Clinical Professor Annalisa Enrile, with a focus on Socialwork and for 20 years within anti trafficking

This May I got to spend some time with Professor, Hatcher and friend Annalisa Enrile. This is part of her story of speaking at C2 Montreal and the work she is involved in.  

@ the Crystal Hotel Montreal

It was in 1994 when a woman first told me her story about being an indentured servant- a form of labor that we now recognize as human trafficking and modern day slavery.  But, in 1994, the world was only beginning to use those phrases and usually only in the case of the developing world.  It’s now 2018 and not only are “human trafficking” and “modern day slavery” phrases that most people recognize, there is a whole glossary of terms that are attached to this issue. I’ve since heard thousands of stories- in the front lines of activism, providing services to victims, doing research and evaluation, and advocating with others to create policies and raise awareness.  At my core, I’m a community organizer at heart. I know how to create a power analysis and what best way to get people to support an issue. But, as the years went by, I saw the result of the work that anti-traffickers were doing did not compare to the rampant growth of the issue. In other words- our ROI (return on investment) was completely upside down. Everyone is doing their hardest…and it is still not enough.

About three years ago, I started working with an social innovation firm who was then called Insight Labs. After participating in a lab, I discovered a new way of thinking that opened the door to another world for me. Innovation, technology, and social impact were perspectives that I felt would change the game and drive disruption in human trafficking. The environment supported this feeling because I began to see more activity occurring within the technological and business community. So, I had to trust that it was time to shift my thinking and my actions. 

I heard about C2 while I was at a Hatch gathering last year. The concept of this conference resonated with my direction especially its theme: Transformative Collisions.  I had just finished writing a MacArthur 100 and Change grant with actress and anti-trafficking activist, Julia Ormond where we gathered over 300 partners from almost every industry and field possible. When I was asked to speak on the issue of human trafficking and modern day slavery. This was my chance to put this issue in front a large crowd of people with the potential to partner with and create change. 

It’s hard to explain the C2 experience when you come at it as a vehicle for change and not just another business conference because there are so many layers. It would be overwhelming if I didn’t come with my own tribe. Hatch is heavily represented at C2. We are xx speakers- with Dr. Sylvia Earle and Butterscotch rocking the big top and Alexa Clay giving master classes. Trust me, this is the group you want to be rolling in with.

Already I had met people who were curious about human trafficking. They had tons of questions and I had a lot of answers. But, more important were the discussions that we were starting to have- what is the role of entrepreneurship? what would make the most impact? what happens after victims are saved? All of these questions and more sparked a myriad of discussions. And, though I’ve had these discussions before, I could tell the difference that varying perspectives brought to the table. They challenged me to think and to be sharp and to know where and why I was standing my ground.

I like to understand things on my own time and preferably in the quiet instead of showing up in the middle of the chaos. So, on the first day, I arrived early, before the doors even opened (speaker perks!) and walked around the site. It was like stepping into another world. The Arsenal which houses features like the Aquarium, labs, and brain dates opens up in front of you. It was not buzzing with people yet as it would be for the whole event, but the energy was such that I could already imagine how it would be. Outside, I took a peek into the Cabaret where the AI Forum was about to start. It was where I would speak later in the week. Then, I made my way along the channel, wound through the cargo containers turned hospitality suites and of course, stopped at the library. The library is a space where speakers’ books, including mine, were located. Using the Klik system (our credential badges and Klik mobile app), anyone could download a digital description of the book. This moment of quiet was one of the last ones I would get before the conference but it was enough to let me absorb and stay present in what this week would be like.

So what was it like? It was anticipation and excitement and connection all rolled into one. And, because I had such an incredible anchor in Hatch, I was free to explore and then come back to the familiar. The Big Top, just by virtue of being a big top, spoke to me of all the mystery and romance of circuses. I was always excited to enter it, take my seat and wait for the lights to dim and the show to start. I have always love the circus because it felt like a stealing a moment in time that you could never have again. And, that is what this felt like- the speakers words of wisdom, the rhythm of the performer and even the in between like waiting in line or getting settled in your seat was filled with conversation and promise of possibilities. Some of the coolest people I met at C2, I met in these in-between moments.

