Natasha Dolby | Freedom FWD | 27 April 2017
Freedom FWD was founded based on the belief that no youth should have to sell her or his body to have basic physical or mental health needs met. Nowhere in the world, and especially not here in San Francisco. Freedom FWD was started to end the commercial sexual exploitation of youth in our city. Sex trafficking exploits the most present vulnerability across all narratives of survivors, and that is the desire to belong.
In 2015, 247 youth were identified as survivors of commercial sexual exploitation in San Francisco, a number that many believe is very conservative, as these youth are only counted as they receive services. San Francisco’s 2015 homeless point-in-time count suggested that there was more than 1500 homeless youth in San Francisco, 20% of whom reported having traded sex for a place to sleep. Ending the commercial sexual exploitation of youth cannot be addressed by a single approach or organization. It will require an intersectional approach.
JaMel Perkins (TPW 2004-05) and Natasha Dolby (TPW 2012-13) were both passionate about making a change in this space and began sharing what they were learning from their individual grant making. It did not take them long to realize that if they combined their experience, talents, networks and grantmaking strategies, they could help strengthen the anti-trafficking ecosystem in a way that they could not have separately. They spent a year on a learning journey to understand the Bay Area landscape. They joined forces with a third co-founder, Alia Whitney-Johnson, and hosted focus groups, met with survivors and frontline service providers, visited program sites, studied best practices, explored the latest research and trends in the field, and hosted a design thinking workshop in partnership with IDEO.org. They launched Freedom FWD in January of 2017 to bring together frontline service providers, survivors, activists, technologists, philanthropists, and government agencies to develop new solutions to landscape gaps and strengthen our overall response as a community.
Freedom FWD is harnessing and mobilizing our community’s combined talents and resources to enhance the resiliency, efficacy, and collaborative fiber of projects working to end the commercial sexual exploitation of youth in San Francisco. Their strategy is three-fold:
1) strengthening frontline organizations,
2) increasing collaboration in the ecosystem, and
3) filling critical landscape gaps.
With the right support and the development of new pathways for collaboration, Freedom FWD hopes to make San Francisco a model for what a coordinated anti-trafficking ecosystem would look like – one with an effective, city-wide prevention strategy, as well as coordinated, wrap-around care for any young person who is exploited. While there is not a single silver bullet that will achieve this, Freedom FWD believes in the power of working together to build an effective and resilient landscape that is stronger than the sum of its parts.