NYU Wagner Capstone students confirm broad impact of ECPAT-USA’s anti-trafficking trainings
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, hotels are one of the most commonly reported venues for child sex trafficking. Research shows that by training hotel staff to recognize the signs of trafficking, they can play a major role in helping to both prevent and disrupt the crime. Thirteen years ago, one organization—End Child Prostitution and Trafficking-USA (ECPAT-USA)—was one of the first organizations to begin conducting these very trainings. Last year, ECPAT-USA decided to measure the impact and reach of their training programs by enlisting the help of an NYU Wagner Capstone team. The team’s evaluation ultimately led to a report that was presented in front of the United Nations.
With the guidance of Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service Meridith Seife, the Capstone team, which consisted of second-year students Stefano Biguzzi, Dana Laventure, Sarah Rosenwasser, and Adam Younger, spent eight months on the task. From crafting a valid sampling strategy to analyzing the results and extending them across the US, the team tackled real-world challenges in their final report: “Observational Analysis of Anti-Trafficking Training for the Hospitality Hotel & Lodging Sector Employees.” The report showed that 50% of US hotels have anti-trafficking training—the majority of which were trained by ECPAT-USA.
ECPAT-USA presented the Capstone team’s findings at the UN and used the report’s survey results in their own No Vacancy For Child Sex Traffickers Impact Report to help demonstrate that their training programs are making a substantial impact. Their report aims to attract more hotels to use ECPAT-USA training and provides recommendations to hotels and the government on how to prevent child sex trafficking.
“I took a hands-off approach with the team because after we defined the scope of the project, they were so organized and professional in executing the project that very little guidance was necessary,” said ECPAT-USA’s Capstone client liaison Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement.
Guelbart explained that the students’ findings will also help support funding requests, act as a benchmark for subsequent evaluations, and boost the morale of ECPAT-USA employees as their efforts are quantified. “The team was all around amazing and deserves to be recognized,” said Guelbart.
The team attributes their accomplishment to delegating tasks to each team member’s strengths and being adaptable to changes as they arose. The team also credits Professor Seife’s research expertise as crucial to their decision to conduct phone surveys of hotel managers and design survey questions to get credible data on such a sensitive topic.
“Child sex trafficking is a tough topic to get people to talk about,” said team member Biguzzi. “So we had to improvise and tailor our questions to each respondent in order to get sufficient data.”
Reflecting back, the students believe that NYU Wagner’s courses in Program Analysis & Evaluation and Estimating Impacts in Policy Research equipped them with the skills needed to analyze the survey results. “The capstone project definitely allowed me to apply program evaluation theory into practice, as well as develop project management and advanced teamworking skills,” said team member Biguzzi.
Team member Laventure advised future Capstone students “to scope the project to make it practical given the team’s time constraints and the strengths of teammates.” In addition to project scoping, the team ensured that their report was easy-to-read. This made it simple for ECPAT-USA to use the team’s analysis findings in their Impact Report to encourage more training on preventing child sex trafficking.
Biguzzi described his Capstone experience as “fun and refreshing, as we were doing something useful for an actual client.” He continued, “Regarding ECPAT-USA’s Impact Report that came out in September, it really has been a rewarding experience to see the real-life impact of our work.”