Early on in my own philanthropic learning curve, I had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia and meet Helen Sworn and colleagues at Chab Dai, a network of local organizations working together to combat the scourge of human trafficking. Looking back, I can see how learning from and seeing in action the power of the “network effect” has shaped my own lens on social change and how we approach our work at the Imago Dei Fund. It is our pleasure to host this blog post sharing Chab Dai’s approach to cultivating an intentional ecosystem to combat the deeply entrenched global scourge of human trafficking and their pivot to taking this work global. As I read this, I am reminded of how small our world is, particularly as we are emerging out of this global pandemic, and how collective action can take each of our humble efforts and make them part of something larger than ourselves. – Emily Nielsen Jones, Founding Partner & Trustee

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” – Mother Teresa

The Global Learning Community (GLC), started by Chab Dai in 2012, was modelled on years of experience in building a coordinated and informed response to trafficking in and through the Cambodia coalition which has been operating since 2005. The GLC project continued to grow with an increasingly global focus and worked to provide support and services to grassroots organisations with a passion for professional and meaningful interventions and programmes in Asia, Africa and North America. With intentional relational growth, members cultivated a space for honest and safe conversations around the challenges, successes and growing pains of the movement. GLC members valued the opportunities to dig deep into how to build stronger programmes, organisational capacity, create monitoring and evaluation frameworks and work for equitable and ethical research.

Helen Sworn

The movement is truly building the movement. Almost 200 members from 42 countries are working together – devoting time and energy, outside their already busy work, to strengthen and foster a comprehensive, connected and competent anti-trafficking and modern slavery movement.

There have been many changes in the past two years that have led to this. The first few months of the pandemic brought global lockdowns and travel restrictions that appeared to grind the world to a halt. As the systematic fault lines of inequalities and vulnerabilities were deepened, victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants were left with few options when considering migration or returning home.

Sharon Jacques

These mounting challenges called for further collaboration on a global level in an attempt to meet the complex challenges of disrupting human trafficking.

In 2020, an evaluation collected the experiences and thoughts of GLC members with the specific aim of understanding how the GLC could meet their needs, strengthen network and coalition building and generally, to determine what was needed to meaningfully help and connect grassroots anti-trafficking organisations.

The findings of the evaluation provided key insights into the priorities of the community, which were focused around:

  • a desire to work more closely together to improve systems and practises
  • elevate the collective voice of grassroots anti-trafficking organisations
  • push for rigorous research and monitoring, evaluation and learning

The evaluation highlighted community members’ interest in:

  • building stronger connections with fellow members
  • co-working on projects that would be accessible and beneficial to the broader grassroots anti-trafficking community.

Drawing from the findings of the evaluation and the rich process of taking a sabbatical, we began to work with the community to transition the GLC from a Chab Dai project to a cooperative community project.

Dr. Leah Edwards

This process began with open and dynamic conversations around the vision, mission and core values of the project, further clarifying a project focus on supporting, inspiring and growing one another as the anti-trafficking and modern slavery movement.

A year on from the GLC in its new form, the community has grown to include 192 members from 42 countries. The community has enthusiastically participated in shaping and leading more than half the monthly learning call topics and discussions and contributed subject matter expertise and collaboration to topical calls. GLC members have led Coffee Corner Calls on diverse topics ranging from the intersection of child begging and human trafficking, monitoring and evaluation, decolonising language, the LGBTQ+ community and the need for improved funding structures in the movement.

Beyond the interactive learning conversations, GLC members have connected and begun work on collaborative research and advocacy projects and assisted one another on cross border anti-trafficking cases and the reintegration of survivors of trafficking.

While international insecurity remains, the global grassroots anti-trafficking sector continues to advance leading practices and cultivate an honest community of practice and change.

A full summary of the GLC’s activities can be found in the 2021 Annual Report.

Helen Sworn, Sharon Jacques, and Dr Leah Edwards comprise the GLC Secretariat.