Tag Archives: let’s get intersectional

Corporate Social Responsibility is More than Writing a Check

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In tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, we will post this banner on all our articles until the end of November. 

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Giving to charities is on a decline. Corporate contributions, especially, have declined from a high of 2.1 percent at its peak in 1986 to just around 0.8 percent in 2012.

It’s understandable. With every transaction scrutinized, traditional corporate philanthropy is considered an inappropriate use of funds. And yet, the demand for socially responsible companies grows. In fact:

  • 90% of U.S. consumers say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality, reports the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study
  • 55% of online consumers are willing pay more for product or service offerings when a company is associated with social impact, according to a Nielsen study
  • 67% of employees would rather work for an organization that was socially responsible, according to the same Nielsen study

It’s not an issue of people being uninterested in companies that are socially charitable. It’s an issue of donating time and money more effectively. Businesses quantify everything, and for good reason. You want to make sure what you are doing is paying off. Because of this, corporate social responsibility has evolved into something that is beneficial for the business, their employees, consumers, and non profit organizations.

So the question is: how can you make your company more socially responsible and more effective?

 

Build social responsibility into your company mission statement

Effective giving starts at your company’s core. It should be part of your drive, written into your mission statement, and reflected in every action your business makes. Outdoor retailer, Patagonia, is a great example of this. Instead of calling it “corporate responsibility,” they view their corporate giving as “caring for the planet that has sustained us.” For every purchase made, 1% goes toward causes the leaders at Patagonia are passionate about, like preserving land, protecting salmon, creating healthier soil, and producing more sustainable food. Corporate philanthropy is not just something they do–it’s something they live and breathe.

Yvon Chouinard, the owner and founder of Patagonia, said:

“If you could get businesses, any business, to understand that they have more responsibility than to maximize the profits for their shareholders, or for themselves, that they have a responsibility to the planet. We all do. The best way to do it is to dig into your pockets and give the money away to the people who are willing to do the good work.”

Making giving part of your mission statement sets you apart from your competitors. It says, “we’re passionate about what we do, and we’re passionate about doing it responsibly.” The leaders at Patagonia stand by their mission statement to care for the earth while making good products, and from that, they actually make more money and have loyal fans.

Look at your products and services. How can you expand your societal engagement? How can you build social responsibility into the core of your business?

 

Partner with the right cause

All businesses start as being an answer to a problem. We see a market need, and work hard to fill it. Charities are the same way–they just provide their services in a different way. Partnering your business’s passion with the right charity can be a powerful and dynamic way to increase loyalty and goodwill for your company and awareness and funds for the cause.

 

The best partnerships make sense

In 2010 when KFC partnered with cancer awareness charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, people were confused. Barbara Brenner, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action, argued:

“They are raising money for women’s health by selling a product that’s bad for your health… it’s hypocrisy.”

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Involving your company with a social cause is more than just feeling good about making the world a better place. It’s an alliance saying that the charity’s work aligns with your own ideals.

Warby Parker creates eyewear. But they also give back eyewear to people who need it. Their business model is “buy a pair, give a pair.” After they tally up how much they have made, they donate a portion to their nonprofit partners who train men and women in developing countries how to perform basic eye exams. It is good for Warby Parker, because it is good marketing, morale building, and fan building, and it is good for the world. It’s a partnership that makes sense and fits easily into their business strategy.

Some connections are easier to draw than others, but it shouldn’t be difficult. If you are a grocery chain, consider partnering with a food bank. If you are a technology firm, consider investing in underserved children’s educational programs, like science museums or kids’ camps that provide training in skills you’d like to see. There are thousands of different charities doing amazing work. Find the one that connects with the reason for why you started your own business and see how you can harness your collective power in transformational ways.

 

Social responsibility is good business

The companies that get the most from social giving are the ones who genuinely feel passionate towards a certain cause. It’s the ones that recognize a problem in the world and feel like they can’t just sit and watch. It’s the ones that are able to rally hundreds, or thousands, or millions of employees, customers and fans, behind something they are passionate about.

