320 – The Toolkit For Building Survivor Informed Organizations, with Crystal Bennet

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Dr. Sandie Morgan is joined by Crystal Bennett as the two discuss the importance of building survivor informed organizations and how the Toolkit for Building Survivor Informed Organizations serves organizations who seek to do so.

Crystal Bennett

Crystal Benett is a seasoned professional serving as the Deputy Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility, and Special Initiatives at the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center. With a rich background in social justice, advocacy, and community engagement, Crystal is dedicated to fostering inclusive environments and advancing initiatives that combat human trafficking.

Key Points

  • The Toolkit for Building Survivor Informed Organizations is for organizations who serve individuals who have experienced trafficking, are working to prevent situations where an individual may experience trafficking, or are wanting to include individuals with lived experience in anti-trafficking efforts. 
  • SAMHSA’s 6 Guiding Principles to a Trauma-Informed Approach are vital in the Toolkit for Building Survivor Informed Organizations. The principles guide organizations in cultivating a physically and psychologically safe environment. 
  • It’s important to listen to and uplift the voices of those with lived experience in order to guide the work of the anti-human trafficking movement. 
  • An organization should ensure that all staff members have access to self care and should have a foundation set in which leadership shows a commitment to the organization’s ability to achieve its mission. 
  • It is essential to ensure the culture of an organization values all staff and members, giving individuals with lived experience control over their stories and whether or not they are shared. 
  • Equity represents access and opportunity. 



Sandra Morgan 0:14
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 Dr. Sandie Morgan. This is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Today, we’re going to explore the Toolkit For Building Survivor Informed Organizations. I talk to people all the time, who say, “Well, we have had a conversation with so and so who is a survivor and they tick the box.” Well, I’m here to tell you today that our guest is going to show you there are a lot more boxes to tick on this. Our guest today is from the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center. Crystal Benett is a seasoned professional serving as the Deputy Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility, and Special Initiatives at the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center. With a rich background in social justice, advocacy, and community engagement, Crystal is dedicated to fostering inclusive environments and advancing initiatives that combat human trafficking. As I’ve followed her leadership, I have admired how she’s driving strategic planning and implementation of programs, and it is a delight to have you on our show today. Crystal, thank you.

Crystal Bennet 2:09
Thank you, Sandie. It’s an absolute honor to be here.

Sandra Morgan 2:12
So Crystal, I want to start with who is this toolkit for?

Crystal Bennet 2:18
Yeah, Sandie. I think that there are a lot of organizations that are currently serving individuals who’ve experienced trafficking, or are working to prevent situations where an individual may experience trafficking, or maybe wanting to bring in individuals with lived experience to be a guide, and support a leader to really help to implement practices around anti trafficking efforts. I think this toolkit really can be for many folks across the gamut. Whether it’s individuals who may be providing funding to support organizations, to support the work with individuals who have experienced trafficking, or it can be for organizations that are currently providing services or who are providing preventative services. So I think that’s often organizations that are missed, is that if we don’t do anti-trafficking work, we think that this work is not for us. But many of the services, when we’re thinking about upstream determinants of health and meeting, just basic needs of folks, can be considered anti-trafficking work, because they do fall into the scope of being prevention.

Sandra Morgan 3:28
So as we dive into the toolkit, let’s review the guiding principles, because they show up throughout this toolkit. I think it is important that any organization is clear and has these principles somewhere on a wall, in a handbook, in a policy guide.

Crystal Bennet 3:53
Absolutely. So when we look at the guiding principles, really, as you said, this is the overarching framework for any organization when we’re thinking about involving those with lived experience, or working with individuals with lived experience. We’re really looking at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s, otherwise known as SAMHSA’s, 6 Guiding Principles to a Trauma-Informed Approach. Those principles are around how do you as an organization, create safety? To make sure that not just those that you’re working with, but also those that work within your organization feel safe physically, and psychologically. Also looking at trustworthiness and transparency. Does your organization conduct work in a way where decisions are made transparently and maintain that level of trust? Because I think many of us are familiar with being part of organizations where decisions are being made, but we’re not really sure why the decisions are made, or having the opportunity to be part of those decisions. Also peer support. Peer support is not, again, just about providing someone with lived experience to those that we’re serving, but also thinking within the organization, how are we engaging with each other in a way that really holds space for the work that we’re doing, and allows people to just show up as themselves with that availability of one another to align with and support us? Collaboration and mutuality. How do we see some of the leveling around power differentials that often exist, either between staff persons at various levels, or when we think about service providers or individuals within an organization, meeting the needs of those out in the community, and making sure that everyone has an opportunity to be part of decision making, sharing power, and recognizing the value that everyone brings into the space. And then the last two, e mpowerment voice, and choice is really around providing choices and centering the strengths that are inherent to each and every one of us, to cultivate an environment of contribution to organizational decision making and policy setting. Lastly, cultural, historical, and gender issues. This is really looking at how does our organization address the explicit and implicit biases and historical trauma? We do this through practicing cultural competence, being culturally humble, and then ultimately changing the way that we work through being culturally responsive in our protocols and our policies to ensure that people’s needs are best met.

