My research experience in the INSigHT Action

As INSigHT Italian Research Team we have been working at the intersection between ethnographic research, theoretical debates and intensive participative work with anti-trafficking operators. The main challenge has been that of translating dense data collected into both academic and non-academic language, that could be accessible to a wider audience for the scope of sharing practices and inspiring improved interventions with people victims of trafficking. It has been extremely enriching to receive constant feedback from operators in Italy involved in the research and understand more about the challenges they face in their work as to be able to contribute, through our research work, to address them and possibly think about solutions and approaches together. (Serena Caroselli)

The INSigHT research work in Nigeria has been carried out by adopting micro-level methodologies with the aim to explore and ultimately provide feedback for the improvement of rehabilitation services for survivors of human trafficking. The research has been particularly challenging in terms of accessing stakeholders and talking to them. Formal and informal follow-ups were all strategies employed to break institutional bureaucratic barriers that came with the twin global and national issues of the Covid19 pandemic and the Endsars protests that hindered national activities for several months. Participation to the INSigHT research has been an eye-opener for me on the state of anti-trafficking and rehabilitation engagement in Nigeria and I believe is providing an important contribution to stakeholders in re-engineering strategies to combat human trafficking and re-trafficking in Nigeria. (Oluwafemi Moses Abe)

The INSigHT research in Sweden has been ridden with both challenging and rewarding moments. Some of the challenges that we have encountered arose from the pandemic that entered our lives in the spring of 2020. The pandemic forced us to rethink the way to proceed with project tasks, such as interviews and stakeholder workshops. At the same time, many of the people who have participated in the project, as informants and/or project partners, have shown an admirable ability to adapt to the pandemic and the subsequent societal changes we have confronted. For myself, as an anthropologist, the ability to adapt to whatever is in front of me, is essential in the research process. During the work with the INSigHT project, I have realized that adaptability is also a fundamental feature of a well-functioning anti-trafficking system. While the ability to adapt to the specific needs of victims of trafficking is essential, anti-trafficking stakeholders are not always able to do so. Even when anti-trafficking stakeholders try to stretch the system to adapt it to the particular needs of the people they encounter in their work, they have to face limitations associated with the systems within which they operate and yet the research has shown how crucial it is to make sure interventions are flexible and can be adapted to the needs of victims of trafficking as particularly vulnerable individuals. (Isabelle Johansson)

As Coordinator of the INSigHT Research Team I have greatly enjoyed working with a team of Italian, Swedish and Nigerian researchers. Comparing experiences and difficulties in accessing the fieldwork as well as sharing reflections on the data collected has provided invaluable inspirations and insights for the research, particularly in view of future transnational projects and collaborations. Needless to say the COVID-pandemic has made it challenging to collaborate. Organising team meetings and interviews via online platforms has proved extremely tiring and has taken away precious chances to meet in person some informants based in other countries but in spite of this enthusiastic feedback has been repeatedly received on the relevant that the research outputs can provide for the work of stakeholders involved in anti-trafficking systems. This has been the main goal of the Research Team as well as the overall INSigHT Action: promote collaboration between researchers and stakeholders and ensure research can be an instrument for stakeholders to reflect on their work and share difficulties as well as positive development. As a Team we strongly think academia should engage towards applied research as to ensure research really has an impact on policymaking, particularly for the most vulnerable individuals of our society. Not least, academia should engage in facilitating transnational networks by favouring the meeting of stakeholders involved in research in different countries and provide them with opportunities to meet and learn on each others’ work in view of developing and consolidating transnational cooperation which, in our view, is more and more essential for the complexities of human trafficking to be addressed. (Michela Semprebon)