Human Trafficking Blog

Data Potential: How Research Can Turn Trafficking Upside Down

As the up|END Campaign carries on, we’re taking time to highlight ways in which research can upend this crime. In today’s post, “Data Potential: How Research Can Turn Trafficking Upside Down”, we’re honored to feature Dr. Annie Miller from our Board of Directors. In true Laboratory-style, adding Dr. Miller’s Public Affairs expertise into our mix of disciplines has enriched our research. Notably, her recent dissertation work included partnership data from the Colorado Project. You can support research that will upend human trafficking today by visiting

Utilizing Data, Upending Human Exploitation

Big data and analytics are all the rage these days. You hear it in every commercial, every business, government, and nonprofit organizations preaching best practices and data utilization. But it isn’t always clear how organizations use that data to improve service, performance, or make a difference in your day-to-day. As the chair of the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking’s research committee, I wanted to take time during our up|END Campaign to give you a behind the scenes look at how we utilize data toward ending human exploitation.

Exploring Promising Practices

LCHT believes community-based research is the best opportunity to develop a roadmap to end human trafficking. Community-based research is in our DNA and has been since the founding of the organization. We launched the Colorado Project in 2010 to explore promising practices across the state. The whole state. No need for eye rolls that we only included Denver or Boulder.  We intentionally went out to Ute land in the southwest corner of the state, gathered insights from partners in the Roaring Fork Valley,  learned about efforts to reduce labor trafficking in the San Luis Valley, and heard from coalitions in northeast Colorado about developing partnerships. And yes, our Metro Denver and Front Range friends were at the table, too. But we want to be sure we cover all corners of the state.

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A Research Model that Helps Communities

At LCHT, we believe the best data out there are data that come directly from partners doing the work. Community-based research means that we work in tandem with survivors, providers, and advocates to create action plans and roadmaps that meet their distinct needs. The top-down (e.g. mandated by government) and disconnected approaches to research aren’t helping communities make change. We produce research that seeks to make doing the work of ending trafficking easier.

Our comprehensive research is informed though the U.S. State Department’s 4P Model. The 4P model is one of the best ways we’ve found to structure, develop, and report efforts. Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, and Partnership comprise the Ps.

  • Prevention is the awareness, advocacy, and education programs that we hope permeate communities.
  • Protection is the capacity for communities to support survivors.
  • Prosecution is the area where we explore efforts in the criminal justice system.
  • Partnership allows us to determine how various players in each community work together and support each other’s efforts.

Together, the 4Ps create a comprehensive response to end human trafficking.

There is so much to be excited about when it comes to research. And we understand that data and research might be terms that make you cringe (I know that is how many of my students feel ;). But don’t fret, our work is accessible, connected to real world change, and making a tangible difference in the movement. This year we launched the Colorado Anti-Trafficking Exchange to collect real time data on efforts happening in every nook and cranny of the state. This is one project where every person we know can participate because we need to know what you see in your community.  Within the Exchange, you can note what anti-trafficking efforts you see in your community. In 2018, we’ll launch Colorado Project 2.0 and will again traverse the state to work with focus groups, community agencies, and partners to create an updated roadmap on the efforts of all involved in this powerful and growing movement.

All of these research and data collection efforts make the movement stronger. When we are able to effectively share successes, lessons learned, and develop plans together to comprehensively end human trafficking, we have the capacity to turn exploitation upside down.

New to the up|END Campaign? Hear what it’s all about from our Executive Director Amanda Finger: