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UK: +44 (0) 2070528285
IE: +353 (0) 51 833 958

Shining light on a hidden crime in Greater Manchester

Authors:  

Julia Muraszkiewicz
- Head of Sociotech Insights Group

Date: 14 September 2022

The Honeycomb project, commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority, focuses on using data to illuminate insights from facts and the hidden stories of human trafficking and modern slavery. Supported by the University of Manchester, Trilateral Research is leveraging its cloud-based platform, STRIAD, and our sociotech approach to enable the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to act on data that is spread across different organisations, integrate disparate information sources and make the best possible use of the data while respecting best legal and ethical practice. Novel insights inform evidence-based policymaking and the design of effective responses.

The Problem

Human trafficking and modern slavery remain one of the hardest crimes to solve, driven by a range of inter-related issues – from armed conflict and organised crime; to poverty, displacement and migration; through to sexual violence and gross human rights violations. They are crimes that have profound personal, social and economic costs.

Experts estimate that human trafficking for sexual exploitation currently costs the UK at least £980 million each year, while organised child exploitation is believed to cost the UK £1.1 billion a year. National and transnational crime, in which many victims of modern slavery are involuntarily involved, are estimated to cost the UK at least £24 billion annually. Regrettably stakeholders lack the adequate resources to properly address this crime, this includes: money, time and use of tech. While information, data, reporting, and response pressures increase almost unendingly, the resources do not. The volume of information increases exponentially, but most organisations’ data processing capabilities remain linear. Staff have less time to dig through more noise. Something must change. Something can change with Honeycomb.

Our Approach

Honeycomb is developed:

Using co-design methods: a participatory process that treats end-users and technology specialists as equals throughout the entirety of design. In doing so, it aims to define the problems and envision their solutions simultaneously.

Leveraging sociotech approaches: considering both social and technical factors in the design and development of the solution. We bring together our experts in data science, social science, data engineering, data protection, ethics, software development, cloud engineering and UI/UX to execute such an approach.

Through ethical technology: whether it is choosing our data or building our Natural Language Processing (NLP) models, we prioritise the application of ethical thinking to the practical concerns of technology.

Our work has focused on key four areas:

Facilitating data sharing and supplementing data

We work closely with the user and relevant stakeholders to overcome data silos and facilitate the sharing of data and information – this is crucial, when every piece of data can make all the difference. Our in-house experts also collect, curate and create additional data to bolster the situational picture of human trafficking.

Finding insights in hidden data

Using custom-built NLP tools, Honeycomb analyses a large number of victim stories and statements to reveal crucial anti-trafficking insights – including patterns and types of exploitation, exploitation transit routes, victims’ needs and desires, key locations, and other factors – helping the user more fully understand human trafficking.

Mapping human trafficking and comparing data across time

Honeycomb’s mapping feature lets users search and visualise structured and unstructured data insights on a map, including points of interest, hotspots, socio-economic and demographic data, and location-based insights from victim stories. The user can also compare all data across time.

Using subject matter expertise

Honeycomb’s mapping feature lets users search and visualise structured and unstructured data insights on a map, including points of interest, hotspots, socio-economic and demographic data, and location-based insights from victim stories. The user can also compare all data across time.

Benefits

By adopting Trilateral’s approach, we have enabled:

Data sharing between law enforcement, researchers, local authority and NGOs 

Better prevention and protection efforts by signposting where there are needs for new partnerships with stakeholders

Improved support to survivors of trafficking by aligning support packages with what survivors’ actually need and want

Optimising limited anti-trafficking resources by quickly surfacing otherwise hidden patterns, trends, and insights, thus allowing targeted response

Holistic perspectivists by linking modern slavery and human trafficking to other issues, thus allowing stakeholders to save resources

The use of easy to understand evidence to influence change

What our client says

Trilateral has engaged with our partnership to understand what we are trying to achieve and are building a solution to enable that to happen. The team have the expertise and approaches to translate complex requirements into tangible outputs that can be used to make a real world difference to how we tackle modern slavery and human trafficking.

Sian Payne
Partnership Officer for Programme Challenger, Greater Manchester Combined Authority