How A21 Is Bringing Software to the Fight Against Human Trafficking

December 11, 2020 Derrick Harris

While modernization discussions at software-heavy enterprises tend to revolve around application architectures and complex platforms, the same discussions at smaller organizations can be much simpler. However, that does not mean those efforts are any less important, nor any less effective.

In this episode of the Cloud & Culture podcast, Kristen Morse and Valerie Ellery of A21 discuss their organization’s mission to end human trafficking, and how an engagement with VMware Tanzu Act (formerly called Pivotal Act) helped them digitize A21’s school-based curriculum focused on trafficking prevention while maintaining privacy and security. The pair also discusses how A21 approaches technology given its one full-time IT staff member and a need to balance their investment in technology for prevention with serving the immediate needs of survivors.

Below are some text highlights, but you’ll want to listen to the whole episode to hear more about A21’s digitization efforts and how they might apply to your nonprofit or small business.

Every dollar counts

Kristen Morse: “From that start of the engagement, we focused on the three options of: Do you need to build that thing? Do you need to use something that's existing? Or do we need to pause and wait? . . . They really helped to identify what exists and options that will work for us where we're at, and then also feature options where if we do build or have more team or invest more . . . what those different steps would look like in the future and what we could bring in at those points in time.

“[As] a nonprofit, we do really try to maximize our resources. And we know that every dollar matters, and that there's that difference between investing in IT or a survivor of human trafficking receiving aftercare, and that it supports each other and it's all really important. But there is that weight to the funding and the importance of stewarding our resources well.

“Working with Pivotal Act and the fact that they recognized that, and they worked with us with that in mind, and continuously came back to it, was really, really helpful. And it also just helps us in the leadership of our organization trust the recommendations, because it's clear that those things have been thought through every step of the way, as well.”

Digital is more important than ever

Valerie Ellery: “I can personally say as an education specialist for A21, and somebody that's been sitting in the seat of education as a curriculum specialist for 30-something years, is we didn't have to look at digital and online versions the way we have to today. So our mindsets have to change. 

“We know that that is reaching our students. We know that that's one avenue or venue that . . . we haven't sat in and worked that course of action. And so this whole opportunity with Pivotal Act and taking us to the next level will truly help us reach beyond what we ever asked or imagined of understanding for our students and our educators.”

Data doesn’t tell the whole story

Kristen Morse: “[We’re working to improve how we measure success with data, but] we also are able to collect different testimonies and stories as we go. And so just knowing that one student who went through our education program was able to recognize when someone tried to recruit her on an online social media platform, and she made a report and then there was a police investigation opened up to look into it. I think those stories that come out over time are what motivates us, as well, because we know that it matters—the one person, the one student who's educated, the one person who isn't trafficked, that's what it's about. 

“And so we do our due diligence in measuring the numbers and getting all of the quantitative data in. But I think the qualitative testimonies and stories that come out of it are really what motivates us to keep going.”

Learn more


Building Products with Nonprofits—Lessons Learned from VMware Pivotal Act

Design-led Solutions for Humanitarian Aid

What It's Like Helping Nonprofits Develop Software—and What We All Can Learn

About the Author

Derrick Harris

Derrick Harris is a product marketing manager at VMware.

More Content by Derrick Harris
Building Products with Nonprofits—Lessons Learned from VMware Pivotal Act
Building Products with Nonprofits—Lessons Learned from VMware Pivotal Act

Lessons learned from building VMware Pivotal Act, which works with nonprofits, at discounted rates, to desi...

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Remote Software Development
The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Remote Software Development

In this episode of the Cloud & Culture podcast, we discuss the state of remote work with Joe Moore and Paul...