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 Lifemap 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 Lifemap tool, to give the survivor individualized resources that will create lasting freedom.
  • The Freedom Lifemap 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. My name is Sandie Morgan and this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Kelsey Morgan 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. I am so excited to have Kelsey here in our studio for this recording, and I should let you all know, I am on Kelsey’s dissertation committee, and it really makes me happy to see the amazing impact that is growing. 

Kelsey Morgan 2:02
Thank you, Sandie. I’m so happy to be here.

Sandra Morgan 1:51
Well, let’s just dive right in. You are just knocking down old myths that we can’t measure victim services in a way that’s easy. Everybody has been so challenged by how to tell people what our impact is, how to tell when a survivor is ready, maybe for the next step. I want you to give us a little insight into what drove you to choose a research project, tackling a question that everybody was asking?

Kelsey Morgan 2:36
Yeah, so I’ve been doing anti human trafficking work since 2010. Long story short, I moved to East Africa to help an aftercare organization startup and when we started developing these programs, I looked to the research. What works? What are the proven models, the best practices, and how do we measure? How do we show impact? But these things didn’t exist. And it was really hard being in the field, doing this work, without having the tools to measure what’s most effective, and without having data on what do survivors need most. What is most impactful in helping them attain a life of lasting freedom? So the team and I built programs, we found that they were working. Survivors were going back into their community, they were thriving, but we had no measurement tools to show this impact or to prove what parts of our programs were creating that impact.

Sandra Morgan 3:28
So I’ve been in a lot of conversations with donors who want to know what their funds are actually doing in the individual lives of survivors. Donors will say to me, “Well, the anecdotal story is really motivating, brings tears to my eyes, but I want more than one story.” How does this change how we deliver on impact?

Kelsey Morgan 4:02
Sandie, I’ve had the same questions asked of me and of our work, and I think we’re at a critical juncture in the anti trafficking space, where we don’t have important data that’s needed for survivors themselves, for service providers, and for funders and policymakers. Up to this time we’ve been doing interventions, doing programs, trying to help out of passion and good heart, but really without data on what’s most effective. This tool helps philanthropists, helps policymakers, helps funders understand where survivors most needs support, and then it identifies what interventions are most effective in helping survivors attain a life of lasting freedom.

Sandra Morgan 4:43
And tell us the name of the tool and how it started?

Kelsey Morgan 4:49
Yeah, so the tool is called Freedom Life Map and I was introduced to methodology a different way of measurement, through a group called Poverty Stoplight. They were coming out of Paraguay, and their whole start was in microfinance. What they found was that the World Bank’s measures of poverty were all about $1 amount. If you make $1 a day or less, you’re poor, if you make above, you’re not poor. Their experience on the ground was so much more complex than that. They said, “Poverty is multi dimensional.” It’s not just about money, there’s so many factors that impact whether someone’s poor or not. Most of the measurement tools that they were also equipped with, were not a self assessment of the person living in poverty, but with someone else. An outsider getting to decide that person’s fate basically, “Are you poor or are you not poor?,” and also choosing for them. “You need this, you need this, here’s your pathway forward.” So they decided to turn this way of doing development work totally upside down, and to build a multi dimensional measure of what poverty looks like, and then instead of assessing someone else, asking those people living in poverty, to self assess. What are their strengths, and what are their vulnerabilities? I fell in love with this methodology. I think it’s empowering, it’s effective, and we went through a process through UC Irvine of adopting the tool with a global cohort of survivors from around the world. So survivors who had different forms of victimization, different ages, different genders, different geographies, and what we came up with was our own list of what multi-dimensional wellbeing and lasting freedom looks like for survivors. We applied it to this same methodology that applies a self assessment type of data collection.

Sandra Morgan 6:34
And you know I love research. Tell me just a little bit about the validity of that tool that you modeled this after?

