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Most businesses don’t ask a leading university to mark their homework. But that’s what we’ve chosen to do.
Okay, it’s not exactly our homework, but something much more important.
We asked the University of Liverpool to evaluate one of the main parts of our Modern Slavery campaign, the Bright Future project which is helping those rescued from slavery back into normal society. We’ve been doing that through offering training in our stores and depots, and, if things work out, offering a permanent, paid position in our business. The project is a big part of fulfilling the Modern Slavery motion passed by our members at this years AGM.
So far we’ve helped twelve people and we hope to have supported thirty survivors by the first full year of the project next March.
We’re pleased with the progress we’re making but we’re far from complacent. We still have much to learn. We want to do this right.
Our intention is to expand our Bright Future project so we can help far more people. But before we do that we need to evaluate the work we’ve done so far. That’s how we do things commercially, we try something new and then we see if it’s working. Usually we discover there are improvements to make before we move on and that’s our approach to Bright Future too.
So we asked Dr Alex Balch, Co-Director of the Centre for the International Study of Slavery at the University of Liverpool, to lead this evaluation into the first few months of our work.
Dr. Balch has been assisted by Professor Gary Craig from the Wilberforce Institute, at the University of Hull; Kate Roberts from the Human Trafficking Foundation; and Alex Woods a PhD candidate at the University of Liverpool.
They’ve looked closely at what we’ve been doing; they’ve spoken to our co-op colleagues working on this in stores and depots and within our HR team; and, most importantly, to those people we’ve offered training to and permanent jobs.
You can read the Independent Interim Review on Bright Future on our website but here, in summary, are the main recommendations:
- Build stronger day to day relationships with our charity partners
- Consider practical help for survivors before they start the training
- Track the long term impact of the project on the individuals helped
- Increase resource and training for our own Co-op colleagues to enable expansion of the work
- Develop more charity partnership around the UK to enable a national scale
- Use our experience to influence government policy.
In conclusion the report says:
“In our view the Co-op’s Bright Future programme constitutes an extremely valuable initiative that can point to success, providing the foundations to grow. It puts the Co-op at the forefront of business efforts to address modern slavery in the UK”.
That’s not a bad first report and I want to thank the University of Liverpool for taking on the task of this independent evaluation. We’re going to take on board the findings, we’re going to develop the project further and get ready for expansion next year.
Co-op Group CEO