Press Releases

Humanity United and NoVo Foundation Launch Pathways to Freedom to Support City Anti-Trafficking Leadership and Innovation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sept. 13, 2017 – The Partnership for Freedom (PFF), a public-private partnership to spur innovative solutions to human trafficking, today announced the official start of Pathways to Freedom, PFF’s third and final anti-trafficking challenge. Pathways to Freedom will challenge assumptions about trafficking and reward and support novel, city-wide approaches to preventing human trafficking and addressing the unmet needs of survivors in the United States. Humanity United and the NoVo Foundation lead this challenge in collaboration with 100 Resilient Cities.

Every year in the U.S., thousands of women, men, girls and boys – in cities, suburbs, Native communities, and rural areas across all 50 states and the District of Columbia – are exploited and trafficked for sex and labor. Despite growing awareness of human trafficking, significant gaps remain in local responses to preventing trafficking and supporting survivors.

Survivors of trafficking often cycle in and out of city systems and services, and their complex histories require a more wide-ranging response than currently exists. Public health, human services, labor, legal, housing, immigration and other systems too often fail to identify individuals at risk of trafficking, and may not have programs that adequately serve victims and survivors currently in their programs. Cities are well-positioned to close some of these gaps.

“Now more than ever, cities and towns must take the lead on protecting and serving those who are most vulnerable in their communities,” stated Catherine Chen, Director of Investments for Humanity United. “Pathways to Freedom challenges cities to develop local, systemic solutions to meet these needs.”

Historically, most anti-trafficking work has focused on strengthening the criminal justice system. While law enforcement agencies play a critical role in the investigation of cases and prosecution of traffickers, this approach fails to address prevention and the many services survivors need. And, this problem is even more urgent now. “It is especially troubling that the criminal justice system that should protect trafficking victims is now one they may fear,” cautioned Chen. “With the increased threat of deportation, immigrant communities may become more vulnerable to trafficking and less likely to seek help from law enforcement, report their trafficker, or access services.”

“Survivors remain severely underserved, and many – especially survivors of color, Indigenous survivors, immigrant survivors, LGBTQ youth, people with disabilities, and those struggling with addiction – are too often overlooked,” stated Puja Dhawan, Director, Initiative to End Violence Against Girls and Women at the NoVo Foundation. “By elevating the voices of survivors, Pathways to Freedom also seeks to challenge assumptions about who trafficking survivors are and how they are impacted by this horrific violation of their human rights.”

To encourage and support innovative city-wide responses that reach all survivors of human trafficking, Pathways to Freedom begins today with a city competition. Twenty-four U.S. cities within the 100 Resilient Cities network will compete and three winning cities will be awarded funding for a senior fellow. Winning cities will be selected based on their commitment to a comprehensive and holistic anti-trafficking approach, robust community engagement strategies, and city leadership support for the fellow.

Fellows will serve directly in municipal government and work across multiple city agencies and with a range of community stakeholders to create and implement a city-wide policy blueprint on human trafficking in their cities. Funded for two years, the fellows will collaborate with one another, and their work will be featured on the Pathways to Freedom platform and shared with city leaders and service providers in other cities.

“Human trafficking is a critical issue for many cities in the United States. 100 Resilient Cities is pleased to partner with Humanity United to provide this important opportunity to our network of cities throughout the United States,” said Otis Rolley, Regional Director for North America at 100 Resilient Cities. “Through partnerships like this, 100 Resilient Cities aims to foster more resilient, inclusive, and safe cities for all.”

Applications for the Pathways to Freedom city challenge will be accepted until October 20, 2017. Final winners will be announced in early 2018.

Learn more at or follow #PathwaysFreedom on Facebook and Twitter.

About Humanity United

Humanity United is a foundation dedicated to bringing new approaches to global problems that have long been considered intractable. We build, lead, and support efforts to change the systems that contribute to problems like human trafficking, mass atrocities, and violent conflict. HU is part of the Omidyar Group, which represents the philanthropic, personal, and professional interests of the Omidyar family.


Facebook: /humanityunited/

Twitter: @humanityunited


About NoVo Foundation

NoVo Foundation is dedicated to building a more just and balanced world. Founded in 2006 by Jennifer and Peter Buffett, NoVo has become one of the largest private foundations in the world to support initiatives focused explicitly on girls and women, including a dedicated focus on ending violence against girls and women and supporting adolescent girls.  NoVo also works to advance social and emotional learning, support Indigenous communities and promote local living economies.


Facebook: /NoVoFoundation/

Twitter: @NoVoFoundation


About 100 Resilient Cities

100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC provides this assistance through: funding for a Chief Resilience Officer in each member city who will lead the resilience efforts; resources for drafting a resilience strategy; access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges.


Facebook: /100ResilientCities

Twitter: @100ResCities