Kelsey Morgan 6:45
This tool was also research based. They partnered with UC Irvine to develop the poverty stoplight. It’s been implemented now in 52 countries. The indicator library is also the questions within the tool, were co-created with those with lived experience, just like our tool indicators are co-created with those with lived experience. So that’s where the real validity comes from. It’s that what we say we’re measuring has actually been validated by those who are experiencing it.

Sandra Morgan 7:12
I’m particularly excited about that co-creation methodology, because there’s more and more emphasis on being survivor informed. But people don’t know how to do that, and when you ask someone “Is your program survivor informed?” “Oh, we have a survivor on our board.” But show me some impact data. So that’s what is making this truly, I believe, revolutionary. So let’s talk about the model, and think about the six research based domains of wellbeing that are measured.

Kelsey Morgan 7:57
Yeah. So when we talk about the model, what I like to talk about is the model using the social ecological framework. For those of you listening, just picture concentric circles, so circles inside of one another. This tool aims to have systemic impact by impacting each of these distinct, but interconnected levels, within the space, within the sector fighting human trafficking. So that first level is the survivor themselves. We love this tool because it is survivor centered in every way and meaning of the word. It was co-created with survivors, it is a self assessment where survivors voice is included, and the survivor is the first area of impact that we’re working on with this tool. Survivors come in to a service provider who’s been trained on how to facilitate this tool, and they use our web based platform or our app to self assess across the six dimensions of freedom in the tool. These are research based dimensions, the global cohort that I mentioned, this is all of our hard work, over about a year, we landed on these six domains. Health and sustenance, freedom rights and safety, housing and access, finance, education, and employment, community, connection, and engagement, and mental and emotional well being. Within these six different buckets, there’s about 49 core global indicators. These are questions related to each of those six areas. The survivor self assesses their well being across all of these different questions, and the levels are really simple: red, yellow, and green.

Sandra Morgan 9:32
Red, yellow, and green. So I don’t even need to be able to read. I can take this assessment with someone who just asks me the questions and I mark the color.

Kelsey Morgan 9:46
Yes, exactly. Each level is illustrated.

Sandra Morgan 9:49
I’ve got another question now. You know, I’ve been a nurse, I have a lot of assessment skills. I look at somebody, and they tell me they’re fine, and I know they are not fine. So what if the person doing the assessment disagrees with the person who’s self assessing?

Kelsey Morgan 10:16
Well, it’s really important data for us to see how someone self assesses, and from all of our organizations piloting the tool, this has not been a barrier, it’s actually a really amazing opportunity that opens up a door for conversation. So at the end of the assessment, the case manager may sit with them and say, “Hey, I see you marked green here, tell me why. Why are you filling green in this area?” And they get important data, because ultimately, if we’re trying to push clients, so cases that we’re working on, in a direction, but they don’t agree with us on the direction that we’re going in, we’re not going to make progress anyways. So we need to have the self assessment. Where does this person see themselves at, and then we meet them where they are. That’s where we start opening up conversations. We know in this sector anyways, many survivors who come into our programs don’t know that they’re a survivor at that point,

Sandra Morgan 11:06
They haven’t even disclosed what’s been happening to them. So this is one aspect that I really love, that was kind of a trick question. Sometimes, because we want to do so much for someone, we make the mistake of not allowing them to be in the driver’s seat, and then when they leave, and they get derailed. We think, “What did I do wrong? What did they do wrong? And that wasn’t really the issue.” When people are empowered, they’re going to be able to make better progress, because it’s more self motivated. Let’s go through each of those domains and give me some examples of what we’re looking for.

Kelsey Morgan 12:05
So for example, in the first domain of health and sustenance, a survivor might get asked a question around their access to health care. It’s not just about, “Can you access health care?” it’s about, “Do you maybe know how to access health care, and is the health care that you can access actually meeting your healthcare needs.?” So that would be green, that they know how to get health care, and that the health care they’re getting meets their needs. Yellow would be one of the two. So maybe they know how, but the health care they can access doesn’t meet their needs. Red would be, they don’t know how to access to health care, and therefore they don’t have any health care to meet their needs.

