Abstract: A Statewide Coalition's Involvement in Human Trafficking Policy Implementation: Member Organizations' Involvement and Perceptions (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

A Statewide Coalition's Involvement in Human Trafficking Policy Implementation: Member Organizations' Involvement and Perceptions

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Congress, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Charles Hounmenou, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL

Background and Purpose: During the last ten years, many coalitions have been built in the U.S. to help implement anti-trafficking policies. Yet, sparse literature is available examining the ways coalitions are coordinated, the contributions coalitions make to trafficking policy implementation, and members’ perspectives on coalition’s effectiveness. This paper addresses this gap by examining (a) the involvement of member organizations in a statewide anti-trafficking coalition in one Midwestern state in the U.S. and (b) member organizations’ perceptions of the coalition’s effectiveness. Three research questions guided the study: (1) What is the potential for trafficking-related service provision among member organizations? (2) How committed are member organizations to help achieve the coalition’s action steps?  and (3) What are member organizations’ perceptions of the coalition’s performances and coordination?

 Methods: This study employed an exploratory, quantitative research design, and collected data through a mailed survey. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants. Seventy-three of the 90 member organizations’ leaders recruited for the study completed the survey (81% response rate). A self-report, paper-based survey questionnaire with 25 closed-ended was used to explore the following: organization service potential and input in trafficking-related service provision; input in and commitment to the coalition; and perceptions of the coalition’s performances and coordination. Descriptive statistical analyses, including frequencies, percentages, means, and standard deviations were conducted to present and summarize the data.

 Results: The diversity of services in this coalition show its potential to support the state’s responses to trafficking through interagency collaboration. Few coalition members collaborated for assistance to trafficking victims. Limited commitment of members, failure to engage members, and lack of a visible leadership, were some challenges perceived as affecting the coalition’s effectiveness. Member organizations providing direct services to trafficking victims appeared to have a more positive perception of the coalition’s achievements.

 Conclusions and Implications. The study highlights important issues that can impact the effectiveness of a major coalition that aims to address human trafficking. Addressing leadership issues is critical for engaging the membership of a coalition.

An anti-trafficking coalition needs a visible, full-time leader whose main responsibility is the coalition’s management. It is important that information about the coalition’s goals, structure, and leadership be available and accessible to members online. Consistently organizing membership meetings and keeping members informed about planned activities and events are ways to help sustain membership participation and engagement in the coalition’s work.

For a statewide coalition, decentralizing its coordination could be a good strategy to engage members in all the main regions of the state. Efforts to engage members in a coalition may be fruitless if these members fail to show commitment to the coalition through consistent attendance at coalition meetings and participation in activities.

For research purposes, it will be important to examine how the social mission of an organization correlates with or predicts the latter’s participation in anti-trafficking-related trainings and coalition activities. It is also important to examine whether coalition membership is a determining factor for interagency collaboration between organizations serving victims of trafficking.