Art (above) by Jasmine Chiu, renown artist from Hong Kong & founder of  Artists for Freedom 

Some Initial Observations on this 21 city tour – What are we Finding? 

By Matt Friedman

Here’s a summary of our progress to date.  In the first 24 days, we have presented 39 times.  Below are some general observations based on our presentations, meetings and exchanges:

Matt & Sylvia Friedman presenting at Tenth Church in Vancouver, a very dynamic & strategic church in Canada that has been addressing modern slavery for years

General Public (Churches, schools, libraries and rotary clubs)

·         Few people know anything about the issue (I’d say less than 10 percent know even 10 percent of what I present before I started)

·         Many people want to help, but they don’t know what to do/where to start (Churches, schools, Rotary clubs) – when offered suggestions, they are willing to follow through.  This is a great untapped resource.

·         There is an impression that the NGO world does not always work together (after talking to a dozen organizations, I believe this to be true in some locations – Seattle, Portland, LA, Omaha seem to be the exceptions).

·         There is clearly a lack of structure, unity and leadership within the counter trafficking response across North America.  There are many things happening, but they are often done in isolation.

·         The good news is that all of these things can be turned around with the development of a simple plan that does the following: creates awareness that standardizes the messages (everyone talking from the same page); helps to bring the organizations together to create practical, collaborative alliances (this is a simple facilitation role); and more emphasis on what a person in the general public can do.

Corporations (Major companies – finance, IT, retail and manufacturing)

·         Within the corporations, only the compliance and legal people appear to know anything about this issue.  But their understanding varies greatly.  They know the legal basis, but don’t understand the overall context.

·         The corporate leadership tends to have a very superficial understanding.  I met one CEO who said he was shocked that he didn’t know more about this topic.  Most of them appear to be sincerely interested in wanting to help.

·         “Business risk” continues to be the emphasis of most discussions.

·         After listening to the information, some companies said they’d like to do more, but they are afraid to “put themselves out there with this kind of sensitive issue.”  They are afraid of being “named and shamed.”

·         The good news is that companies are interested in working on the topic, but would prefer to do it in collaboration with other companies.  What they want is a clear, practical approach to using the comparative advantage of their organization.  They said they don’t have time for a lot of meetings and discussions.

In summary:  There appears to be a leadership and organizational void in the USA.  There is good leadership within the organizations working on this topic.  But there is no mechanism of combining everything together.   If this could be developed, 1 + 1 = 11, not 2.  There would be a great opportunity for much more impact.  There is so much potential for good that is being lost.  In our small way, we have been able to improve collaboration and involvement by the general public, without much effort.  A mechanism to set this up would be simple.  Someone just needs to step up and make it happen.