Over and over, the theme of the conference, trans-formative collisions, resonated with me. I met a fashion designer who wanted to connect me to a human rights lawyer, but after talking for 15 minutes, we figured out a way that she and I could work together. Fast fashion is driving human trafficking because of the manufacturing. She and I designed a project that would target three different points in the labor trafficking life cycle: manufacturing of goods, marketing, and victim reintegration into society. This was only one example- I met people from Spotify, artists and CEO’s that wanted to know what they could do.

I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on the AI Forum and delve into an area I knew nothing about. It was fascinating and helped me see connections with my own work. One of my favorite speakers was a woman who created emotive robots. In the greenroom, she let me interact with one of them, and I swear that it helped me relax before my speech. I also appreciated the master classes. As a professor, it’s rare that I get to be the student. So, learning about behavior from Dan Arielly or doing an IDEO workshop was one of my best experiences.  I was only able to do one lab but I had heard enough of the others from people that I think I was okay. I figure, I should save something for the next time.

The C2 experience for me was capped off by my talk. It was scheduled on the last day of the conference and the Cabaret was packed. I was beyond nervous but I remembered the point of my being here- to introduce this issue, to inspire people to change, to make a difference. The stage manager behind the curtain did a breathing exercise with me and one of the dancers that came through before I had to go on, high five’d me. As I walked out there, I felt a strange calm fall over me and when I looked out, I saw a sea of faces, some of them familiar and for a moment- I just took it all in. This instant was never going to happen again and I wanted to hold it for a second. Then I opened my mouth and let my knowledge and my passion take over.

The point of my talk was not just to talk about human trafficking but what we could do to stop it.                                                                             I offered the solution of transparency. I know that it might sound simple, but it’s actually complex and that is because the first step is Radical Honesty….with ourselves. We have to ask ourselves some hard questions: what do we buy? what do we do? what do we stand for? If we start with ourselves, that will spill over into our businesses practices. Because then we start to make supply chains transparent. And, in terms of sex trafficking- we make that transparent also. Imagine if everyone who tried to purchase sex could be found out? Research and practical experience has taught us over and over that transparency is an incredible weapon that we can wield to end the selling and enslavement of people. Radical Honesty. That’s a tall order, but I believe that we can do it. Even more- I think we want to do it. There are over 40 million people in the world that are trafficked or enslaved. We have to do something.

I was overwhelmed by how many people approached me afterwards because they were not just telling me that I did well or that they liked my speech- they were telling me the concrete ways they were determined to create change in their own lives and work to help stop the selling of people.  My favorites? One man told me that he always did business in strip clubs and that he would discontinue that. A woman told me that she intended to change the practice of how she dealt with subcontractors- that she would require more transparency and to know who was working in her supply chain. Another woman told me that she would stop purchasing from a store that is notorious for its questionable labor practices. And, so on and so on. There were so many ways that we could begin to target vulnerabilities to labor trafficking. Also, in terms of sex trafficking, I had so many conversations about what we can do to help girls so that trafficking wasn’t an option. We could help girls save themselves.. 

That night, at dinner and the Illumnation Night party afterwards, I took in the last bits of C2. The sheer joy and the openness of everyone was contagious. At around 3am, I climbed up to one of the highest hospitality rooms and looked out.  There were people laughing and music playing still, there was a group of people dancing and I could hear the cheers of a toast next door as well as a whispered conversation in the corner about how blockchain could help immigration. I felt so much I could not hold it all in- this feeling of being in the right place for what I want to do in the world.  So, some people can say that C2 is just a normal conference dressed up in creativity- but those people didn’t take a peek through the looking glass or risk the fall down the rabbit hole, because I am convinced that this experience was wonderland and like Alice, I’ve gotten a new view of the world. So, I’m going to keep in touch with the mad hatters and Cheshire cats, drink the potions that made me small and then super big, and keep traveling this road with my tribe – I’m helping to hatch a new world and I know it is possible.  



Nathan Azopardi is an editorial and commercial photographer, working internationally 


My work focuses on environmental portraits for commercial, editorial and fine art use.

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