Being socially responsible is taking a risk, but it, so far, is proven to be a successful way to run a business. Craig Matthews, the owner and founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, second member of Patagonia, said:

“From a marketing standpoint, once people find out what you are doing and giving to what they are so passionate about, and what business members are so passionate about, it’s a no-brainer. People sign up and people become your customer because of it.”

 

How can partnering with a nonprofit help your business, inspire your employees, rally your clients, and change the world for better?

 

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Lauren Ellis started working as a graphic designer at 18 and by 26, she left her agency job to help start up a small web agency in downtown Austin where she worked as Creative Director. Since then, she left her home in America behind to work in Thailand with The SOLD Project. Lauren teaches art therapy classes, designs all of The SOLD Project’s work and manages the social media accounts.

The Intersection Between Parenting, Resilience, and Trafficking Prevention

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Let’s Get Intersectional

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Photo credit: Szefei/Shutterstock

When I became pregnant almost 4 years ago, my response to impending parenthood was to do research–lots of it. I read articles and books on all aspects of parenting that I could get my hands on, and being a political scientist, I even hoarded research on political development related to parenting. Motherhood, for me, turned out to shape and expand my understanding of the socialization processes that feed into trafficking, and how far back and how deep the roots of trafficking go.

Here are examples of three different families, varying in terms of resources, advantages, and communication styles.

The first family: The parents help kids educate themselves to best of abilities, teach their kids to surround themselves with people who are productive, not destructive, and they assume that education would include college and their child would become a professional. They try to expose their kids to as much as possible (playgroups, museum trips, sports, extracurricular activities) and were even careful about what foods the kids ate. They might move houses specifically to put kids in better schools. Parents are active in school to get to know teachers, observe what is happening with kids’ learning and help where necessary. And the family is very close emotionally. Help never stops; parents assume parenting continues even in adulthood.

The second family: A single mom who had rough life growing up but managed to provide for her kids all on her own. Getting pregnant and having a kid was a turning point where she realized she had to be more responsible. She is not into hugging and kissing, she loves her kids but is not “touchy feely” because in real life you have to be tough, you can’t be soft. All her kids got physical discipline, and there aren’t many parent-child conversations over dinner; but she has been able to provide the necessities, good clothes, etc. and a chance at college; she pushes them to go to college, but believes it’s her job to coach and it’s her kids’ job to perform. It’s up to her kids whether they succeed or not; at some point she can’t help them and they’re on their own. Some of her kids are doing well, some aren’t.

The third family: Just a child alone, abandoned by his parents, raised mostly by his grandparents in extreme poverty. He can hear his grandfather having sex at night with girlfriend and see him beat his grandmother; his cousin taught him how to rob people and is in jail. People are dying around him: sicknesses, drug addiction; motorbike accidents. He has gone through many transitions and there is a lot of instability with his living situation. He begins to get in trouble himself; acknowledges his mom had it hard and he didn’t always help her. Graduation seems out of reach. He has dreams about his future, but prospects look bleak, like never more than just dreams.

These examples illustrate the different kinds of environments kids can grow up in, depending on levels of poverty and other risk factors. You can probably guess which families and which kids are most vulnerable to trafficking–but the reasons why go even deeper than we might first expect.

How Parenting Affects Child Development in Key Factors

Recent research shows:

Young children’s early experiences and socioeconomic environment shape their neurobiological development and the effects are powerful and long-lasting. Almost every aspect of early human development–from the brain’s evolving circuitry to the child’s capacity for empathy–is affected by the environments and experiences from the prenatal period and extending through early childhood years. Early experiences alter the architecture of the brain.

The roots of many cognitive and behavioral differences that appear in middle childhood and adolescence are often already present by 18 months old.

Healthy infant and child brain development requires connecting with caring, consistent adults. The key mechanism is “give-and-take learning,” where the child sends a signal and an adult responds. A caring, nurturing, consistent parent can help reduce the impact of external stresses and help their children build resilience against things that would otherwise be damaging.