Sandra Morgan 12:47
So that blows up some myths, when you’re in a community and you say, “Well, we have all of this opportunity.” But if you’re talking to a survivor who doesn’t own a car in Orange County, getting to those clinics, on public transportation, I actually took a bus so I could have the experience myself, to go to a location seven and a half miles away, took me two hours and 45 minutes. Now if I’m a young survivor with a child, for two hours and 45 minutes to get to a clinic, that’s not going to be a green light for me.

Kelsey Morgan 13:30
It’s not, and a lot of our existing tools out there are all about access. It’s like, do you have access to a bank? “Yeah, I have access to a bank, but maybe no one’s ever taught me how to actually use the bank, or what it looks like. Or maybe I don’t feel confident to walk into that bank, because no one’s ever told me how it works.” So we do have to be measuring so much more than just access and what’s available in the community. We’re looking at knowledge, we’re looking at attitudes, we’re looking at behaviors with these different indicators.

Sandra Morgan 13:59
So what are we looking for when we’re in the domain of freedom, rights, and safety?

Kelsey Morgan 14:06
Yeah, so this is obviously an important domain for the population that we’re working with, but shockingly enough, the initial pilot data that’s come out, survivors find themselves strongest in this domain. We have to keep in mind, they’re taking this assessment when they’re in a service providers program already. So usually, if they’re receiving services, they are free from abuse, hopefully, at that time, if they’re in a safe shelter. We’ve done a lot of work in this space in the legal domain. We’ve invested a lot of funds into that, we’ve made some significant progress. One of the examples from our tool is legal services. So that’s a question in the freedom rights and safety domain. It talks about having legal services and accessing support that meets your legal needs.

Sandra Morgan 14:56
What kind of legal needs could somebody have when they’ve just been moved out of slavery?

Kelsey Morgan 15:02
So many. Yhe list is very long as we know Sandie, it could be clearing your legal record, you may have charges against you, that happened as a result of your victimization. You could need help pursuing justice. If you want to pursue justice against your trafficker, you may need a visa, you may need some support with your immigration, maybe you’ve been trafficked across borders and you need help there. You may need help with custody of your children, or you may want to go through a divorce, maybe you are legally married to your exploiter.

Sandra Morgan 15:33
Wow, a lot of legal issues.

Kelsey Morgan 15:36

Sandra Morgan 15:37
So the next domain: housing and access. There’s that word access again.

Kelsey Morgan 15:44
Access is a kind of all encompassing word in our tool for the different services a survivor may need. So this could be access to transportation, to communication, like the internet or having a phone. One specific example I can give here is having a safe and stable living situation. The green in this indicator would be that you feel safe in the place where you live, and that if you’re in your current living situation, it’s stable, or you know what’s coming next. We know for many survivors, their living situation could be very unstable. They may be in a safe place that day, but they may not know what’s happening in the next week or the next month, and so this is all about helping survivors achieve stability.

Sandra Morgan 16:28
And that’s such an important aspect. I remember a scholarship student here, who was struggling, and after a conversation, the problem wasn’t where she was right now, it was thinking when the semester ends in two weeks, where will I live? It wasn’t on our checklist.

Kelsey Morgan 16:58
It’s on no checklists out there. Really most of our checklists, most of our tools out there are very short. They’re not comprehensive of what a survivor needs, they’re all looking at their levels of trauma. How traumatized are you? How bad is your PTSD?

Sandra Morgan 17:14
Oh my goodness, trauma informed. Okay, so we maybe went a little bit down a rabbit hole. It’s so focuse on the trauma, to not think about just the practicalities.

