BRIDGING INFORMATION AND RESOURCE GAPS IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The TIP Lab’s BRIGHT Project developed from a needs assessment conducted by the lab in the Fall of 2020. For the needs assessment, a team of faculty and students interviewed over 100 community partners who are engaged in anti-trafficking work; including individuals serving on the frontlines in direct client services up through the organization to CEOs, across multiple stakeholder groups to include non-profit organizations, law enforcement officers, judicial representatives, and trafficking survivors. Two key themes emerged from this needs assessment – a need for better data on human trafficking, and a more efficient way to connect trafficking victims to the services they need. Specifically, it was indicated that there was a need for an integrated service network to identify and locate services provided by other anti-trafficking organizations more easily.
The pilot of BRIGHT launched in February of 2023 in the Greater Tampa Bay area. During our pilot, we consistently researched and made improvements to the referral system to ensure that it fits the providers’ needs and reflects the voices of survivors. Every aspect of the system’s features is derived from the input of survivors and those working in the anti-trafficking movement identified as crucial. The pilot phase of BRIGHT ended in November 2023, with a re-vamped system housed by the University of South Florida expected to launch in the early spring of 2024. Keeping the project housed at the University of South Florida allows for enhanced data protection, an ability to make updates and upgrade features as indicated by the users and to keep the system free to those who use the system.
Over the past three years, we have worked with a core development team of trusted partners who are recognized as leaders in the anti-trafficking movement in Florida that have guided our build and decision making each step of the way. It is imperative that the voices of survivors and the community are central to the continued development of this project.
BRIGHT is an online, vetted, secure, resource referral network for those who look for and/or those who provide services to individuals of trafficking. Currently, the BRIGHT network serves confirmed or potential adult victims of sex and/or labor trafficking throughout the State of Florida. BRIGHT allows providers to get their clients connected to services in a timelier manner, without the need for multiple searches or calls. With BRIGHT, an individual can simultaneously search and locate all the different services that they may need for their client – saving time, reducing compassion fatigue, and creating a seamless continuum of care for survivors. As the platform grows and more partners are added, the list of available resources will expand to reflect available services. However, services currently in the network include Care Management, Daily Needs, Education, Employment, Healthcare, Housing, Legal Services, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Support Network, and Transportation.
BRIGHT informs service providers of available resources by tracking which agencies are currently able to provide services and which are at capacity, while empowering choice in services. The network also establishes and improves standards of care for service providers by holding each organization in the system to a standard of trauma-informed, survivor-informed, and victim-centered care. BRIGHT imposes quality control measures for service providers and confidentiality protection for survivors: elements that are currently missing from the anti-trafficking service arena. Currently, there are no universal standards for measuring the effectiveness, stability, or reliability of victim assistance agencies. Survivors and case managers alike must rely on their own experience or the experience of others to determine if a provider is legitimate and will offer quality services. Instead, BRIGHT assesses these aspects and provides an interconnected network of services that are safe, secure, and trusted.
Providers can choose how much information about their client they wish to share with another organization, ensuring VAWA/G compliancy when applicable. However, through the use of the system, BRIGHT collects data on client demographics and requested services to inform on organization needs, availability, and successes that can be used to inform an organization’s own programs as well as to help more strategically direct resources. Users of the system are able to generate a report of the referrals that they have sent and received to utilize for grant applications or for sponsor reports. This same data will provide the TIP Lab with unduplicated and more comprehensive data on human trafficking, including prevalence, survivor demographics, and services accessed, all of which have been extremely difficult to gather – due in part because of the hidden nature of the problem, but also because of the lack of a coordinated, collaborative service provider network. All information entered into BRIGHT follows HIPPA compliancy.
Stay tuned for upcoming manuscripts related to the usage and development of BRIGHT.
We are grateful for The University of South Florida, the NSF i-CORPS program, the Greene Foundation and the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners for funds to support this project to date.