How this works:

Nurturing, affection, warmth, active involvement, and reasoned discipline leads to greater socio-emotional competence among children. The stronger the parents’ bond with their child, the better their chances for success in life. The more trust is built in the early days, months, and years as the baby matures, the more able the child is to grow in resilience and independence.

Children who grow up with parents who listen and talk with them frequently develop more advanced language skills than kids whose parents rarely engage them in conversation. Furthermore, other important skills acquired in early childhood like grit, social sensitivity, optimism, self-control, conscientiousness, and emotional stability are critical predictors for life success. They lead to greater physical health, school success, college enrollment, employment, and lifetime earnings, and can help keep people out of trouble. These skills are at least as important as cognitive skills in predicting measures of success.

Meanwhile, chronic neglect and toxic stress is often associated with a wider range of developmental consequences (for example: deficits in IQ, mental health, social adjustment, and brain architecture) than outright physical abuse. Neuroscientists and psychologists have identified an important set of brain functions–“executive functions”–that help in concentration, impulse control, mental flexibility, and memory. Deficiencies in executive functions show up in learning disabilities and ADHD. Under normal circumstances, with supportive caregivers, executive functions develop especially quickly during ages 3 to 5. Children who experience chronic stress (neglect, abuse, violent environment, parental substance abuse, etc.) during that period are more likely to have impaired executive functioning. They have more problems concentrating, controlling impulsive behavior, and following directions.

This leaves them less able to solve problems, cope with adversity, and organize their lives.

It can lead to learning difficulties and physical and mental health problems like depression, alcoholism, obesity, and heart disease.

Children who grow in poverty are at higher risk for elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. They often have trouble concentrating because their brains have been trained to maintain constant surveillance of the environment for new threats.

How This Relates to Trafficking

You can probably guess where I’m headed with this. Resilience is a term you’ll start to hear more about from us in the coming months, because it turns out to be an incredibly important concept to trafficking prevention.

Poverty (and statelessness, as a related element to exclusion from society and jobs) has been identified as a key reason people become vulnerable to trafficking. The obvious cause is the economic risk: people need money to survive, become desperate, and the sex industry is so lucrative.

The less obvious cause is developmental risk: how poverty and adversity shape childhood development in ways that can either help kids confront adversity or can put them at risk of further harm. Loving relationships of support and trust can help kids develop the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral tools to overcome challenges. However, deficiencies in development often contribute to even more fractured relationships, behavioral problems that in turn lead to punishments, isolation, and an ever downward spiral–especially in a culture where mental health issues are often highly misunderstood and a diagnosis of something like ADHD can lead to absolutely ludicrous medication producing a near catatonic state and removal of a child from their home (true story).

This is not to set up any false dichotomy between “good” parents and “bad” parents, or to say that one set of behaviors will necessarily produce a certain outcome. Life is more complicated than that, as any parent knows. But loving and consistent parenting, and community/societal resources to support effective parenting are factors that converge to help foster resilience, so that despite poverty and despite adversity, we can help shield and empower children to protect them from risk and encourage them to rise above challenges.

Want to be a part of the community resources to strengthen family and child resilience to trafficking? Check out our prevention model & programs and learn about ways to contribute!

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Dr. Jade Keller is the Thailand Program Advisor and Editor for The SOLD Project. After receiving a PhD in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara, she moved with her family to northern Thailand to work in child trafficking prevention, education, and helping to raise awareness.

1500 Trees: The Importance of Sustainable Development to Trafficking Prevention

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Fifteen hundred trees. It’s a massive undertaking, but over 60 volunteers—students and local community members—showed up to join in the effort to reforest the area. The trees had been donated by the Department of Forestry to plant on organic farmland that a local Thai celebrity gave permission for us to use. Everyone young and old traversed the land to get their hands dirty and fill the holes with young saplings, stopping only when afternoon storms threatened and all ran for cover and a hot lunch under the canopies.