Sandra Morgan 6:44
Some of the language that you use, it’s so natural, but really inspires me. The terms around leveling and centering are words that make me feel like there’s room for me somewhere in this space. It balances with the use of language around biases, where I’m afraid that I’ve got biases, and I’m going to hurt somebody, so I have to be really careful. Your approach to looking at this as a framework also, is not just a structure that, “Oh, you’re an organization, you need to do these thing,” but this is also a foundation that makes your whole organization stronger, and more suited for a broader community to be involved. We do need that mutuality and that collaboration. Collaboration, people who know me for very long, they know that is my favorite word. Let’s dig into this now, and let’s start out with how this toolkit should be implemented.

Crystal Bennet 8:06
Yeah, and one thing, as you were talking, Sandie, that really just came to mind as I thought about the “why” that the toolkit is there, as we think about the “why” that people do the work, right? I think when we’re thinking about implementation and organizational readiness, is certainly creating the space for organizations to ask themselves the why. Why are we doing this work? Why do we want to engage with individuals with lived experience? Why do we want to make sure that we’re survivor informed? I really think about the slogan, “Nothing about us, without us, is for us.” We know that that’s been rooted in the disability justice movement, but as we think about being able to consider that phrase, as it’s related to the involvement of individuals with lived experience and informing our work, is it is absolutely necessary when we think about the implementation of this work to recognize, uplift, affirm, and utilize the voices of those who have experienced the situations to really guide the work ultimately, that we’re going to be doing. I think your question was, how should organizations implement that? I would start with the “why” first, and then really think about the “how.” Because the “why” gives us the vision. Why are we doing this? We can see it, we know what the vision is, and then the “how” is that there are resources such as this toolkit, to really start going through the various chapters to identify: Is your organization ready to do some self assessment? And making sure that we’re doing that self assessment because that’s so critical, rather than just jumping into the work and taking action steps that you’re not able to really evaluate or hold yourself accountable to how you’re doing it.

Sandra Morgan 10:05
One of the things I really appreciate about this toolkit is how it is designed. Sometimes I get really good information and then I’m trying to figure out the “how,” what you’re talking about. This is laid out with the structure, and the assessment for whatever that point is. So if you’re not naturally inclined to creating an assessment plan, don’t worry, it’s already here. Let’s talk about this. We’re going to do six chapters today. Hahaha, we’re actually going to point you to six chapters, and then I’ve asked Crystal if she’ll come back in two weeks, and we’ll do the last chapters. We’re going to take our time. Let’s start off, you’ve already mentioned organizational readiness, let’s jump into chapter two.

Crystal Bennet 11:04
Chapter two. We’re looking at Mission, Vision, and Leadership. So as I was starting to kind of preface this conversation, is when we’re thinking about our missions. It’s really around the action of what does your organization do? Who is it serving? And how do we serve those that we’re serving? And then that vision is what is it that we’re hoping to solve, create, or influence? I really think about that vision as to what do we see as a result of the work that we’re doing? In chapter two, with looking at our mission, vision, and leadership, we want to make sure that your organization has a clear, concise mission statement. Does that clear, concise mission statement, was that informed ultimately, by individuals with lived experience, community members, or collaborators, as you think about those that are impacted by human trafficking? Here, when we’re thinking about the being informed by, we want to look at what stage did we bring people in to inform us? Because I think sometimes what happens, is maybe a bunch of people sit around, and we start to gather ideas and thoughts, and put together a mission statement and vision statement, and then we just have maybe that group of individuals with lived experience look at it to give us the sign off. It’s important in all of this work, as we’re going chapter to chapter to chapter, is that we really want to look at how are we involving individuals with lived experience, from the very start through the end, so that we don’t fall into the trap of tokenism. You’ll see that word throughout the toolkit, but just as a moment to define that is that tokenism is a superficial practice that creates the appearance of inclusivity and diversity. It can really be symbolic, rather than ensuring that all people who are involved in our work have equal opportunity to make decisions and have power to have decision making abilities. I just really want to note that. But additionally, in the mission, vision, and leadership section, it’s looking at how does your organization ensure that all staff members in your organization have access to self care, in order to be able to avoid vicarious trauma? Does our leadership, including our board, show a commitment to the organization’s ability to achieve the mission and not just verbally, but also making sure that there’s an allocation of funding to support the work? And that everyone within the organization understands the current issues that are relevant to the organization, and continue to receive training and support to implement those guiding principles that we originally talked about. So really, this looks like in practice, it looks like ensuring really the foundation is set when we’re thinking about our mission, our vision, and the leadership within our organizations.