Kelsey Morgan 17:27
And what makes our tool so practical, Sandie, is that every adaptation that we’ve done in this tool, survivors are at the table during that adaptation. So each indicator has direct input from survivors on, “What are your challenges with living, with housing? What are the issues you face?” So each indicators levels are contextualized in the places where they’re implemented, so that they really directly meet the needs of the survivors. The language is contextualized into simple language that’s understandable. We had one staff using the tool at a service provider who said that the way the tool was worded helped them build rapport with the survivors they were serving because the survivor said it was like they were speaking their language, finally,

Sandra Morgan 18:13
Oh, that’s so good. Okay, the next domain. I loved when I read this, because so many times, we only think about money and jobs, but this domain is finance, education, and employment. That, for me, embodies a future, that’s going to get better because you’re training, you’re going to school, you’re building a future.

Kelsey Morgan 18:45
Yes. So this domain is the domain with the highest level of vulnerability across all of the locations where the tool has been piloted, and it’s also the domain with the highest number of priorities. So we didn’t talk about this yet, but at the end of the assessment, survivors see all of their indicators, so all of their reds, yellows, and greens, mapped out on what’s called a life map. From there, they’re asked to set priorities. The facilitator may say, what’s most important to you now? What do you need right now? Then the tool prompts them to click on the area that’s most important, and it pulls up a prompt that says, “What have been your barriers? How can we help you make progress? And what’s the goal? What kind of goal timeline do you want to set to make progress here?” Across the board, in every location, finance, education, and employment has the most reds and yellows, and also the most priorities. One example is savings. There’s an indicator about savings, green would be “I consistently save some of my money in a safe place.” And this is the single most red indicator around the world.

Sandra Morgan 19:53
I could probably say that about a lot of people in my community of friends. Savings. Wow.

Kelsey Morgan 19:59
But it is so important. I think the top three we saw were savings, income, and money management here in Orange County, and it’s important. We know that survivors intimately know that they need a job, they need to be financially stable. That is their first step for many of them, that’s what they’re thinking. “How am I going to make ends meet right now, today, tomorrow?” And a lot of the time, we’re not addressing that in our programs, we’re not helping survivors see a plan for the future, we’re not focused on education, economic empowerment, and we’re not doing so in a way that’s working.

Sandra Morgan 20:36
So how does Orange County contrast with that domain when you were in Uganda doing this just recently?

Kelsey Morgan 20:46
This domain is about the same level of vulnerability and priorities in Orange County, Uganda, and the Philippines.

Sandra Morgan 20:52
So the transfer ability between cultures is really a significant difference maker here.

Kelsey Morgan 21:00
It really is, and many people were skeptical about, “How can this tool work across so many different places? Aren’t the experiences of survivors so different?,” and our global cohort was so aligned. We came to consensus really quickly about what needed to be in the tool, despite, like I said, form of trafficking, gender, age, where they were in the world. What they all said consistently was, “Every single indicator in this tool is important, just at different points of our journey.” So they didn’t want to take anything out. We actually pulled a couple indicators apart, turning them into two indicators for those that were really important, or maybe were trying to pack too much into one. But it helps us, this data is really helpful for the philanthropist, as you spoke of, or for the policymaker to understand. Okay, we’ve been fighting human trafficking officially since 2000, we’re still a young movement, but we don’t have any data around where should we really be investing our funds? Right. And so you can see globally trend right there, finance, education, and employment. We need to find those programs that are working and this tool can do that. Because when the assessment is taken over time, you start to see, this program in the Philippines, wow, in six months, survivors are moving from red to green in income, or red to green in education. What’s working, what are they doing? Then we package up that program, and we can quickly start scaling work, and that’s been the problem in our sector were really siloed. I hate using that word, because it’s overused, but it’s true. We don’t have a common language for collaboration, so we’re moving really slowly. Now that we have this data set, we can finally speak the same language. All the service providers can get down with their dashboard of data, and we’ve done this it was super exciting. We had three countries represented, seated around a table here in Orange County, and they’re saying, “Oh, look, we’re red here. We’re green here. What do you have? What are you doing?,” and organically, it started to happen. They’re organically sharing programs and it’s like the speed of light. We’re seeing programs being scaled, just by introducing a common tool, a common ruler, as John Richmond calls it. This is our new ruler for how we measure progress.

