Good Intentions Aren't Enough!

We can solve the problem of sex trafficking, and every other problem too, with the decision to do it – and the commitment to do it properly. It is my opinion that there exists in this world the money, talent and skills, or the capacity to develop the necessary skills, to solve every single problem in the world.

But good intentions aren’t enough.  

If something matters enough to do, then it matters enough to do it right.  

The first two years of running Free To Shine involved a lot of research and a hunger to learn.  If I was going to work every hour of every day for the next fifteen years on this, then I needed it to be something I could put my name to with full integrity.

I didn’t want to leave a negative footprint.

There are many problems in the world that need solving, and every charity should start with an effective solution that actually solves the problem, at its roots.

Charities are trying to fix the world’s biggest problems, so it’s reasonable to expect that it’ll take quite a long time, but if a charity is required on a never-ending basis – for years and years and years – then it might be assisting people in a particular situation but it probably isn’t resolving the root causes or preventing the problem arising in the future.

I initially thought I’d work in sex trafficking rescue and after-care, but after spending a month with survivors, asking them how I could help, it became apparent that it was prevention that was still required. I knew the survivors were right when they told me about the revolving door of girls – when a girl is rescued, the traffickers just go out into a rural village and take another girl, and that if those girls had been in school, then they wouldn’t have been trafficked.  

So we began reviewing research, statistics and recommendations to help us design a program we believed would work. In conjunction with people already working across Cambodia in child protection, anti-trafficking, alleviation of poverty or increasing access to education, we implemented a trial of our program and assessed and evaluated and improved it over a two-year period until we knew we’d got it right.  

Good intentions on their own aren’t enough; like all good businesses, charities should be built on robust systems and processes. We have learned which villages the traffickers will target, and we know how they identify the most vulnerable when they get there. We have designed a detailed initial assessment process, which utilises a 100-point risk assessment tool we developed in conjunction with other anti-trafficking organisations. The detailed assessment is completed by our Cambodian social workers, which is then submitted to our volunteer social workers in Australia for processing, so it can be assessed more objectively.

Good charities don’t focus on what they’ve been doing; they focus on results, on the impact they’ve had. So we measure impact, not activity. We have a Quarterly Impact Report, which means we don’t simply share what we’ve been doing but report in a focused way the impact our program has had each quarter.  

We spend money well. There’s no fancy office fit-outs or four-wheel drives for traveling around the country in air-conditioned comfort. We get about on little motorbikes. Because we refuse to have inefficiencies, our money goes a long way. With our first $1 million, we secured the safety of 700 girls, across 45 schools, 44 rural villages; conducted 24,000 family visits, 78 community trainings, had 5000 library books being read, provided hundreds of bikes, thousands of school uniforms, books and pens, 432 water filters, gave 10 types of seeds to each family and built 15 houses!

We’ve successfully secured the safety of more than 760 girls in the Siem Reap province.  Once we enrol the other girls at risk in the Siem Reap province, and secure the whole province from traffickers, we’ll replicate our program in the next province, and the next, and the next.  

We have an exit plan; secure the safety of each girl at high risk of being targeted by sex traffickers, help her and her famly achieve their basic human rights, and develop girl’s leadership skills. In this way, in time, Free To Shine will be able to exit Cambodia knowing that the future of the country, and the safety of each future child, is in their capable hands. They’ll be equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to ensure the safety, education, rights and opportunity of all children. We can then focus our attention on the second and third country.  

We have developed a model that works and we provide an opportunity for people to engage in a strategic partnership that changes the world, in a reliable way, using a system that works, and is scalable. We have made it possible, easy and rewarding for people to leverage the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired to make a meaningful, effective and practical contribution to something that really matters.  

If you’re in business, then you too are in the business of solving problems – for your clients or customers. How do you ensure that you’re doing it properly?

And if you’re leveraging your business to help solve a global problem, how are you ensuring you’re doing that properly?