Margaret Henderson participated in the most recent session of Faculty Lunches with the Dean—which continues to be one of the many good recommendations that emerged from the School’s strategic foresight process. Margaret in recent years has spent most of her time teaching in the MPA Program with a special emphasis on the field of nonprofit management. She also is a part of the leadership faculty in our work with public officials and has contributed to the School in a number of other ways.
Margaret shared with the group her growing work on anti-human trafficking efforts. Since October 2017, she has spent half of her time working on Project No Rest, a statewide effort to increase awareness and prevention around human trafficking. Project No Rest is a part of a grant to the UNC School of Social Work that covers Margaret’s time on the project.
One feature of the project is a public awareness campaign in partnership with Fox News/WRAL that includes public service announcements and news stories. Awareness is critically important in reducing trafficking, and this initiative has reached 80% of North Carolinians. That is remarkable. There is a national human trafficking hotline (Polaris), and calls from North Carolina have increased 77% during the first quarter of 2017, which corresponds with the launch of the public awareness campaign. This increased reporting does not necessarily represent an increase in trafficking, but instead it demonstrates a positive change in the public’s willingness to identify and report human trafficking.
Another feature of the project is to provide financial and technical assistance to community-based collaborations at five pilot sites across North Carolina. The original plan was that Margaret would provide technical support to the pilots, but it turned out that those places were not too interested in outside assistance. As a result, Margaret has shifted her focus to facilitating the work of North Carolina’s Human Trafficking Commission. She also is exploring how local government staff in positions other than law enforcement, social services or the court system might help in identifying human trafficking. Certain environmental conditions are more likely than others to enable trafficking, and Margaret is looking into how staff can be more vigilant in looking for signs of trafficking when those conditions are present.
Margaret also plans to work on improving collaboration and communication between local governments and nonprofits on human trafficking issues. Her work at the School on the Public Intersection Project, which has focused on cross-organizational collaboration, along with her experience with responding to and preventing sexual violence, gives Margaret the ideal background for this work. Margaret is interested in exploring how to use other resources at the School and across Carolina to reduce human trafficking.
For many of us human trafficking is invisible. It almost seems like a parallel universe that is hard to comprehend—and yet it is extensive and incredibly harmful. Margaret, along with colleagues at the School of Social Work, is trying to make it more visible so that collectively we can reduce it to the greatest extent possible. It is an important goal.