Last week I discussed the need to find solutions to the problems that we face. One program (of the many innovative initiatives) that Not For Sale has undertaken is the Free2Work program. I have been training on this program for the last three days and will be working as a Free2Work research fellow for the duration of my fellowship. The Free2Work program assesses a company’s effort to ensure that child and forced labor practices do not occur in its supply chain. Free2Work aggregates publically available information regarding a company’s corporate social responsibility, transparency, monitoring systems, codes of conduct, and policies, to be accessible and readable to a consumer, all in one place. Consumers can become informed as to whether child or labor trafficking has occurred in the making of a product that they are looking at purchasing by scanning the product’s barcode using the Free2Work App. Consumers that own less-smartphones (like me), can peruse the same information on the Free2Work website. The Not For Sale Free2Work program allows for engagement and integration on the issues of human trafficking in our everyday lives, to be able to be aware of the products that surround us, and to allow us to make more informed choices to prevent and decrease the demand of slave-made products. For anyone that is interested in seeing the problem of human-trafficking eliminated within our lifetime, but rationalize that they are unsure of how they can contribute, this is your entry-point towards a solution. This is an integral step to the movement and a project that we as a country can use to continuously assess, critique, and engage in the movement locally.
I was privileged to hear David Batstone speak this week at one of our weekly meetings. David talked to us about the need to build scalable, intelligently designed social enterprises that will have a global impact. He talked to us about seeing a project from 40,000 feet in the air, and how we should always be thinking proactively of the consequences and results we want to see from the projects that we conceive. I am reminded that even though we may have the best of intentions for a project that we create, we may not think them all the way through, and the implications that they may encounter.
I called to mind several fantastically large projects that have had a global impact, but weren’t necessarily thought out to the end product. I thought of the ongoing campaign to provide mosquito nets to malaria stricken zones and how we as an international community, banded together to provide nets to those in need. Where we thought we were doing good for a community, we forgot about the local business enterprises that already existed, and that providing free nets massed produced in a foreign country led local entrepreneurs, who were making a living by making mosquito nets, driven out of business and away from the opportunity of providing for their own family. Could we have invested differently in this project and perhaps ended with the same result? Of course. It’s difficult to determine how and when good situations can turn sour, and when and how we measure if one project is doing more good than harm. What I’ll take away from what David said is – we have to see the end result, 40,000 feet in the air, and work backwards from there. Only then can we better predict the impact we will make, and better assess the steps we have to take to get there in the future.