Innovation – Evolution – PARTNERSHIP!

By Professor Kevin Bales CMG

Every great change begins with an idea and a start-up, whether it is the transformation of the world through computer technology, or the beginning of the end of slavery. All start-ups evolve in a challenging environment, and in time those that survive and prosper tend to join together – maximising skills, human and financial resources, and reach. Today, 25 years into the fourth great anti-slavery movement in human history, consolidation and partnership is the theme of the hour.

I’m excited and pleased as punch to launch our new series of blogs by announcing and exploring the partnership between the Walk Free Foundation, and the world’s largest group of academic anti-slavery researchers and activists at the University of Nottingham.

At the University of Nottingham we believe that advanced, applied research is key to ending slavery. Our large team is developing ways to end slavery that can be replicated and scaled. The team includes researchers in Politics and International Relations, Sociology and Social Policy, Humanities, Geography, Business, Law, Economics, Engineering, Education, Computer Science, Psychology, Mathematical Sciences, Health Sciences, and Cultures, Languages and Area Studies.

A great example of the power of this broad-based approach is our recent breakthrough in using satellites to find previously unknown sites of child slavery in Bangladesh. On-the-ground research had documented a large-scale fish processing camp using child slaves in the UNESCO Sundarbans World Heritage Site. Using satellite images of that site to guide geospatial researchers five more sites were identified and their locations made public. Criminal slaveholders carve these sites from protected mangrove forests in the World Heritage Site, destroying special habitat and endangered species. The dried fish produced by the children enslaved at these sites flows into human and pet food supply chains that reach into our shops and homes.

The Walk Free Foundation works all over the world to end modern slavery in our generation, from bringing together faith communities and business leaders to on-the-spot local campaigns around the world. Perhaps the best-known product of our work is the Global Slavery Index. Over the past five years the Index has revolutionised the measurement of global slavery, and now provides the most reliable measures amount of slavery for 99% of the global population. These statistics motivate governments, make possible better national responses, and provide the core data needed to explore the drivers of slavery. A key aim of the Nottingham/Walk Free Foudation partnership is to use this amazing tool in new ways, to dig into this treasure trove of slavery data hard in search of new answers and insights.

Sometimes bigger really is better, and when we face up to the fact that there are 45.8 million slaves in the world, it is clear that scale-up is needed. But of course, bigger also needs to be smarter and nimble, to be as dynamic and adaptive as the criminal slaveholders. The power of the world’s largest antislavery organisation linked to the strengths of Nottingham’s broad base of researchers means the end of slavery is just that much nearer.

This blog post is part of our Monthly Series in partnership with the University of Nottingham.