Freeing slaves, crafting laws and guiding a global movement

Submitting Institution

University of Hull

Unit of Assessment

Social Work and Social Policy

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

Download original


Summary of the impact

Universities UK named Bales' work as one of `100 Discoveries in UK Universities that have Changed the World.' Bales, they said, `brought about a new awareness, new laws and new programmes for the liberation and rehabilitation of slaves around the world.' That recognition noted his illumination of modern slavery. Since coming to Hull in 2007, Bales' research has focussed on analysing and challenging contemporary slavery, an impact seen in an expanding global anti-slavery movement, new laws, and new research approaches. It is work based largely on his work in three key areas: conceptual/empirical tools; policies and legislation; and corporate supply chain responsibility.

Underpinning research

The overarching impact of Bales' work is the expansion and legitimization of a global anti-slavery movement based on sound social science and empirical research, making possible government and business engagement, and on-the-ground liberation of those in slavery. In 2011 Bales' work was recognized with the $100,000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Promoting World Order.

There are three key areas of supporting research insights that often inter-relate:

1. Conceptual and empirical tools that underpin the study of contemporary slavery.

a) The on-going development of operational definitions of `slavery' and the application of social and economic research methods.

b) An ongoing research programme into the prevalence of slavery (the only research of its kind to be peer-reviewed).

c) On-going predictive modelling of causal factors for contemporary slavery.

d) The design, development, and dissemination to all governments and the public of an annual Global Slavery Index, a fundamental research tool, and a metric to guide policy development and investment. Launched in 2013, it carried the endorsements of Hillary Clinton, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Julia Gillard, and Bill Gates.

2. Research insights supporting legal, policy, and legislative activities.

a) Grounded analysis of the process of liberation, for example, in a national slavery eradication plan prepared with the World Bank for the government of Mauritania.

b) Documentation of counter-productive policies, such as legal discrepancies in awarding entry visas, or absence for birth registration of minority ethnic populations in several countries. (Both findings led to changes in US law.)

c) The concepts of the `freedom dividend' (guiding concept for research in post-slavery economics) and the `slavery lens' (technique for bringing human rights perspectives into overseas development projects).

3. Research insights into corporate responsibility and supply chains.

a) Demonstration of how contemporary slavery is tightly integrated into both the global economy and illicit criminal elements.

b) Documentation of different forms of enslavement feeding supply chains, such as six distinct types of slavery found in mineral export from Eastern Congo.

c) Insights/findings specific to the social, political, and cultural context of slavery in Brazil, Pakistan, Ghana, Congo, Bangladesh, Nepal, and India — all affecting global supply chains.

These are indicative, not exhaustive, examples of a research program using a broad base of appropriate methods — from participant observation to statistical meta-analysis — generating both academic publications and political, policy, and practical responses to contemporary slavery. Bales joined the University of Hull in 2007 and oriented his work and research into areas that focussed on impact with measurable outcomes (noting funders):

  • 2007-2012 Support for research into slavery and environmental destruction: Free the Slaves
  • 2005-2008 Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves, Humanity United
  • 2008-2012 Longitudinal study of liberation and economic growth, India, US State Dept.
  • 2009-2010 Slavery in Supply Chains (Congo), Open Square Foundation
  • 2009-2012 General Research Support — Slavery and Environmental Destruction, Humanity United
  • 2010 Scoping study human trafficking, Ghana, Donor Advised Foundation.
  • 2010-2011 Response feasibility study, Ghana, Donor Advised Foundation
  • 2010-2011 Village resilience to child trafficking, Haiti, US State Department
  • 2012-present Global Slavery Index, Walk Free Foundation
  • 2012-present Global Research Programme into Forced Marriage, Private donors.

References to the research

• Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves, University of California Press, UK Edition December 2008 (US edition, Sept. 2007), also published in Japanese (2009) and Suomi (2012).

• The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, University of California Press, 2009 (co-authored with Ron Soodlater).

• The Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines on the Legal Parameters of Slavery, co-authored with the Research Network on the Legal Parameters of Slavery, 2012.


• `Anti-Slavery and the Redefinition of Justice' in Global Civil Society 2011 - Globality and the Absence of Justice, Martin Albrow and Hakan Sekinelgin, London: Palgrave McMillan, 2011, pp. 64-77, with Jody Sarich.

