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Engagement of lived experience in international policy and programming

Research project exploring best practice in the engagement of people with lived experience of modern slavery in international policy and programming.

Published: 10th November 2022

This is a report and a summary of the research: A Review of Promising Practices in the Engagement of People with Lived Experience to Address Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. The research was commissioned by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to assess the effectiveness of survivor engagement in international policy and programming on modern slavery, following the recommendations of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) review into The UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme. The project was led by the University of Liverpool as a consortium partner of the Modern Slavery PEC.

The research was conducted by Dr Wendy Asquith (Modern Slavery PEC Research Fellow, University of Liverpool), Dr Allen Kiconco (Visiting Research Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand), Professor Alex Balch (Modern Slavery PEC Director Research, University of Liverpool), as well as the team of Regional Consultants: Ling Li (Independent Consultant), Benedetta Wasonga (Director Gender, Justice and Human Rights at the Centre for Equality Diversity and Inclusion (CEDI)), Chris Ash, (Survivor Leadership Program Manager, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking), Dr Sutirtha Sahariah (Independent Consultant), and the Azadi Kenya team including Caroline Adhiambo (Research and Learning Advisor), Emma Christensen (Learning and Development Officer), Sharon Lucky Jonyo (Consultant), and W Consultant).

Throughout this project efforts were made to facilitate and encourage those with lived experience of modern slavery and human trafficking to be fully involved in co-developing and co-producing the research, while not requiring disclosure.

Key findings:

  1. High-quality and meaningful engagement of people with lived experience of modern slavery improves policies and programmes designed to tackle this global challenge and its root causes, as well benefitting affected individuals, communities and ally-colleagues
  2. Significant regional variance in the meaning, understanding and political context for use of the terms 'survivor', 'survivor engagement' and 'modern slavery' indicates that blanket deployment of such terms can alienate and even endanger some affected communities, with potential to cause harms and result in ineffective policies and programmes.
  3. The research identified a typology of 14 promising practices in engagement of people with lived experience. Most of these practices centre on engagement in programme development, implementation and evaluation, with less evidence of engagement in policy design.
  4. Best practices of engaging people with lived experience are underpinned by three key principles: being non-tokenistic, being trauma-informed and preventing harm.


For the UK Government:

  1. Take measures to ensure that initiatives are non-tokenistic, trauma-informed and prevent harm.
  2. Pursue partnerships with lived experience-, or survivor-led organisations, networks and coalitions.
  3. Undertake a process of identifying context-specific, non-exclusionary terminologies with local stakeholders (including those with lived experience), to avoid alienation or harm.
  4. Ensure inclusion of people with lived experience is high-quality and multi-level, meaning engagement takes place at every level of government activity that relates to international modern slavery policy and programming.
  5. Take measures to make opportunities open, inclusive and accessible to a diversity of people with lived experience without requiring disclosure of lived experience identity.
  6. Put in place organisational policies and procedures to ensure fair and equitable remuneration for all work undertaken by people with lived experience.
  7. The FCDO modern slavery policy team should work across Government to set up a mechanism or mechanisms to involve people with lived experience to ensure people with lived experience are involved in strategic-level decision-making, setting of objectives and policy priorities.
  8. Teams involved in designing and delivering modern slavery programmes should consider opportunities for involvement of people with lived experience at every phase of design and delivery.

Regional reports

We are also publishing reports from the regional consultants with reflections on meaningful engagement of people with lived experience in particular regions.