Humanity United and NoVo Foundation Announce Three Winners of the Pathways to Freedom Challenge Supporting City Leadership and Innovation in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

Washington, D.C. – February 15, 2018 – The Partnership for Freedom today announced the three winners of its Pathways to Freedom challenge. Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis were selected to participate in a first-of-its-kind anti-trafficking challenge to develop citywide approaches to better prevent human trafficking and support survivors. Funding from the challenge will support a senior fellow’s salary in city government for two years and technical assistance to better address labor trafficking.

The Partnership for Freedom, created by Humanity United, is a public-private partnership dedicated to spurring innovation in the fight to end human trafficking. Pathways to Freedom, the Partnership’s third challenge, is led by Humanity United and the NoVo Foundation.

“Cities have a critical role to play in the fight against human trafficking and we are confident that the work of Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis will inspire and encourage local solutions in other communities across the country,” said Catherine Chen, director of investments for Humanity United. “We are excited to support our winning cities and together develop new ways to prevent and address both labor and sex trafficking and support survivors.”

Historically, most anti-trafficking work has focused on strengthening the criminal justice response. While law enforcement agencies play a critical role in the investigation of cases and prosecution of traffickers, this approach leaves gaps in the prevention of trafficking and the many services survivors need. This problem is even more urgent now, as increased threats of deportation and heightened anti-immigrant rhetoric may cause immigrant communities to become more vulnerable to trafficking and less likely to seek help from law enforcement, report their trafficker, or access services.

“Human trafficking is an issue that impacts our most vulnerable populations, like runaway and homeless youth, immigrants, and LGBT communities,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “In Chicago we are committed to tackling the root causes of human trafficking to better understand and address the social services needs of survivors.”

Despite growing awareness of human trafficking, gaps remain in preventing both labor and sex trafficking and supporting survivors to recover. Too often, public health, human services, labor enforcement, legal services, housing, immigration, and other systems fail to identify individuals at risk of trafficking and may not have services that adequately assist victims and survivors currently in their programs. As a result, trafficking survivors often cycle in and out of city systems without receiving the assistance they need.

“Every year, thousands of children, women and men fall prey to the insidious practice of human trafficking. Whether these victims are entrapped in or transported to Atlanta, we know that our city faces a human trafficking challenge disproportionate to its size,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “I am pleased to announce that I will appoint a Senior Fellow within my Administration to further the City’s efforts to combat and eliminate this horrific practice. The Pathways to Freedom grant will also enable Atlanta to better address labor trafficking, which has traditionally been under-reported, and its survivors under-served. I am confident that together, we can be the strength for the powerless and the hope of the victims.”

“This investment underscores our commitment to developing innovative strategies to better address labor trafficking – a crime that we know is underreported and wreaks havoc on our most vulnerable communities,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

Each anti-trafficking fellow will report to the mayor or executive level staff and will work across multiple city agencies and with a range of community stakeholders to develop comprehensive approaches to both prevent trafficking and address unmet survivor needs. This could include new policies for the city, new practices for social service providers, additional funding and resources, and new relationships between the cities and communities impacted by trafficking, including survivors, anti-trafficking advocates, community organizations, employers, and service providers.

“Our hope is that all three of the challenge winners will demonstrate that the most effective and innovative work to end human trafficking is deeply grounded in the experience of survivors themselves, especially the most vulnerable, including survivors of color, Indigenous survivors, immigrant survivors, LGBTQ youth, people with disabilities, and those struggling with addiction,” said Pamela Shifman, executive director of the NoVo Foundation. “By more effectively meeting the needs of survivors, these cities will shine as a model of what’s possible for other communities across the country.”

Fellows’ work will be featured on the Pathways to Freedom digital platform at and shared with leaders in other cities. The Partnership for Freedom will also support grassroots and survivor-led efforts in each winning city.

In a testament to the growing political will in U.S. cities to lead the fight against trafficking in their communities, thirteen mayors from major cities across the nation submitted letters of support and competed for this critical opportunity. They included Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Minneapolis, New York, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, DC. The competition was open to U.S. cities in the 100 Resilient Cities network. 100 Resilient Cities-Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

Pathways to Freedom is the third and final innovation challenge issued by the Partnership for Freedom to spur innovative solutions to end modern slavery in the U.S. and around the world. The first challenge, “Reimagine: Opportunity” focused on spurring innovation in victim services. The second challenge, “Rethink Supply Chains” identified developers, designers, advocates, and innovators to submit concepts for technological solutions that identify and address labor trafficking in global supply chains for goods and services.

Learn more at or follow #PathwaystoFreedom on Facebook and Twitter. 

About Humanity United 

Humanity United is a foundation dedicated to bringing new approaches to global problems that have long been considered intractable. We build, lead, and support efforts to change the systems that contribute to problems like human trafficking, mass atrocities, and violent conflict. HU is part of The Omidyar Group, a diverse collection of organizations, each guided by its own approach, but united by a common desire to catalyze social impact.

Facebook: /humanityunited/
Twitter: @humanityunited 

About NoVo Foundation

NoVo Foundation is dedicated to building a more just and balanced world. Founded in 2006 by Jennifer and Peter Buffett, NoVo has become one of the largest private foundations in the world to support initiatives focused explicitly on girls and women, including a dedicated focus on ending violence against girls and women and supporting adolescent girls. NoVo also works to advance social and emotional learning, support Indigenous communities and promote local living economies.

Facebook: /NoVoFoundation/
Twitter: @NoVoFoundation