Shared Hope International has taken a universal approach to an issue most people agree is egregious: human trafficking. The organization has chosen to mobilize as many people as possible by presenting it in one forum that’s faith-based and another that is intentionally nonreligious.
Six years ago, Shared Hope facilitated its first Just Conference, an event open to anyone with a passion for eliminating the trafficking of juveniles. Most anti-trafficking events are exclusively for professionals who work in the industry, such as law enforcement or social services agents. Just is open to all.
Conference founder Elizabeth Scaife, who serves as senior director of training at Shared Hope, says her team had developed curriculum they believed would be valuable for anyone committed to fighting trafficking, regardless of their faith or profession. So they launched the conference to create a platform for educating anyone willing to listen.
“Everyone deserves and should have access to substantive training,” she says. “We recognize that everyone has a role to play, and we don’t want anyone to be left out of the process. Moms, teachers, business leaders—we all have a voice and a place at the table.”
Scaife says that, on average, about 50 percent of conference attendees work in social services in some capacity such as shelters or state-run services. Another 20 percent are in law enforcement or prosecutors; 10 to 15 percent are survivors; and the rest “run the gamut.” Forty-five states and four countries were represented at the most recent conference.
Just Conference clearly met a need because the event has sold out every year despite moving to a larger venue for each event. Most recently, the conference convened in New Orleans with a capacity of 900 and sold out three months in advance. The 2018 event was in in October at Town and Country San Diego, with a capacity of about 1,100.
“[The property] just went through a massive renovation and management change and we’re debuting their new space,” Scaife says.
Just Faith Summit
Shared Hope International Vice President Nancy Winston says that two years ago, the staff realized that while Shared Hope was well-known among those in the anti-trafficking movement, people in churches across the country were unaware of the prevalence of juvenile trafficking or the resources Shared Hope had to offer.
“We decided to create a separate conference that does similar things but is oriented around the directives of our Christian faith,” Winston says.
The team facilitated the first Just Faith Summit in 2016. Conference content included the research and training used at the original, secular conference, but also gave presenters the freedom to talk about the role of their faith in combating trafficking. In addition to keynotes by professionals in the field, the summit also includes testimonies by survivors and worship sessions.
“The idea is to educate and equip average people in churches,” Winston explains. “We give attendees a ‘faith in action’ kit filled with resources for their church like a prayer guide and sermon suggestions.”
Approximately 400 people attended the first Just Faith Summit, which was held in Orlando in 2016. Shared Hope anticipated 500 to attend the next summit, which was at St. Paul, Minnesota’s Bethel University in June, and hopes to convene every two years.
“We want to deliver excellence every year,” Scaife says of both of Shared Hope’s gatherings. “We have the pulse of what’s needed at a community level and the connections to deliver it.”