The research identified three key principles to underpin meaningful engagement of people with lived experience: being non-tokenistic, being trauma-informed and preventing harm.
It also identified a typology of 14 promising practices in engagement of people with lived experience. Most of these practices centre on engagement in programme development, implementation and evaluation. Below are five examples of good practice in meaningfully engaging people with lived experience of modern slavery in international programmes.
1. Supporting the formation of lived experience-led organisations and networks
Shakti Samuha, from Nepal, was established by a small group of female survivors who returned from India following experiences of exploitation. The association is run by members, an elected board and staff comprising of women with lived experience of trafficking and their allies.
The organisation was founded and formally registered with the support and training provided by several bigger organisations and funders. It has become an award-winning organisation delivering programmes including prevention, awareness-raising and advocacy, reintegration and rehabilitation initiatives.
Staff and board members emphasised the importance of partners and donors who can offer safe spaces for connection of women in their early stages, flexible contracts; capacity-building support and human resource development, as well as co-funding with partners who can decrease the administrative burden. The research identified such practices as a pre-requisite to fostering ‘inclusive aid’ that is based on more egalitarian relations among development actors.
2. Development of gender-sensitive policy informed by engagement of people with lived experience.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) conducted multilevel engagement of people with lived experience during development and dissemination of a large-scale study on gender-sensitive approaches to tackle trafficking. The study explored issues including gender effects on the recruitment of trafficking victims and state response; how societal stereotypes regarding gender tend to create risk for certain groups, cause some victims to be overlooked and can also make it harder for those exploited to disclose and identify as victims.
People with lived experience were engaged in three ways in relation to this policy evaluation:
- A wide array of individuals with lived experience, who could give different perspectives, were engaged to provide feedback on findings pre-publication;
- Experts by experience organised related events (‘from conceptualisation to inviting speakers to moderating the panels’) and spoke at a launch event about their experience of engaging in policymaking;
- Training based on the publication was designed and run by people with lived experience, including simulation-based experiences for police forces, social workers, labour inspectorate, NGOs and prosecutors.
“So what we do is hire survivors to help us develop the scenario, follow the training and make sure that the survivor is instructing the anti-trafficking practitioners, saying, ‘that is not how you do this. You might want to shift and look a little bit like this’. The goal here is to move 180 degrees away from tokenistic engagement with survivors and to include them in a way that … highlights their very expertise. This allows their expertise to direct what our activities are.” (Executive Programme Officer, OSCE).
“So what we do is hire survivors to help us develop the scenario, follow the training and make sure that the survivor is instructing the anti-trafficking practitioners, saying, ‘that is not how you do this. You might want to shift and look a little bit like this’. The goal here is to move 180 degrees away from tokenistic engagement with survivors and to include them in a way that … highlights their very expertise. This allows their expertise to direct what our activities are.”Executive Programme Officer, OSCE
3. Public awareness-raising and advocacy – new model of ethical storytelling
Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED) is a local NGO from Uganda designed, developed and run by formerly abducted child soldiers. In partnership with the University of Bristol, a UK-based artist and supported by the Antislavery Knowledge Network, members of YOLRED created a model of ethical storytelling for public awareness-raising.
The project employed storytelling practices that differ from those routinely used in international fundraising campaigns, which has been criticised for causing stigma and disempowerment, despite the best of intentions. The project conducted in-depth interviews with former child soldiers, which recounted individuals’ stories of abduction, captivity, rehabilitation and the longer-term challenges of reintegration.
Twenty-seven of these testimonies were amalgamated into one narrative and used to create a visually striking, yet nuanced, accessible and ethically-sensitive comic. The form and content of this narrative refused the tropes of rescue and victimhood, while the creative process used to develop it enabled YOLRED’s members to share their stories of survival without revealing their identity.
4. Evaluating programmes as a peer-researcher
The US National Institute for Justice commissioned a ‘first-of-its-kind’ survivor-ally led comprehensive evaluation of the Mayor’s Task-Force on Anti-Human Trafficking in San Francisco. At all levels of the research process, people with lived experience, who also had the professional skills needed to conduct this work, led the project. This enabled lived experience insight, expertise and perspectives to guide the evaluation, including conducting and analysing informant interviews. The project also allowed for devising a research infrastructure to support the career development of people with lived experience of trafficking.
5. Lived Experience Expert Groups informing indicators for the Global Slavery Index
Lived Experience Expert Groups (LEEGs) have been established by Walk Free in partnership with Survivor Alliance in the UK, India, Ghana and Kenya to ask survivors for their expertise on measures of government assessment that comprise the Global Slavery Index (GSI).
People with lived experience were paid at the level of consultants to attend workshops and review the GSI’s conceptual framework and indicators. Participants were asked, for example, which indicators could be removed and which were missing. In the UK, the LEEG highlighted that the right to work while going through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) had not been included, while the Kenyan group highlighted the importance of monitoring recruitment agencies. After testing for availability of data, both of these indicators were added to the GSI framework for all countries in the government response assessment.
‘Our partnership with Survivor Alliance ensures that the LEEGs are survivor-led and survivor-driven. Survivor Alliance ensures that participants have a safe environment where they can freely contribute and develop an advocacy strategy that utilises the GSI as a point of leverage. The process is inclusive for people of different levels of education and experience with research, and incorporates training about the role survivors can play in anti-slavery work beyond the LEEGs.’ (Walk Free Foundation and Survivor Alliance).
‘Our partnership with Survivor Alliance ensures that the LEEGs are survivor-led and survivor-driven. Survivor Alliance ensures that participants have a safe environment where they can freely contribute and develop an advocacy strategy that utilises the GSI as a point of leverage. The process is inclusive for people of different levels of education and experience with research, and incorporates training about the role survivors can play in anti-slavery work beyond the LEEGs.’Walk Free Foundation and Survivor Alliance