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This tree planting event is just one of the many ways our Sustainability Project, headed by Worn Donchai, seeks to improve the environment of the local region, and by extension, the lives of the people the land supports. The Sustainability Project has three main programs: 1) an organic garden where families learn about the sustainable cultivation of indigenous and healthy vegetables on their own land, 2) a silk worm project where silk worms are bred and raised, and their silk and all its natural properties are cultivated for textile and beauty products, and 3) a local textile center which manages the design and pre-production of ecologically sustainable handbags and backpacks. These programs all include workshops to teach families about sustainable practices and entrepreneurial opportunities, on all aspects from farm to market.

The Sustainability Project started in 2013 and since then has expanded to reach hundreds of villagers and their families from all over the region. We have 14 silkworm farms up and running, with scores of people trained in things like cultivating silk, shampoo and soap production, and spinning and dyeing yarn with all-natural indigo dyes.

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 1.26.11 PMWe aim to launch an Eco-Agricultural Learning Center late this year, which will expand all activities even further so that hundreds, if not thousands, of members of the local communities can attain access to training on agricultural practices like organic rice farming and mushroom cultivation, management and development activities like identifying local leaders and creating networks of shared support, and marketing activities to sell products created at the Learning Center.

The effects are profound. In an area where poor farmers are subject to the exploitation of large agri-businesses, unsafe working conditions, and wildly fluctuating, seasonal access to jobs and income, this kind of project disrupts the power structures. By working the land without the use of harmful chemicals, farmers break their dependence on chemicals and the companies that make them while using natural resources that ensure the land itself continues to prosper. Families are empowered to take control over their access to multiple sources of income, working collectively from seed to store. They even learn about low cost indigenous plants they can grow and cook to supplement their diets.Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 1.26.41 PM

The families who participate in these projects are often the very ones whose children are most at-risk of being trafficked into sexual exploitation. For families lacking education, or sometimes even documentation, the sex industry used to be one of the only employment that could support their needs. Children would enter the sex trade to bring money home for their families. While our scholarships help reverse this trend by enabling vulnerable children to remain in school, our sustainability programs help ensure the entire family has a future. When families are stressed, it’s the children who fall through the cracks. When families and communities are healthy and whole, they are more resilient to adversity and there is a stronger foundation on which to build. Everyone thrives.

Fifteen hundred trees. It’s more than a forest. It’s a declaration of purpose.

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Dr. Jade Keller is the Thailand Program Advisor and Editor for The SOLD Project. After receiving a PhD in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara, she moved with her family to northern Thailand to work in child trafficking prevention, education, and helping to raise awareness.

If You Care About LGBTQ Rights, You Should Care About Human Trafficking Too

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Let’s Get Intersectional

Do you ever feel alone in your commitment to social justice and ending child exploitation? Here at The SOLD Project we want to talk about how ending child slavery is not just for freedom activists, but how it’s also an issue that should interest and invite involvement from a wide range of other sectors in society. We’re introducing a new recurring feature called Let’s Get Intersectional, in which we will share how anti-trafficking efforts intersect with other concerns, and how we can expand the conversation to include others.

 

Min is vivacious, talkative and gregarious. She’s the live wire spark at any social gathering. Whether dressed in the slacks and pressed shirt of the boys’ school uniform, or, as she prefers, in bright silk dresses adorned with flowers, lacy scarves and a sassy wig, Min is unafraid to display her full smile and quick wit. One wouldn’t know it to look at her, but Min* is a child at-risk because she identifies as transgender, and despite Thailand’s outward acceptance towards LGBTQ tourists, the reality for LGBTQ Thais remains fraught with challenge: alienation, ridicule, and sometimes abuse.