Sandra Morgan 23:17
You can’t manage something you can’t measure. That’s old, old, tried and true law. Okay, next sector domain, community, connection, and belonging.

Kelsey Morgan 23:32
This is such an important one, and one of the indicators in the tool I can point to is a social safety net. So we know, as researchers, that the number one protective factor for preventing abuse is a social safety net. So someone you can call in time of need, who’s going to be there to support you, and that’s what this indicator is talking about. Red, which we do see a lot of reds and yellows in the tool around this area, that they don’t have a supportive person they can rely on, but this is actionable. That’s the other part of the tool that’s important to mention. Every indicator in the tool is meant to be actionable, so there’s something the individual, or the organization, or the community can do to support progress in this indicator. Like I said, we’re not trying to measure what’s your PTSD level, what’s your level of depression, we’re saying, “How can we help you make progress practically?”

Sandra Morgan 24:28
That’s so good, mental and emotional well being.

Kelsey Morgan 24:32
Yes, so this dimension is also very important. Survivors are finding a lot of strength in this area, which is exciting. While there is support needed, there are certain indicators that are trending more red. Overall, I believe survivors are walking into environments, at least those piloting the tool where these services are available, or they do have support available. So going back to your talk about trauma informed care, we have done some good work I think, as a sector. There’s much more work to do but we do have services available in many places in this dimension. One example from the tool I can give is mental and emotional health, and this is about being aware of your mental and emotional health needs, and that if you’re receiving support that support meets those needs. So we often find that survivors will walk into a program and it’s like, “Hey, we have art therapy, so that’s what you do. You do art therapy.” I had one survivor tell me that she had no confidence in her ability to do art, so art therapy was so anxiety producing for her, it had the opposite effect.

Sandra Morgan 25:47
That would be me. I can’t draw a straight line, let alone a circle.

Kelsey Morgan 25:52
So again, it’s not about do you have access to mental and emotional health? It’s, do you know what your needs are? And is the care available actually meeting those needs?

Sandra Morgan 26:01
Wow. Okay, so I have listeners in 148 countries, and I know, I’m going to get an email that says, “How can I access this? Where is it? Has it been here?” So you’re rolling this out slowly, it’s in process, you still have to write your dissertation, right? Yes. So what countries have you piloted it in now?

Kelsey Morgan 26:30
Let’s hope I can remember them all off the top of my head. So we have here in Orange County, in the US, we have Uganda, the Philippines, Bolivia, Mexico, Kenya, and Cambodia.

Sandra Morgan 26:43
Wow. So I what I really like about that is those are variable kinds of cultures, economic situations, so it’s not all being tested in the same environment, same temperature. But you’re using this social ecology model. Can you explain why that’s so critical to the implementation of this?

Kelsey Morgan 27:12
Yes. Our goal with this is to create systemic change, and so you can’t look at just one part of the equation when you’re looking at systemic change. We’ve done some work into understanding what are the different levels that we’re targeting, impacting, and what is the impact at each different level? So the first level we talked a lot about on this, which is the survivor. Our goal there is that more survivors access the care that they need, that is the impact of Freedom Lifemap. The second level, there’s quite a lot of people represented here, but it’s frontline responders, it’s communities, it’s caseworkers, social workers, and our real impact here is that they understand and are then able to best scale what’s working for survivors. Care that really meets their needs. The last level that’s super important and interconnected is the global anti trafficking environment. So that’s where funding decisions are made, policies are made, that’s where the agenda is set, then we often, in development, have a top down model. Those up top are setting the agenda with no information from those whose lives it’s impacting, and this data is direct from the grassroots. It’s a bottom up model and this data allows us to strengthen our systems, our programs, to empower survivors towards freedom and to proactively prevent human trafficking. This is where funders get data that they need, policymakers get data that they need, and we can use this data not only to best support survivors, to scale programs, but to go upstream and start to understand better what are those vulnerabilities so that we can prevent human trafficking.