Sandra Morgan 14:18
One of the things that really appealed to me about the title of this particular chapter, is that it talks about mission and vision, which I always skim that. But when I got to this chapter and it said leadership, there’s a whole page of practical strategies and tips. So if you’re inspired by the motivational content here, but you have trouble with putting it into action, this toolkit has the starting point for making it part of your organization. Those tips are really important. And it uses language of evaluation and assessment. It talks about promising practices, and policies, and procedures. And those are things that are going to operationalize our good intentions, we have a wonderful mission, we have great vision, but how we get there, that is the part where things often get a little dicey, and maybe even fall apart. I want to sit here in chapter two, but we’re going to keep moving. Let’s go on to chapter three. I love this chapter because it is going to challenge you to change the culture, to shift. I’m going to stop because Crystal is the expert here.

Crystal Bennet 16:05
No, keep going, Sandie. Just kidding! As we think about this chapter, and I’m a person that holds a lot of quotes in my head because I really do get inspired by so many individuals who do a lot of work and can provide guidance on a way forward. So as I think about organizational culture, I’m reminded of a quote: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Sandra Morgan 16:31
Oh, who said that?

Crystal Bennet 16:33
So that actually is a quote, by someone by the name of Peter Drucker, who is a management consultants. I find that it shows up so often, in like anything I do. Oftentimes as organizations, I think we invest a lot of time and strategy, and it’s not to say that strategy isn’t necessary, but strategy will only get us so far if the organizational culture is not ready to do this work. So many of us understand, in our day to day, when we’re working, is that we may be part of organizations that have a lot of amazing written policies, written practices, have amazing strategic plans, but when we think about our organizational culture, is that that ultimately impacts the delivery as we think about the norms that might be ingrained in our day to day, that can create high turnover and impede our ability to pursue our organizational goals and objectives. Really thinking about your culture is about thinking or analyzing your programs and policies to make sure, again going back to those six principles of trauma informed approach, is your organization seeking to minimize tokenization, re-victimization, and re-exploitation? Do we value our team members as people, rather than having an expectation that we ask staff to speak directly about their personal lived experience? Do we make sure that we’re giving individuals with lived experience control over when, and how, and where they share their stories, if they even desire to share those stories, and we’re practicing informed consent? This goes back, Sandie, to your comment around loving collaboration, right? So when we’re thinking about our culture, does our organization culture promote that mutuality and that collaboration amongst all individuals within the organization, at all levels, our volunteers, our communities, and key partnerships that we have with other organizations or groups within our communities? Are we consistently valuing our people, right? I think value is something you can’t necessarily write in a policy, but it’s about how do people feel? And do people feel that they’re valued and that they belong?

Sandra Morgan 19:14
I am so inspired. And when I get inspired, I want to go rush in and do something. But this toolkit, and I’m going to keep bringing our listeners back, download the toolkit, it’s free. I’m on page 17, and then these things that Crystal just identified, there is an assessment and you have to check the box. No, never, we don’t do that, or occasionally we get it right, or yes, always. And if you answer yes, always, please reach out to me because I want to be your best friend. These are important parts of assessment. If you do this now and then you use the toolkit for a year and you go back a year from now, you can measure your progress, but you cannot manage something that you’re not measuring. That’s an old adage. So okay, jumping into chapter four.

