The Freedom Fund is a new philanthropic partnership between Humanity United, Walk Free, and the Legatum Foundation designed to bring much-needed financial resources and strategic focus to the fight against modern-day slavery. Founded on the premise that current philanthropic efforts in the anti-slavery space are insufficient and highly fragmented, and working with the support of leaders in the sector, the Fund will seek to raise and strategically align more than $100 million in an effort to bring about a measurable reduction in slavery by the year 2020.
Each founding donor will contribute at least $10 million to the Freedom Fund over seven years. In exchange, they will create and oversee the strategic direction of the Fund and will act as board members. In addition to programmatic work, founder support cover all of the backbone infrastructure expenditures for the Fund (estimated at $2 million per year), freeing up future donations to be solely channeled toward programmatic activities. Backbone expenditures include resources to plan, manage, and support the initiative through facilitation, technology and communications support, data collection and reporting, and handling of administrative and logistical details. In addition, a distinct physical office will be set up and a CEO and dedicated staff will be hired to oversee day-to-day Fund activities. The Fund will also provide a 501c3 public charity mechanism to accept donations from interested parties.
The Fund will deploy philanthropic capital using a 'hotspot' intervention model that targets resources to the geographic areas where prevalence of modern-day slavery is highest. Given estimates that two-thirds of the world's slaves reside in only 10 countries, resources will be directed to most or all of these areas during the life of the Fund. Several thematic clusters of work critical for combating slavery (e.g., influencing corporate commitment to addressing forced labor in supply chains across geographies) will also be incorporated into the Fund's focus areas. Like-minded donors working on these geographies or themes will have the opportunity to share information and learn from each other. Overall, these efforts will support the mutual goals of significantly augmenting current funding while attracting additional funding to the space, and enabling the sector to allocate resources in the most productive manner.
The founders of the Freedom Fund are Humanity United, the Legatum Foundation, and Walk Free. The partners will engage a search firm to seek an outstanding CEO, with the goal to hire the CEO by March of 2014. The plan is to officially launch the Fund in the first quarter of 2014.
Prior to the 2014 launch, the Fund will formalize the bylaws and governance structure, hire additional staff members, agree to office location and identify office space, polish and refine the Fund's strategy, develop marketing materials and collateral, build out IT infrastructure, develop and approve a detailed operational budget, begin prospecting additional potential donors, and establish a 501c3 public charity mechanism in the United States as well as a similar vehicle in the UK to accept donations from engaged parties.
Following the public launch in 2014, the Fund aims to initiate work in up to five hotspots in the first 18 months of operations followed by an additional five by the end of year three. The corresponding fundraising goal is also to have raised $30M by the end of the third year of operation.
Modern-day slavery exists in nearly every country in the world. It is estimated that it generates profits of over $32 billion annually; and nearly half of these profits are made in wealthy industrialized countries. The ILO estimates that 21 million men, women, and children are trafficking victims at any given time. By its nature, this scourge exists in the shadows and it takes many forms: sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor or debt bondage, involuntary domestic servitude, and forced child labor, among others. A majority of victims (approximately 55%) are women and girls and approximately a quarter of those trafficked are victims of sex trafficking.
Despite growing awareness of the enormity of the problem, the public and private resources available are wholly inadequate to combat it in all its forms. While it is difficult to generate a comprehensive understanding of global investments to fight slavery, it is clear that current philanthropic efforts to fight trafficking are insufficient and highly fragmented. For example, in 2010 a total of 150 U.S. foundations gave a mere $12 million in grants to address modern-day slavery, and 60% of these grants were under $50,000. In addition, the U.S. Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons grants only $16 million yearly to attack a global problem.
Compounding the problem, and despite best intentions, donor funding is often siloed and uncoordinated, so individual actors miss the opportunity to join forces in a way that creates scalable and lasting change. The hidden, diffuse, multifaceted, and widespread nature of the problem has made a coordinated and concentrated response that much more difficult. Until now, there has been no unifying or coordinating leadership to align efforts and strategy. Understandably, the individual priorities of different donors have led to responses that have tended to be more scattershot and short-lived. Without more resources, clear leadership, and a long-term strategic approach, future responses, however noble in intent, are likely to be no more effective at durably and significantly diminishing modern slavery.