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  • 6 minutes
  • 11/08/2022
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Social Value Portal’s James Havey wins Emerging Leader for Justice award

Earlier this year, Procurement Executive James Havey, won the Moira Erin O’Donnell Emerging Leader for Justice Award. Hear his story.

Earlier this year, Social Value Portal’s Procurement Executive James Havey, won the Moira Erin O’Donnell Emerging Leader for Justice Award an extraordinary achievement for those who have demonstrated significant social justice leadership. We spoke to James, and he provided a little more information on the amazing work that led to winning the award.

Hello James, tell me a bit of the background to your award

I moved to Cambodia in January 2013. For the first nine months, I focused on learning the language and volunteering for various projects across the city. I was a fresh-faced 23-year-old who had recently left college, was new to Cambodia, new to the language, and new to project management.
During my time there, I worked for Maryknoll Lay Missioners, my nominators for this award, and was seconded to local organisations in the country. One of the organisations was Love146, a think tank based in Phnom Penh. We would perform studies to understand grassroots communities that were overlooked for support by the Cambodian government and also by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

James Havey with the Butterfly Project’s researchers at an anti-human trafficking conference in Bangkok
James with the Butterfly Project’s researchers at an anti-human trafficking conference in Bangkok

My work at Love146 eventually led me to work with those involved in the sex industry in Cambodia.  I became more and more aware of how to build connections and knowledge of overlooked communities, such as the transgender sex worker community. I also started hosting dialogues between LBGTQ communities and faith-based organisations, raising awareness and building bridges. This wasn’t outreach or conversion, there was no agenda to this work beyond offering support and ensuring that faith-based organisations knew about the needs of marginalised communities.
This led me to begin to understand and grade aftercare service provisions to victims and survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking. I was part of a team that interviewed service providers around the world for a Freedom of Slavery Forum hosted at Stanford University. We were tackling a global issue at a very local level.

Winning this award was a real surprise. It’s incredible to have my name alongside some amazing projects and people.

It sounds like a complex and challenging role…

Yes, it was. By 2016, I began to work with Chab Dai International, a coalition of anti-human trafficking corporations in Cambodia. I worked alongside Helen Sworn and Dr Glenn Miles, who, along with Glenn’s late wife Siobhan, began the Butterfly Reintegration Research project, an initiative set up to hear directly from survivors of sex trafficking on aftercare service provision. Back in 2007, research was done with World Vision, a major development organisation who interviewed several World Vision clients who had reintegrated into the community.
In this study, one woman’s aftercare experience was deemed very successful. She gained new knowledge and skills, received training and was continuing to move up in her company. She had a husband and a family who were very supportive.
But as the years progressed, and the connection with her supporting NGO had stopped, things began to deteriorate for her. In general, life was getting harder and harder, and eventually she committed suicide. Unfortunately, the NGO had no idea about this. Because she was so successful when they parted ways, the organisation assumed this success would continue, which sadly wasn’t true.
This is where the Butterfly Reintegration Research project stemmed from – to implement a ten-year study of the long-term needs and wellbeing of survivors, beyond the after-care foundations provided.

How did your role evolve?

In 2016, I was brought on as a consultant due to my work with male survivors of abuse. A year later, I became a programme advisor. Then, after ten years of research, we closed the formal Cambodia project in 2019, and provided recommendations and advice to different stakeholder groups. Our papers were published last year, and were picked up by a journal who published a special edition focused on the work.

Why was this so significant?

Well, up until then, we had worked on changing foundations at a grassroots level, but once this work was published, it brought the learning into the global academic sphere, which felt really special.
One of the aims of the project was to learn about the lived experiences of survivors and ask them exactly what they need. There’s so much top-down prescription across the world that doesn’t engage with survivors directly. We wanted to give them a platform.

It’s not just about driving change across the world, but also empowering suppliers to innovate and deliver social value on their own

This ten year long study was a world first, and the success of the project in Cambodia means the Butterfly Reintegration Research project is working globally, with similar studies in Nepal and communities in East Africa.

What does winning the Moira Erin O’Donnell Emerging Leader for Justice Award mean to you?

Winning this award was a real surprise. It’s incredible to have my name alongside some amazing projects and people.

What can organisations do to help?

There’s a lot of exciting movement and ability surrounding ethical procurement to mitigate injustices like human trafficking, so we need to encourage this momentum. Businesses like Social Value Portal will create this momentum and put the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility at the forefront of purchasing and procurement. That’s what led me to join the team here.
It’s not just about driving change across the world, but also empowering suppliers to innovate and deliver social value on their own. This means a procuring authority can go to any space or area and find suppliers who know how to drive a sustainable, rights based scheme. We see organisations doing this every day at Social Value Portal. In the United States, my home country, this is sometimes seen as a distraction from profit, whereas Social Value Portal proves this needn’t be the case.
Working with contractors, regulators and auditors to drive social value and CSR throughout manufacturing, or other global procurements, has the potential to affect millions of people around the world. I’ve seen this happen with my own eyes.
I’m excited to be part of the community at Social Value Portal that can drive that change.