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Launch of new Midlands Antislavery Research Collaboration

Midlands-based research experts working in modern slavery and related fields have launched the Midlands Antislavery Research Collaboration (ARC), which brings together 19 Midlands universities to collaborate on modern slavery research and policy.

In a mapping conducted by the Rights Lab (University of Nottingham), the Midlands was home to a high concentration of researchers who work on modern slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, labour exploitation and related issues: over 150 individuals from 19 universities.

The Midlands ARC works across traditional academic boundaries and higher education institutions to share expertise and form new collaborations.

Together we will form a collective voice from the region

According to Dave Walsh, Professor in Criminal Investigation at De Montfort University and a member of the Midlands ARC Steering Group: “These individuals are largely disconnected from one another. Yet we have the potential in the Midlands to be the global antislavery research centre. By establishing the Midlands ARC, we are bringing together the expertise of academic partners from across the Midlands to drive forward research and knowledge exchange. Together we will form a collective voice from the region.”

Participants from 19 universities in the region first attended a founding workshop online for the ARC in May 2020. Researchers came together to discuss the Midlands ARC’s priorities and collaboration ideas, in a group that includes the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Professor Tomoya Obokata (Keele University).

This initial event led to the formation of an ARC steering group with representatives from multiple Midlands ARC universities, and four working group meetings for groups of ARC members during the winter of 2020, grouped around Community Resilience and Survivor Support; Criminal Justice and Organised Crime; Legislation and Policy; and Business Supply Chains.

The ARC is continuing to build its community and is planning targeted stakeholder events. Members anticipate jointly supervising PhD students, securing new regional investment in antislavery work in partnership with other Midlands-based stakeholders, and building new collaborations with local modern slavery multi-agency partnerships, including those for Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, and the West Midlands.

A significant contribution to the efforts being made to tackle this issue

“There is a considerable amount of research being undertaken in the higher education sector across the Midlands in the areas of modern slavery and human trafficking, and there is no doubt that this both informs and influences policy at local, regional and national levels, making a significant contribution to the efforts being made to tackle this issue,” said Lord Vernon Coaker, the Midlands ARC Chair.

Lord Coaker is keen to see academics from across the Midlands share knowledge, skills and expertise with one another, and also share research widely with policymakers, frontline practitioners, charities, and local communities, commenting that: “the Midlands ARC is collective voice that enhances the region’s work to tackle modern slavery.”

The Midlands ARC will benefit from the strong presence in the Midlands of some of the country's most active antislavery organisations and individuals. For example, the Midlands is home to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the UK’s foremost investigative agency for labour exploitation; the first three UK cities to officially declare their intent to become slavery-free communities; the East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration (EMPAC), which includes a priority area on modern slavery as part of its Serious Organised Crime strand; the Adavu Project, which offers longer-term support for adult survivors; Survivor Alliance, a global network of over 200 slavery survivor leaders; one of the initial six pilot dioceses for the Church of England's antislavery Clewer Initiative; and Alex Norris MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on Sport, Modern Slavery and Human Rights, and Joint Secretary to the APPG on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery.

The ARC will be able to take the region as a test-case for research innovations, as the Midlands is a site for all known forms of slavery in the UK, including the garment sector and agriculture. It has many of the vulnerability and resilience factors for slavery in the UK writ large. ARC researchers can test new antislavery techniques and approaches here in the Midlands for global application.

An academic hub for expertise

Zoe Trodd, Director of the Rights Lab at University of Nottingham, which is providing the Secretariat for the Midlands ARC in its first year, said: “I am excited to see new collaborations forming, and the ARC starting to become an academic hub for expertise that policymakers, business, civil society organisations, and survivors can access. I hope the Midlands ARC can serve as a pilot for other regionally-based research collaboratives, as part of a growing national network - for example to include a Northwest ARC, Southeast ARC and Greater London ARC.”

For more information on the Midlands ARC, please contact the Steering Group at


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