Case Study: Sex Trafficking

The Challenge

In 2007, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services was a local non-profit organization based in New York City. While its empowering programs for girls and young women surviving child sex trafficking were inspiring and award-winning, and its founder a highly respected advocate, the organization’s positioning was not optimized for necessary impact on a national scale. In particular, GEMS hoped to share their ground-breaking methods and philosophy of survivor empowerment with the national and international human trafficking movement.  But when Showtime Networks debuted the critically-acclaimed documentary “Very Young Girls’ profiling the work of GEMS in 2008, the organization was thrust onto the national stage, and recognized the opportunity to scale up both its advocacy platform and its core public messaging.

The Solution

Child sex trafficking is a painful subject for anyone, but for GEMS’ primary audience of women and moms, the field’s longtime message – ‘it could happen to your child’ – sometimes had the opposite affect than intended. No matter how caring, many women simply who could not bear to imagine such horrors happening to their children. Over a 12-month period, GEMS and Fuel collaborated to develop a new website, national campaign strategy, social networking strategy (including viral videos, an all-star charity music single, and high-profile artist partnerships) to re-position GEMS and its founder as valuable voices in a new movement – one that promoted girls empowerment as a key strategy in the fight against child sex traffickers. Rather than driving their message with cautionary language, GEMS would instead inspire Americans to love all girls as their daughters. The concept – to celebrate and invest in girls – was not a new idea for GEMS.  Their core philosophy has always been to empower survivors to lead.  Fuel simply placed this ethic at the forefront of their public messaging in order to establish a unique identity within the advocacy, media and funding arenas.

The Results

GEMS’ innovative empowerment model of survivor recovery has emerged as a standard bearer for child sex trafficking victim service provision and survivor empowerment throughout the United States. The model was introduced to high-level leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative, and was the subject of major media stories in Essence Magazine and on CNN. Equally measurable, GEMS’ was moved to see their emphasis on survivor leadership rippling through the child sex trafficking field at large, with other respected organizations soon adopting the language of survivor empowerment on their websites and social networks. GEMS’ Founder Rachel Lloyd is regarded as a ‘go-to’ expert in the child sex trafficking field, and is now included on the expert resource list for the White House Council on Women and Girls chaired by Valerie Jarrett.  As evidence of her enhanced exposure, in summer 2009 Rachel received over 50,000 online votes to join Al Gore and other national leaders as one of 40 founding members of the Changemakers Network.

Fuel positioned GEMS as a bold new voice in the social media world, growing its online support base from 7,000 to over 50,000 supporters including a 200% growth in its donor email list; helped GEMS expand viewership of Very Young Girls from 80,000 to over 3 million viewers in 8 countries by forging a Netflix distribution deal and press strategy, and helped increase the total number of online donors to GEMS by 40% by producing viral videos and branded social action campaigns like the popular #JustOneThing Twitter campaign on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Fuel also partnered the organization with a range of artists including Halle Berry, Sinead O’Connor, Mary J Blige, Demi Moore, and Ashton Kutcher to significantly increase awareness of GEMS’ empowerment model and program accomplishments.  In the past year alone, GEMS released the charity single “This Is to Mother You” featuring Sinead O’Connor, Mary J Blige and GEMS survivor Martha B (co-executive produced by Fuel’s founder), published Halle Berry’s heartfelt appeal “She Is My Daughter” (co-authored by Fuel’s founder), and in March 2010, received a $250,000 grant from Pepsi thanks to their Pepsi Refresh partnership with Demi Moore, an artist introduced to GEMS by Fuel one year ago.