Internet research on counter-trafficking measurement uncovers a wide range of data collection from legislation, tools, portals, databases, case studies, NGOs, workgroups, academia and media. With all this data available, researchers continue to lament : Without good data, there is no comprehensive method to measure the performance of counter-trafficking activities. How can this be when so much data exists? If progress cannot be measured; the global goal to eradicate human slavery cannot be achieved. What we need is a measurement model that is “built to last” rather than disassociated archived data. In his book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, author Jim Collins advised: The foundation for any company that wants to be “built to last” is to have a business model that actually supports that objective. Is it time to investigate the actual business models existing in human trafficking today: the traffickers, the private sector and the government and test them to see which one is “built to last?”

Traffickers Business Model: The Bullet Train

In 2010, a panel of experts developed a trafficking business model for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This groundbreaking research considered what makes the human trafficking market so profitable. The report defined trafficking as a criminal business in which “individuals calculate opportunities, profit, risks and costs and then make decisions.” Boil that down to economics and it means that traffickers constantly adapt their methodology to take advantage of the environment. This hidden, flexible business model is a bullet train to profit. It represents a dynamic supply and demand model with no limitations and no discernable boundaries between smuggling, trafficking, refugees and immigrants. Even worse, as the train speeds along, it gathers criminal momentum from national economics, warfare, culture, and political situations. Unfortunately, this is an agile model built to last. I wonder what would happen if governments decided to combat trafficking with their OWN business model? Would a different perspective on existing data help to resolve data measurement issues? Does a clue lie within the private sector business model? Could data measurement practices be adapted and adopted for national built-to-last counter-traffic monitoring and reporting?

Corporate Business Model: Daytona Speedway

If traffickers are riding the bullet train to destinations of pure profit in a seemingly limitless economic terrain; then private corporations are racing at the Daytona speedway. This is an official track with rules and room for innovation, which operates under strict guidelines and the watchful eye of the media. Stakeholders fund every aspect of racing from cars and drivers, to nuts and bolts, to souvenir hats and trophies. Pit crews are specifically trained to address key issues in record times to get the cars back on track. Driving performance is logged, benchmarked and globally tracked through internationally agreed racing stipulations. Champions are crowned and internationally recognized based on a common set of metrics.

If we apply the Daytona Speedway concept to the private sector marketplace, data represents a corporation’s lifeblood. Corporations demonstrate profit to stakeholders by collecting data, developing key performance indicators and measuring their progress against both internal and competitive market baselines in compliance with national labor legislation. Good measurement methodologies empower good decision-making in investment opportunities for innovation, better quality products and services resulting in both profit and market resilience. What insight can this provide to governments in the battle against human trafficking?

From Daytona to the Production Line

Data collected by a business manager on his production line are metrics that pertain to products produced in his department. Metrics could be number of employees, gender of employees, vacation times, length of time and cost to produce product, number of products sold, vendor preferences, etc. Corporate infrastructure understands that to get the real power out of data that it is important to understand the difference between these metrics and key performance indicators. From the above-mentioned metrics, the manager selects the proper progress indicators for different business departments. For example, Human Resources might be interested in gender equity data. Sales might be interested in production data. Technology might be interested in number of software patches in a six-month period. The role of a corporate board is to determine relevant metrics to make good investment decisions for the business. These form key performance indicators (KPIs) used as hard evidence in annual reports that the company is achieving its strategic and operational goals.

Simply put, metrics are like squares and rectangles. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. So in this case all KPIs are metrics, but not all metrics are KPIs. Could that be an important consideration for counter-trafficking activities? Data collected by the private sector is vastly different than trafficking data collected by government agencies, NGOs and civil society. But in their data measurement dilemma, have squares swallowed the rectangles?

Counter-Trafficking Model: Road Rally

It is universally agreed that national governments bear the responsibility to eliminate trafficking in human beings and eradicate modern slavery. My supposition is that the trafficking business model is a bullet train on invisible tracks barreling into illegal profit; private sector business models are company cars on the Daytona Speedway racing each other for market position and profit, and the business model for national governments is funding a Road Rally where participants, driving lanes, finish lines and information mapping aren’t always visible.

To be clear, the “Road Rally” model is not chaos; it is progress. Governments support, develop and implement public service portfolios for civil improvements and economic value through their agencies and partnerships. Actor organizations are training to build capacity, re-tooling, budgeting, running successful projects, making arrests, getting convictions, sentencing, sheltering, advocating, educating, etc. and represent a mixture of civil society, the private sector, and Public Private Partnerships. All of the actors take on different investment roles depending on their involvement. However, a government’s stewardship for national economy, national security and a changing political agenda make human trafficking data collection, measurements and resiliency difficult to calculate. In addition, human rights is not about measuring profit, it is about recognizing human value. With such a wide range of stakeholders, different organizations may not even agree on which metrics are key performance indicators. For example, in the Prosecute phase how pertinent is the number of convictions if the sentences are not commensurate with the crime? How relevant are sentences if victims do not receive any compensation or restitution? It really depends on how you look at the data to see the “rectangular” accounting.

What if there was a way to answer this Road Rally challenge by adopting a tactic from the Speedway? Government doesn’t need to solve Rubik’s Cube; they simply need to find the squares in the rectangles – internationally agreed key performance indicators. The Sustainable Rescue lifecycle framework may be an enabling aerial point of view to measure impact and knock the bullet train off the tracks.


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