Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center
What has been most instrumental to your progress?
Deliberate actions have been taken to build collaborative connections and relationships with survivor leaders and other professionals within this specific field of work. Focus was specifically put on cultivating relationships with the survivor leaders and professionals within the tribal communities, who are largely overrepresented in being victims of sexual exploitation, and underserved in supportive services. These collaborative steps were instrumental in gaining additional tools and support for our project. The core group of members we now have steering the initiative have decades of experience and a wealth of knowledge unlike any other.
In addition to our expansion of local relationships and connections, we formed collaborative connections with national leaders and professionals. We learned from our national colleagues' experiences what works, what doesn't, and how we could use their knowledge to benefit the citizens of Minnesota; especially those most marginalized and impacted by the issue of sexual exploitation within the state. These relationships were important to expanding our vision and the consideration of different avenues to accomplish our end goals of increasing supportive services, creating exit ramps, and limiting criminal liabilities on survivors of the sex trade through legislative and policy changes.
Key lessons learned
We have learned through our national partners the importance of social media presence and branding when reaching out to the general public. Our national partners have played a crucial role in furthering the development of the Safe Harbor for All social media accounts. This has assisted in sharing education with the general public via understandable and easy-to-digest tidbits. Social media is a great tool to expand community support and build political will, and an initiative such as Safe Harbor for All will not be attainable without widespread support from the public. Social media has assisted us in reaching people who may not otherwise be within our circle of influence of community education or professional partnerships.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic created a new and challenging learning curve throughout this grant project. We had to learn to adapt quickly and find new ways to continue our grant's mission and our continued efforts within the scope of the project. This work thrives on relationships, and while the shift to online formats for meetings has assisted in some of that, especially for those of limited ability to commute to centralized in-person meetings, the lack of connection that can be facilitated in person had affected engagement and investment at times. Sharing space with people with the same passion for change re-energizes the mission, and we are happy to be getting back to that dynamic. The effects of the pandemic additionally limited our opportunities for community engagement and education. Such challenges, however, also gave us the opportunity to explore new pathways to conduct community engagement such as our social media presence.
Reflections on the community innovation process
The element of being resourceful was most important to get to where we currently are in the initiative. After regrouping and rebuilding our core group of members to work on this project, we were able to use contacts, connections, relationships, and inherent knowledge to our advantage to best position ourselves for success. Our group is largely comprised of survivor leaders who have spent years in the work and have cultivated long-standing, trustworthy relationships with other key players in this movement. We have happily been offering whatever we can to support each other. In this same way, the collaboration grew beautifully. People are invested and sharing ownership of the project which has built passion and a sense of "we can do this!". We have become renewed in our combined vision.
What it will take to reach an innovation?
Additional education for lawmakers and the larger community will be necessary to continue to cultivate more political will for change in this area. Minnesota is in a great position to make a lot of positive strides in the area of social justice as a whole, and we are optimistic that justice for survivors of all forms of sexual exploitation will be included in such strides.