to the endinghumantrafficking.org website. That’s where you’re going to find the show notes with links to the resources that we’ve mentioned in this conversation. You’re going to find so much more, the anti human trafficking certificate program, there’s a link for that. There are some toolkits and if you’re just getting started, when you go to the webpage, click on the start here and we’ll give you 10 podcasts. I know it’s overwhelming when you go to the website and you see there’s over 300. We’ll give you just 10 if you hit the “Start Here” button as kind of a primer there. And if you haven’t visited our site before, sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll get one email every two weeks with the latest podcast interview. Share with your friends and help build our community. We’ll be back in two weeks, thanks. Bye Kelsey.

Kelsey Morgan 30:21
Bye Sandie.

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