This month, Tech Against Trafficking (TAT) launched the third iteration of its flagship Accelerator program, partnering with Issara Institute and Polaris Project’s Nonechka program. TAT aims to exponentially accelerate the impact of the promising technology platforms that these organizations have built to address labor exploitation and trafficking.

Launched in 2019, the Tech Against Trafficking Accelerator Program identifies promising uses of technology in the anti-trafficking field and harnesses the expertise and resources of TAT members and advisors to advance and scale these technology solutions that assist victims, law enforcement, business, and civil society.

With rates of forced labor rising around the world, and with a multitude of regulations aimed at addressing these issues, companies are increasingly exploring the use of technology to identify and address forced labor in their supply chains. Along those lines, the thematic focus for this year’s Accelerator will be forced labor, as both Issara Institute and Polaris Project’s Nonechka program aim to eliminate labor exploitation and end labor trafficking through their work.

For the next nine months, the two organizations will work with member companies—Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Salesforce—to solve existing challenges and identify new ways to scale their technology platforms.

Building on the Success of TAT’s Previous Work

The 2023 Accelerator builds on the momentum and outcomes of the first two cycles.

The inaugural Accelerator in 2019 supported the Counter Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC) to develop privacy-preserving mechanisms and best practices related to data standardization.

TAT’s second Accelerator supported the Lantern Project (previously Seattle Against Slavery) and Unseen UK in generating stronger insights from the human trafficking data that they collect, in turn helping the organizations improve operational efficiency and provide more effective services.

Introducing the 2023 Accelerator Cohort

The TAT selection process for the 2023 cohort sought to build on TAT’s prior investment in privacy-preserving mechanisms and pattern recognition methods by identifying anti-trafficking organizations that can leverage these advancements in pursuit of their unique objectives.

Issara Institute and Polaris were chosen in part for their ability to meet this criterion, in addition to bringing new opportunities related to the use of technology to combat trafficking. The rigorous selection process evaluated the impact, scalability, sustainability, interoperability, and effectiveness of the participants’ platforms.

Over the course of the Accelerator, TAT members and advisors will work with Issara Institute and Polaris on several different challenges, ranging from improving long-term technology architecture to improving worker engagement, and leveraging data insights to better understand the experience of those in situations of labor exploitation.

Issara Institute was founded in 2014 with a mission to eliminate labor abuses and exploitation in global supply chains through worker voice, partnership, and innovation. Issara’s technology platforms are developed and managed in-house: the Inclusive Labour Monitoring (ILM) system, an online dashboard for business to have ongoing visibility of worker-reported feedback, risk and labor issues, worker validated remediation, and impact, and the Golden Dreams smartphone app, a Yelp-like platform developed in collaboration with jobseekers and foreign migrant workers to empower, reduce vulnerability, and support responsible recruitment. During the Accelerator, Issara Institute will focus on improving its technology architecture and scaling these two solutions to be able to serve more workers, NGOs, and businesses across a wider geography.

“The Issara team is thrilled to have been selected as a 2023 Tech Against Trafficking Accelerator awardee and to be able to collaborate with leading technology companies. Our organization is entering a pivotal stage of growth and expansion, and being able to have access to the resources, experiences, expertise of this group is truly unparalleled. Together we are going to connect more businesses, governments, conscientious consumers, advocates, academics, and others directly to worker insights, experiences, and needs—at scale and in real-time. And we will be helping so many amazing grassroots NGOs and trade unions in using this tech, being heard, and achieving their own goals as well.”

– Lisa Rende Taylor, Executive Director at Issara Institute

Polaris, who runs the US National Human Trafficking hotline, was established in 2002 with a mission to end sex and labor trafficking and to help survivors reclaim their freedom. In partnership with Ulula, Polaris has created a mobile technology platform called Nonechka, a two-way communication tool that connects isolated migrant workers with crucial support networks, and collects information about dynamics of exploitation. Nonechka is primarily used by agricultural workers in the US and Mexico. Over the course of the Accelerator, Polaris will focus on analyzing the data gathered through Nonechka. This analysis will inform prevention efforts and increase accountability.

“We are grateful for the selection of Nonechka for the Accelerator Program. The collaboration with the Tech Against Trafficking team will allow us to unlock the full potential of this tool. This worker-centered technology provides isolated workers with information, and connects them with networks of support. The Accelerator program team will help us to scale our data analysis capacity and break isolation for workers who are at high risk of exploitation.”

– Andrea Rojas, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Polaris

TAT looks forward to sharing the outcomes of this Accelerator with the broader anti-trafficking community in Fall 2023. If you are interested in supporting the program as a volunteer, please fill out the contributor interest form.

This was originally published on Business for Social Responsibility Blog

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