Crystal Bennet 20:20
Yes, chapter four. This is really where we’re looking at Survivor Leader Engagement. Survivor leader engagement. The whole premise of this toolkit is recognizing how that engagement is truly foundational upon the ways that anti trafficking organizations and programs should be built. And as Sandie keeps bringing us back to the toolkit, and back to our assessment, again, you have a self guided assessment tool. This particular assessment tool was created by the Human Trafficking Leadership Academy, which certainly feel free to visit the website and learn more about the Human Trafficking Leadership Academy, because there’s some phenomenal work there as we think about using individuals who have lived and learned experience to help inform our practice. So this particular assessment looks at how does your program or project provide opportunities for survivors? Really looking at those employment opportunities that are through various levels within an organization. This is where we want to be mindful that we’re not merely bringing on individuals with lived experience to serve at maybe entry level or frontline positions, but do we look at their expertise to determine where their expertise aligns with carrying out positions perhaps in management, leadership, advisory boards, boards of directors? Also, if you do not have someone who may have lived experience on your team, being able to bring in consultants. Again, when we’re thinking about feedback from individuals with lived experience, these are paid opportunities, so that we’re minimizing that tokenization, and further harm and exploitation. We’re looking at the diversity of community, when we’re thinking about those with lived experiences. Trafficking, we know encompasses both sex and labor trafficking, and can look very different when we think about the experience of trafficking, and so just being mindful that there’s not a one size fits all, and it doesn’t fit neatly in a particular box. We’re always taking a strength-based approach when we’re bringing in individuals with lived experience, to be part of our projects. As I mentioned, and we’re on page 22 of our toolkit, is that they should be at all stages. You will really see this is highlighted here, where have we accessed the expertise of someone with lived experience in developing the initial program, in developing the policies and procedures, in creating some of the program or project materials, and then continuing to utilize that expertise and uplifting that expertise throughout the entirety of implementation, through the evaluation process, and then ultimately in also obtaining that feedback from those who participated in your projects. We really can see there, the necessity of having survivor voice from start through finish, of any project that we want to plan and implement.

Sandra Morgan 23:46
This brings a question to mind, because you identified there’s no one size fits all, so how do we approach this so that we’re not one sided? I’ve seen that some groups only talk to sex trafficking survivors, and they don’t really have any experience with the labor trafficking victims.

Crystal Bennet 24:14
Absolutely. I think if you’re serving, and you may be an organization where the specific focus of your work is to serve individuals who have experienced sex trafficking, but because we know that there might be intersections between sex and labor trafficking, it’s also important to engage in ongoing professional development and learning opportunities so that you’re aware of the various ways in which trafficking may present itself. It’s really being willing to commit to that ongoing learning and development, because you’re right, if you only know one thing, or if you’re only communicating with individuals who have the experience and expertise on a particular topical area, it may not even cross your mind to consider accessing various resources and education. I would certainly say, to commit to ongoing education to ensure that you are educated in all areas. That’s one of the great things about the work done with NHTTTAC through the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Trafficking in Persons, is that there are a lot of resources besides just the toolkit, that are available. There are free trainings online that are offered, many that offer continuing education hours, and many of our trainings do offer insights that are inclusive of both sex and labor trafficking. Certainly accessing those resources to continue to remain up to date with the most current information.

Sandra Morgan 25:53
From my perspective, remember collaboration? From the framework, that element of mutuality and collaboration, I’ve hosted focus groups that are half labor trafficking, and half sex trafficking. I think one of the most informative moments in one of those episodes, was when a sex trafficking victim began crying as she listened to the story of a labor trafficking victim, and began to see a different aspect of the inhumanity of human trafficking. That mutuality, building that community, creating space for those conversations has been a growing, as you probably have framed it, as you have framed this, it’s like professional development. It’s an engaging conversation where everybody in the room grows, and that’s going to be necessary for us to be able to work together to end human trafficking. On the assessment part here, this is an area that I’ve struggled with keeping on track. I’m definitely going to spend a little more time in the practical strategies and tips, as I get ready for the fall semester this summer. Let’s move on to chapter five.

Crystal Bennet 27:39
Let’s do that, absolutely! And Sandie, when you introduced me, you did mention that I’m the Deputy Director here at NHTTTAC where part of my role is diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and so I could keep us on this chapter for a really long time, but also noting that we only have so much time, and not enough. When we’re thinking about diversity, equity, inclusion in this work, it’s really about, again, going back to that culture shift. As organizations, as programs, how are we paying attention to incorporate social responsibility, social concern, social accountability, and social justice into our organizations? I know that that’s a mouthful there, but the key word is “social,” and really about humanity, and about people, and aligning our work to the larger impact by ensuring that we’re amplifying the voices of all people and increasing those opportunities for communities who have experienced not just historical oppression and marginalization, but where we find that there continue to be present day inequities and harms around oppression. When we’re looking at diversity, equity, inclusion, again, I bring us back as an organization, is finding common language around what do these terms mean to us? Sometimes we can get stuck on the term “diversity,” which is really about how people differ from one another which is inclusive of, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, gender expression, national origin, religion, ability, but really thinking about equity. That’s about how do people access and have opportunities in order to eliminate barriers and decrease and mitigate disparities when we’re thinking about inequitable outcomes? One of the recommendations in this toolkit is for staff and leadership to engage in ongoing opportunities for education and training around implicit and explicit bias, but also thinking about that practice of cultural humility. I want to take a moment here to just call our attention back to that assessment. When you’re assessing, and every time you assess yourself, just really being honest with yourself and your organization in where you are. Again, a quotes person here, but Maya Angelou said, “We do the best we can until we know better. And when we know better, we do better.” I think this provides that opportunity, that maybe there are some things that we just didn’t know, and now that we can really invest the time and resources to completing the assessment, it helps us to know, and then as Sandie has continued to say, is that then there are the practical strategies and tips so that we can then do better. The things that we really need to make sure that we’re doing better at, is to ensure that decision making and policy setting is made with inclusivity of diverse voices and demographics, particularly with individuals with lived experience. Individuals who are two spirited, LGBTQIA plus persons, and culturally and linguistically diverse people, ensuring that our organizations and our staff are reflective of the communities that we serve, and that staff in our organizations, if they’re not reflective, what are the partnerships that we have with other organizations and service providers that are in our communities? We make sure that when we’re creating any type of job postings, or any type of communications content or products, that we’re creating those using plain language, and that we’re using language that really resonates with people that we’re marketing those particular resources to. There’s organizational advancement opportunities that are open, they’re transparent, they’re inclusive of individuals with lived experience, they’re unbiased, and that they mitigate barriers. Additionally, making sure that every person that’s part of our organization has that training and understanding on working with individuals from communities that really span the gamut when we think about variances in culture and the way that we’re able to resonate with people.