• The Global Slavery Index, published by Walk Free Foundation, October, 2013

Details of the impact

1. Conceptual and empirical tools that underpin the study of contemporary slavery.

Bales' research insights conceptualizing and measuring contemporary slavery have entered the public consciousness. A web search on `27 million slaves' generates around 400,000 responses; the same phrase in a Google Books search yields 2,500 titles. A specific impact of these insights was demonstrated by President Clinton's closing speech to the 2008 Clinton Global Initiative, announcing that modern slavery would become an area of concentration for the Initiative. Holding it aloft, Clinton went on: "This is a book by Kevin Bales, it's called Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves and he points out that there are 27 million people in the tells you that it's a problem we can solve to do it." In 2013, Bill Gates called the Global Slavery Index an `important tool to let governments, NGOs and business take stock and take action against this terrible problem.'

2. Research insights supporting legal, policy, and legislative activities.

Legal: Examples include research insights into the role of the rule of law in addressing contemporary slavery. Partner organizations collaborating in research on direct intervention in India accomplished 176 prosecutions of slaveholders between 2009 and 2012, with 1,223 slaves freed. Direct liberation work in India was paralleled by prevention projects in which 46,000 villagers were reached with human trafficking prevention education. A partner organization in Brazil liberated 1,027 enslaved workers through legal processes in 2008-2011. In 2009 Bales' impact on legal, policy, and legislative activities was recognised with a $60,000 Prime Mover Fellowship by the Hunt Alternatives Fund. These are given to individuals who `act to change policies, cultural behavior, or social inequities'.

Policy: In 2012 Bales was commissioned to brief the European Parliament External Policies Department on `Addressing contemporary forms of slavery in EU external policy'. In 2010, research insights into the `freedom dividend' (how liberation from enslavement has an impact on economic and human development) directed social and economic development projects, funded by the US State Department, for communities held in slavery as they progressed through liberation and reintegration. The State Department commissioned independent evaluation that noted that these insights provided `an exceptionally strong model that appears to be having a significant impact on the population of focus — not only in terms of the numbers of individuals with whom they are able to work, but more importantly, because their model appears sustainable.' After this evaluation the State Department chose this approach as a best practice example of measurable impact and methodology. A second policy example is the application of Bales' `slavery lens' concept within development programs. In 2010, supported by the World Bank, 241 social mobilizers were trained in the `slavery lens' methodology. The impact of this technique was then evaluated by UK-DfID, reporting it `helped people in the community to enhance themselves with right information and helped to protect them from the risk of slavery and trafficking during foreign migration'. Following this measurement of impact, the technique was scaled-up to over a million households that are highly vulnerable to unsafe migration. (Swiss and Finnish funding)

Legislative: In 2008 Bales' `slavery lens' concept was included in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act Reauthorization, requiring its use in directing US overseas aid; alterations were also made to US visa rules, both areas of investigation and recommendation in `The Slave Next Door'. In 2009 the Congress increased funding for anti-slavery work, again following recommendations in Ending Slavery. Bales helped draft the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (into force 2012), a version of which is now (2013) before Parliament with cross-party support as the Transparency in Supply Chains Bill. In 2011-13 Bales was Special Advisor to the UK government's Slavery and Human Trafficking Review, re-writing laws and policies on contemporary slavery.

3. Research Insights supporting Corporate Responsibility and Supply Chains.

A key example is Bales' work to remove slavery and the worst forms of child labour from the cocoa supply chain. Working together with the chocolate industry, anti-slavery groups, consumers groups, and trade unions, more than $20 million has been transferred into anti-slavery work in cocoa-growing regions since 2008 through the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), which Bales helped to found and serves as a member of the Executive Committee. Additionally, Bales was asked in 2011 by WalMart, the world's largest retail firm, to help build system-wide supply chain inspection and a training package for their supplier companies — activity generated by the coming to force of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act in 2012.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. The Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines on the Legal Parameters of Slavery
  2. CNN Freedom Project (one year of programming based, in part, on Bales' research insights) — — search "Kevin Bales" — nine programmes.
  3. Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond, Virginia. Testimonial available on request corroborating methodologies and estimation of slavery prevalence.
  4. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (US Congress)
  5. California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (State of California)
  6. Senior Coordinator for International Programs, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State, 1800 G St, NW, Ste 22010, Washington, D.C. — testimonial available on request.
  7. Evaluability Assessments of G/TIP Anti-Trafficking Programs, North India Site Assessment — FINAL REPORT, Tamara C. Daley, Ph.D., Prepared for: Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.; Prepared by: Westat, 1600 Research Boulevard, Rockville, Maryland 20850 (available on request).
  8. "Becoming a Slave-Free Business: Removing Slavery from Product Supply Chains" DVD and training program commissioned by WalMart Corporation, available from Free the Slaves (
  9. Eradication of Slavery (UK Company Supply Chains) Bill 2010-12 (SO-23)
  10. Reference: Executive Director, International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) testimonial available on request corroborating the impact from the research findings on the eradication of slavery and child labour from cocoa industry supply chains.