Hidden Voices: Five key lessons for taking action on modern slavery

Since last year we have been working with David Maggs, the Mission Team Leader for the Diocese of Bath and Wells, on rolling out our Hidden Voices course. He has run two courses in the diocese so far, in Bridgwater and Minehead, and will shortly be rolling out another one in Chard.

David has worked on social justice for 25 years and says that “Hidden Voices is one of the best tools I have used in those 25 years – the journey the group goes on in only around 8-10 hours of contact time is truly remarkable.”

In Bridgwater they have already planned over 32 follow-up actions as a result of the course, including a Car Wash action day and a stall at a church event for 400 people.

David speaking at our National Network Day

David speaking at our National Network Day

At our national gathering in May, we invited David to talk about his experiences of using Hidden Voices. He shared five of his key learnings so far.

1. Go where you are invited

Getting together a group for the first session of Hidden Voices can be a challenge. Initially the team gave out blanket invites but this didn’t yield much engagement. Ros, a member of the Diocesan Modern Slavery Team, then took the time to meet people individually, approaching local churches and community projects. This was time consuming, but reaped rewards with over 30 people coming to the first session.

2. Open the microphone to other organisations

Sometimes one of the most difficult concepts for people to grasp about modern slavery is just how much it affects local communities. That it does ‘happen here’. David and the team found that inviting key partners to speak briefly greatly added to the credibility of the stories of modern slavery. In Bridgwater this included the Home Office Community Coordinator for Serious and Organised Crime and the Police Officer tackling “County Lines” in the area.

3. Don’t get ahead of yourselves

Initial suggestions for how local communities can help may include large projects, such as safehouse accommodation for victims. While this may make sense long term, a lot of awareness raising and relationship building has to happen first, otherwise the response could be built on theoretical conclusions, rather than the reality of what is going on in your community.

4. Resist offering more training

After the first four sessions of Hidden Voices your group will know at least the basics of modern slavery, and likely much more than that. David and the team have chosen to resist requests for further training – apart from public speaker training - for the next phase of work, which consists of awareness raising and relationship building in the local area. As the work grows in depth and complexity further training will be needed, but this can follow later.

5. Allow for flexibility

Expect the unexpected! As any future activity is derived from the energy and commitment of the group, it is wise to leave space to be surprised as they develop their response. Everyone brings their own experience and knowledge to the table in the Hidden Voices process, and the tools and resources that are unlocked could look very different to your initial expectations.

David finished with a hopeful quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Through Hidden Voices our aim is to help communities to change the world for victims of modern slavery, and prevent anyone else falling into its trap.

You can find out more about Hidden Voices (and watch an introductory video) by going to our Hidden Voices page. On the same page you can find out if there is a training planned near you. Hear more from our national networking day here.