Sandra Morgan 32:45
All of this part of the assessment really reflects your lead-in statement that equity represents access and opportunity. Too many times people talk motivationally about empowerment, creating opportunity, but if we do not create access, which means you build the bridge, you build the steps, you plow the pathway forward, without access, it’s just aspirational. Our last chapter we’re going to look at today is chapter six. Don’t worry, we’re going to be back in two weeks.

Crystal Bennet 33:31
Yes, chapter six, Organizational Policies and Procedures. We identify three guidelines in this sectio, when we think about policies and procedures that are able to support the practices within organizations to be in alignment with its missions. When we’re looking at our policies and procedures, we want to be sure that our policies and procedures do not create additional barriers in the work. We want to make sure that they are person-centered and that again, they incorporate those guiding principles in being trauma informed, being ethical, being person-centered, into all of our policies, all of our procedures. Again, you will find an assessment here with some tips. But one of the key tools that I want to leave you all with as we start to wrap up our time together today, is that I recently came across a framework that was developed by an individual out of Sacramento State and it’s called the VIBE Framework, V, I, B, E. This framework, I have found so instrumental in a lot of the work that I do when I’m thinking about reviewing policies and procedures through an equity lens. The V stands for views. You would look at your policies or procedures, or as you’re sitting down to create a new policy or procedure, and you would ask yourself whose views are being centered. Whose views were centered in the creation of this policy or this procedure, or whose views are being centered as we’re thinking about the creation of the policy or procedure? Inclusion is the I. We would ask ourselves, are those who are going to be most directly impacted, included in providing their views? First we’re asking whose views are centered, the “I” is, are the views that are part of being centered, those that are most directly impacted by this policy or by this procedure? The “B” is for benefits and burdens. We want to ask ourselves, who does this policy or procedure benefit, who might it burden? Then the “E” is for equity. Will the decision or the policy lead to equity? Or might it further inequities? I want to just give an example of how this sometimes can play out. In my experience I’ve done a lot of service provision, and I’ve had a really great opportunity to work in organizations. One policy that I often see pretty reflective in a lot of work around service provision, is a late or no show policy. When I think about the “B” around the benefit and the burden, and I think about who might this policy benefit, versus who might it burden, we have to reflect on if you have a late or no-show policy where perhaps maybe someone if they’re 10 minutes or more late, the appointment gets canceled, then we have to think about well, who might be the people who are more likely to be 10 minutes or more late? It might be someone who relies on public transportation. It might be someone that lives in a particular area of town, it may be someone from a rural community where there’s less access to transportation. Maybe a single parent who is caring for children and needs to get their children off to school, or off to daycare. We can start to see that then that can create some disparities, resulting in folks from particular communities then being underserved. That then could lead to greater inequities when we’re thinking about who might benefit the most from our services, and because of some of those policies and procedures, just not be able to have access.

Sandra Morgan 37:49
There’s my word, “access before opportunity.” This is so good. What a great conversation. This toolkit is a valuable resource. I want you to go to the website so you can find a link to download it. We’re only halfway through our discussion, so come back and join us again in two weeks when Crystal will walk us through the second half. If you haven’t been to our website, endinghumantrafficking.org, that’s where you can find all the resources we’ve mentioned and so much more. See you again in two weeks.

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