Transforming anti-trafficking advocacy through action research

Transforming anti-trafficking advocacy through action research
By Aubrey Lloyd and Samantha Lowry
Jun 29, 2021

Human trafficking is a complex and nuanced crime with wide-ranging impacts on survivors and those who serve them. Across the U.S., the Office for Victims of Crime human trafficking grantees reported serving close to 10,000 survivors of trafficking in a single year (July 2019 - June 2020). The field is evolving faster than research can keep up, so many victim service providers are turning to action research to better meet the needs of survivors and offer customized services with more timely feedback.

Victim service providers often offer tailored services to meet the needs of each survivor and community, which can be challenging for program delivery. These highly individualized services make a one-size-fits-all approach to understanding the overall impact of an intervention on survivors difficult, if not impossible, to rigorously assess.

Action research is an important strategy to advance the anti-trafficking field

By equipping providers with a systematic way to monitor and improve program efficacy, action research gathers input in real time and allows for micro-course corrections. This responsive approach to service delivery better meets the fluid needs of survivors. Intentional use of data helps inform decision making and assists organizations with navigating challenges that arise during implementation as well as offers strategic problem solving along the way.

Action research benefits organizations, communities, and researchers by:

  • Providing immediate feedback leading to data-driven solutions
  • Building the capacity of service providers and other key stakeholders
  • Improving multidisciplinary collaboration and coordination
  • Leading to sustainable changes in program delivery
  • Translating knowledge into practice

Strengthening data collection and research practices within organizations is an effective way to mitigate existing research challenges in the anti-trafficking field. Action research involves mutual ownership and collectively generating data-informed solutions specific to an organization to improve the effectiveness of their work. It also fuses the stakeholders’ knowledge of the problem, context, and population with the expertise of a researcher to generate solutions customized to communities and grounded in evidence.

The Human Trafficking Action Research Toolkit

OVC’s Training & Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC), operated by ICF for almost two decades, developed the Human Trafficking Action Research Toolkit. It provides information, strategies, tools, and other resources to assist organizations and programs as they overcome challenges and offer a roadmap for continually enhancing their work. Action research is adaptable, dynamic, and focuses on problem solving in real time to help organizations improve services, processes, and other activities quickly and collaboratively. It also provides an accessible and user-friendly approach to evaluation and implementation.

The Action Research Toolkit provides:

  • An overview of the process
  • Potential challenges and solutions
  • Examples of action research projects
  • Tools, templates, checklists, and other resources to help conduct action research

The Action Research Toolkit is an essential resource to help guide the field toward more collaborative decision making and regularly developing evidence for improving a program, practice, or policy. It gives organizations the flexibility to determine what works best for them and the communities they serve. What works for one organization may not work for another. By committing to ongoing evaluation and expanding data collection to better understand how anti-trafficking programs are impacting and improving the lives of survivors, the field has a unique opportunity to transform anti-trafficking work.

Meet the authors
  1. Aubrey Lloyd, Project Manager, Human Trafficking

    Aubrey is a human trafficking expert with nearly 20 years of experience working with populations affected by domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues, and poverty. View bio

  2. Samantha Lowry, Senior Director, Research and Evaluation

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