Although Thailand markets itself as a “pink” tourist destination that embraces everyone, there is still widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people. Jobs are only available in sectors like waitressing, beauty parlors, the sex industry, and entertainment–where they are often the subject of comic relief and demeaning humor. More “serious” industries like banking, the medical profession, and law are usually off-limits. Families with LGBTQ teens might send them for psychiatric treatment, kick them out of the home, or even send them to serve as monks at Buddhist temples to “be cured.” In 2002 the Thai Ministry of Health finally declared that homosexuality should not be considered a mental illness—but it’s taking society a bit longer to catch up. Violence against LGBTQ people includes rape and murder that often goes unmarked because Thai law does not have a special classification for hate crimes. In a recent survey of 2,000 LGBT students, a third reported being physically harassed, and a quarter reported sexual abuse. Kids who are isolated from support structures, whether kicked out of their home or forced on their own and cannot get jobs, are precisely those most vulnerable to trafficking—the most susceptible to the demand for children to exploit. We hear most about the young girls, but young boys are in demand too.

Thailand isn’t the only place where LGBTQ children are at-risk. In the U.S., for example, LGBTQ individuals make up 40% of the runaway and homeless youth population, and it is estimated that over a quarter of LGBTQ youths are forced out of homes by families who do not accept them. And LGBTQ homeless youths experience an average of over 7 more acts of sexual violence towards them than their heterosexual and cisgendered peers.

The stigma against homosexuality invites other kinds of trauma as well. Boys who have been abused stay silent for fear of what it means for their sexual identity, and LGBTQ teens are dehumanized to the extent that predators target them for abuse because they “want” it or “deserve” it. Gender norms also tend to perpetuate the myth that “real men cannot be abused.” As such, the psychological effects of abuse often prevent kids from getting the help they need for fear of further violence—or because they don’t even understand that they have been abused.

I feel lucky because I have some natural ability to feel confident and I’m extroverted. This makes things so much easier for me, and for people to accept me. I think people who are more introverted have it much harder. They have to be strong to survive. – Min, age 15

It is our experience that poverty, social alienation, isolation, and exclusion from job opportunities are all key ingredients in the recipe for trafficking. However, acceptance, support, and encouragement can be life changing for vulnerable youths. Those committed to the fight against child trafficking must also be concerned with the struggle to uphold LGBTQ rights because violations against the latter so often put people at risk of trafficking. Likewise, if you’re concerned about the rights and welfare of LGBTQ youths, the problem of child trafficking should also be on your radar, because as long as both the discrimination against and the demand for children’s bodies exists, more vulnerable LGBTQ youths will always be at-risk of exploitation.

Min once shared her fear that she would not be able to pursue her dream job of becoming a flight attendant due to discrimination. Her mother once was depressed about who her son was. But now, Min has the support of the entire SOLD community. She shows up at all our events, dressing and behaving exactly as she wants to be seen, and her family feels encouraged to love her, just as she is. She is very aware of the value of this support as well—she knows how hard it has been for friends who face similar circumstances but who do not have that support. She feels lucky to have the encouragement to be herself, and she feels grateful for the chance to have a place in society, to go out and experience life fully. The challenges she still faces are real, but she knows she is not alone—and that has made all the difference.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

portraitforprofilesDr. Jade Keller is the Thailand Program Advisor and Editor for The SOLD Project. After receiving a PhD in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara, she moved with her family to northern Thailand to work in child trafficking prevention, education, and helping to raise awareness.

Why We Need to Involve Other Industries as Allies

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Let’s Get Intersectional

Do you ever feel alone in your commitment to social justice and ending child exploitation? Here at The SOLD Project we want to talk about how ending child slavery is not just for freedom activists, but how it’s also an issue that should interest and invite involvement from a wide range of other sectors in society. We’re introducing a new recurring feature called Let’s Get Intersectional, in which we will share how anti-trafficking efforts intersect with other concerns, and how we can expand the conversation to include others. In this article, we want to begin with reframing it not just as an issue of morality, but one also of public health.

