The conference "Equity in Evidence: fusing lived experience and community knowledge into research to end human trafficking" brought together 93 anti-trafficking experts from around the world. This group included people with lived experience of modern slavery, researchers, policymakers, donors and other professionals in the global movement to tackle modern slavery. The event aimed to address gaps in how current research is funded, designed, implemented and disseminated – often without the involvement of, or alignment with, the priorities of people with lived experience, slavery-affected communities and local research experts. This objective guided the discussions on topics such as aligning research agendas with the priorities of people most affected by slavery, survivor-led and child-centred approaches, global definitions and local realities of modern slavery, and using research to help people empower themselves.
There was a clear consensus about the need to include people with lived experience in all stages of research, especially during the formative phases of setting research agendas and in deciding which projects are to be funded. Truly engaging them not only leads to higher quality and more realistic research products but is also a powerful mechanism for people with lived experience and for slavery-affected communities to find their own solutions and drive change. Building trust, sharing skills and providing resources and care for them should be included in project budgets and timelines to assure meaningful and consequential engagement.
Getting consent should be an ethical undertaking that involves a genuinely informed process, using the language of the participants and avoiding academic jargon. This process also requires holding researchers accountable, examining power dynamics and returning control to people with lived experience.
The way in which research results are disseminated is crucial for shifting the power of research back to people with lived experience. To make findings useful for impacted communities, they should be disseminated using a broad range of media, such as video, audio, and graphics, and presented using accessible language and formats that are relatable to the intended audience. If authorised by the participants, publications should be accompanied by appropriately anonymised data to encourage repurposing and thereby reduce the need to gather information repeatedly from the same community.
Definitions of modern slavery affect which types of exploitation are criminalised and which are not. Countries must ensure their definitions can adapt to evolving forms of slavery and incorporate inputs from people with lived experience. It is essential to develop a context-specific set of indicators that align with global definitions, national standards and local conditions. Governments and service providers should also acknowledge their responsibility for perpetuating injustice when implementing actions that do not include care and aftercare measures.
The conference report includes the key findings and insights from the nine panel discussions, as well as recommendations on how to define, measure, record and share evidence and lessons from anti-trafficking research. It also describes ways to improve collaborations between researchers from different regions and between experienced and emerging researchers. The report also outlines good practices and serious challenges in implementing and utilising research in slavery-affected communities. Finally, the report presents feedback from our participants regarding good practices for future events regarding logistics, networking and, from those with lived experience, advice on how others can more successfully engage them.
The views expressed in this document do not necessarily represent those of all participants.
Other learnings from the event
Read blogs with key learnings from the conference, including one from the Advisory Group, Modern Slavery PEC's Partnership Manager Owain Johnstone and the Bingham Centre's Modern Slavery PEC Research Fellow Dr Sofia Gonzalez De Aguinaga.