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New Research Group on Modern Slavery is ‘Kickstarted’ into Action

16 October 2023

On 27 July this year, an enthusiastic group of expert academics and external partners from industry, business, the public, private, and voluntary sectors came together for a ‘kick-off’ event at Cardiff University to launch a new Modern Slavery and Social Sustainability Research Group.

The Group, established by Dr Maryam Lotfi from the Business School and Dr Anna Skeels from SPARK is  a high profile, cutting edge, proactive research collaboration on modern slavery and social sustainability.

Whilst research groups and centres focusing on modern slavery exist, there is no dedicated research collaboration on modern slavery within the context of social sustainability in Wales or the UK. The unique legislative and policy context produced by the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 in Wales provides a conducive environment to explore both modern slavery and social sustainability feeding into ‘what works’ for both current and future generations.

Members of the Research Group include academics from Cardiff University from across the Business School, School of Social Sciences, SPARK and School of Law and Politics. Affiliate members are from a range of academic institutions from across the UK including University College Dublin, University of Nottingham Rights Lab, Aberystwyth and Sheffield Hallam Universities, as well as from overseas.  External partners include Barnardos, Unseen UK, the Welsh Government’s Anti-Slavery Wales Forum and ESC International.

The ‘kick-off’ event was funded and supported by the Security, Crime and Intelligence Innovation Institute’s (SCIII) Kickstarter Fund.  SCIII brings together world-leading inter-disciplinary research units to develop innovative solutions to the problems of crime, global security, and social control. The Research Group aligns with its focus on crime, violence and policing in relation to detection, prevention and response to modern slavery including child slavery, child sexual and child criminal exploitation, human trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude, and social sustainability including modern slavery risk management.

Setting up and launching a new research group requires intensive work over a short period of time to give the new group a strong membership core, sufficient internal and external profile, and momentum.  The Kickstarter Fund was able to boost and further sustain this early-stage activity by supporting the event.

At the multi-disciplinary and multi-agency event, participants confirmed the identified gap and need for a new Research Group of this kind.  A diverse and talented group attended, and space was made for all to input briefly through ‘lightning talks’ on their relevant work and interests and motivation for joining.  Participants fed back positively on the range and content of inputs shared and the potential for future collaboration around two initial areas of research focus: (1) engagement of people with lived experience of modern slavery in research and (2) supply chain modern slavery risk management.  Small group conversations were kick-started in these two domains and contacts made for future collaboration.

Since the event, a six-month programme of monthly meetings with expert inputs from members, affiliates and external partners has been confirmed.  We have already held one meeting earlier this month and we are excited about the opportunities these discussions will provide.

Anna Skeels, Co-Chair, Modern Slavery and Social Sustainability Research Group