“IBEC appreciates the work of the Freedom Business Alliance as they see to create jobs for those formerly trapped in human slavery. CEO Rachel Nelson first published this article with the Faith Driven Investor network.”
Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures
A Challenge to Faith-Driven Investors to help End Human Trafficking
By Rachel Rose Nelson, Executive Director of Freedom Business Alliance
“I have a message for faith-driven investors. It’s time to move beyond just funding anti-trafficking work. It’s time to put your talent on the table.”
This is the rallying cry of Tom Phillips, a faith-driven investor, entrepreneur, and long-time advocate in the global anti-trafficking space. Phillips first became aware of human trafficking nearly twenty years ago after purchasing a building on a Memphis city street where prostitutes walked up and down soliciting business. Worry for his business soon turned to concern for the women themselves. His first action step was a call to a couple local ministries, one in law enforcement and the other in rescue and recovery. Both partnered to help women safely exit the sex trafficking industry, part of what Phillips later learned was just one manifestation of the global crisis of human trafficking.
At its root, sex trafficking is an industry – one that takes different forms in different regions around the world. According to the International Labor Office, forced labor in the private economy generates US $150 billion in illegal profits per year. Of that US $99 billion comes from commercial sexual exploitation. It is an industry animated by a dark and complex web of factors no single organization can address on its own. But it took Phillips a while to see that business, his own area of expertise, was a vital part of the solution.
“It was when I started to travel internationally about 15 years ago that I saw how truly global this crisis was. Human trafficking began to get press around 2015 through the work of many ministries endeavoring to end it.”
But a frustration began to take shape as Phillips engaged more deeply. “Only one side of this was being addressed: Rescue. Everyone loves the stories of rescue. But this was not a comprehensive solution. And without a job these women were going right back into trafficking. It’s all they know.”
Once Phillips realized the problem, he began to put the pieces together. “I call it a cradle to grave solution. We need to provide jobs so vulnerable women don’t get trafficked. And what’s better is once they get out, they’re staying out and they come back and help in the anti-trafficking space. They help create even more jobs and the passion is there to make it so no one else has to experience the same things they did. It’s incredible. Talk about an outsized return on investment!”
Tom envisions an innovative model that bypasses the normal grant cycles driven by varying agendas and timelines, to create a truly coordinated, collaborative model that he and his collaborators have titled Justice, Hope & Liberty (JHL).
“I’m tired of reading grant requests that piece together parts but not all of what’s needed. So, my aspiration is to bring together a group of funders to provide the resources needed to design and test a multi-year, comprehensive model from regional research, to policy revisions, to law enforcement training, to rescue, aftercare and job creation. Our aim is to test the model in one region and replicate what works in other regions around the world.”
The model Phillips’ envisions is one in which businesspeople play a critical role – not just as funders of the work to be done – but as active participants. “We’ve got Freedom Businesses that provide jobs. But many are started by people who lack business expertise. I’d love to see the Faith-Driven business community rally to invest, mentor, and support these folks. Go out and visit them a couple times a year. It’s time to get your hands dirty!”
Not only does Phillips see an opportunity for the faith-driven investor community to help individual businesses, but to help create strategy for the industry as a whole.
“We need to identify business models capable of being scaled. We need bold strategy to see this industry grow to the place where there’s a job for every survivor. And more. We need job creation to help prevent trafficking in the first place.”
Rachel Rose Nelson serves as Executive Director of Freedom Business Alliance, the only global network creating business solutions to human trafficking. FBA is currently seeking Partners to co-create strategy to scale job creation in targeted trafficking hotspots around the world.