Sandra Morgan 28:54
I love that. One of my favorite quotes in another conversation that you and I had was when a survivor who had participated in the pilot study said that in 30 minutes, the tool accomplished what would have taken a case manager years to understand about them. Can you expand on that?

Kelsey Morgan 29:21
That quote makes me so happy because our goal driving us in this project was to make the work more effective and more efficient. So we know that less than 1% of victims ever access care and we have a very limited number of beds, of case managers who can do this work. So if it’s taking a case manager years to understand the needs of a survivor, it’s going to take them years and years to get through a program. If we can more quickly meet the needs, that’s so much better for the survivor. They’re not telling their story over and over again, they’re doing their Life Map Assessment. They’re getting practical solutions and then they’re making progress more quickly or more effectively. It allows us to serve more survivors and to better scale what’s working.

Sandra Morgan 30:08
And it’s an iterative process, so the survivor can come and say, “I think I’ve made progress. I want to do my life map again,” right?

Kelsey Morgan 30:18
Yep. Every six months is how we’re piloting it now. They take the assessment, then they get connected to those resources and services they’re asking for, then they reassess in six months, and this is where all of the celebration happens. We’ve had survivors say, “Wow, I didn’t know I had so many greens.” They’re so excited to see, visually get to see progress. Or for organizations who maybe think they’re doing a great job, they’re telling really good success stories. They may say, “Oh, wow. We thought we’re helping, but we’re really not. What do we need to do differently?” So this tool isn’t a punitive tool, it’s really meant to empower service providers, as well as survivors, so that they can do the good work they want to do and have data on what’s working.

Sandra Morgan 31:01
Wow, Kelsey, our time is just about up. What I would like to ask you now is, what do you want to see a year from now? And you can’t say my dissertation finished.

Kelsey Morgan 31:17
Well, that has to be done, that’s not a question. I would love to see a real global adoption of this methodology. I would like to see the anti trafficking space excited about data, collaborating with this data. I would love to see many, many organizations adopting this tool and funders, more funders, backing it. We’ve had some really great funding so far, funders are excited about it, but we need more if we’re going to be able to scale this to the world.

Sandra Morgan 31:50
And I would be remiss if I didn’t make a shout out to the UCI Blum Center. Can you just in one sentence, tell us how important they’ve been to your journey?

Kelsey Morgan 32:03
I love UCI, we’re all about science in action. Richard Matthew is my advisor on my dissertation, he has been a catalytic force in supporting this, and Angela Robinson is a postdoc researcher who’s a co-creator of the tool. She just got back from Paraguay where she was presenting on the work. It’s a real dream team of academics who do not keep their work in the ivory tower. This is all about empowering grassroots organizations with the tools that they need, and it’s an amazing partner.

Sandra Morgan 32:38
So Kelsey, how can listeners find you?

Kelsey Morgan 32:42
You can find me through EverFree, that’s the name of our organization. EverFree.org, our website, or our Instagram are the easiest places to look.

Sandra Morgan 32:51
I recommend that you follow Kelsey on Instagram so you see the amazing things that are happening out of her leadership. Thank you so much for being here today.

Kelsey Morgan 33:03
Thank you, Sandie.

Sandra Morgan 33:05
So go on over to our endinghumantrafficking.org website to find the show notes with links to the resources we’ve mentioned, and so much more. There is the anti human trafficking certificate. We’re gearing up for the Ensure Justice Conference coming March 1st and 2nd of 2024. And if you’ve never visited our site before, become a subscriber and you’ll get an email every two weeks with the latest episode. Thanks, everybody. See you in two weeks.

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