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Photo credit: 1000Words_edonly/Shutterstock

We’ve all seen the numbers: an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, according to the International Labor Organization. Yet, despite the size of the phenomenon and increasing government attention to the problem, conviction rates of traffickers remain abysmally low, with only 4 in 10 countries reporting more than 10 convictions per year, and nearly 15% having no convictions at all. Clearly, law enforcement is an essential element to eradicating trafficking, but it is also not nearly sufficient. As was well stated in an article by Jonathan Todres, the low conviction rate is not so much an indictment of law enforcement efforts, as it is evidence that a “law-enforcement-centered approach alone will not eliminate, or even significantly reduce, the incidence of human trafficking.”

It’s long past time we begin think about trafficking as more than just a crime. Todres’ article lays out several reasons we should adopt models and methods from public health campaigns to broaden our efforts to eliminate trafficking by changing the views and behaviors that facilitate exploitation. Much like a vaccine prevents the spread of infection both on the individual and on the societal levels, so too should anti-trafficking efforts aim to prevent the spread of exploitation before it happens.

One reason we should be concerned about trafficking from a public health perspective is the negative health repercussions. I probably don’t need to tell you about the physical and psychological impact exploitation, sexual slavery, and abuse has on its victims. I’m sure you can well imagine it, and it is well documented. However, because trafficking is a phenomenon that happens out of sight and across borders, it facilitates the spread of HIV/AIDS, and various other STDs and STIs (like hepatitis B) that come from unsafe sex. The squalid conditions, lack of nutrition, and lack of adequate rest that victims suffer from also create environments that facilitate the spread of diseases like tuberculosis in the communities in which victims live and work.

Public health professionals come from a perspective of prevention and their insistence on scientific, evidence-based methods can be another benefit to anti-trafficking efforts. For example, public health surveillance programs that track instances of infection can help identify areas of high rates so that law enforcement officials can target their resources in those areas.

The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a 4-level model for prevention: individual, relationship, community, and society. Todres suggests the individual level approach could focus on educating children on how to identify risky situations and how to avoid them. The relationship level would focus on mentoring kids to keep them in school. The community level should involve efforts to raise awareness about trafficking, and to counter views, behaviors, and practices that promote trafficking. Finally, the society level should address root systemic causes like poverty, the lack of rights, discrimination, and lack of documentation. Is this model sounding familiar?

This approach also advocates reaching out to other sectors of society, turning industries that typically facilitate trafficking and exploitation into allies and advocates of its prevention. For example, truckers driving along major trucking routes may sometimes be involved in trafficking, or they may witness trafficking as it happens. Those educated in identifying potential trafficking situations may be well placed to help. In the U.S., there is an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking that aims to educate truckers about these situations, and recently a trucker saved a young girl from the sex trade and torture in just this way.

Public health campaigns to raise awareness can be effective in creating changes in behavior and encouraging more thoughtful choices, as in warning labels on cigarettes or nutrition labels on our food. What could the effect be if we had labels on brothels that said, “Warning: may contribute to the exploitation of children” or “Warning: this establishment is a known contributor to the abuse of children” on hotels that have been identified as safe harbors for traffickers? Or a “Certified Slave Free” label on establishments that demonstrate a commitment to ending servitude and disallowing abuse. There are thorny legal issues that would make something like this a bit problematic to legislate carefully and well…but it’s an interesting thought that could help broaden our perspective of what’s possible.

Finally, health care professionals themselves are very well-placed to help identify victims in ways that other outsiders may not be able to. Estimates range from about a quarter to half of trafficking victims in the U.S. and abroad encounter a doctor or a nurse at some point during their captivity. Doctors and nurses who are trained to identify potential abuse situations may be the only person a victim sees outside their captivity, and doctors can insist on privacy in the examination room where they can ask questions about the victim’s situation and then alert authorities. The Medical College in Wisconsin is starting a project to help educate health care professionals on signs to watch for and how to proceed in those circumstances. They can be key allies in helping rescue a victim, and getting them out of the situation sooner.

Trafficking and exploitation pervades society. It touches more lives than we realize. It’s time we call out to people who may be affected and reach out to advocates and allies who might never have known before that they can help. It’s time we tap into their potential.