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One Less-Una Menos A Case Study in Organizational Sustainability


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									One Less-Una Menos: A Case Study on Action Research to Support Organizational

                                        November 14, 2010


  In order to better understand issues that challenge the sustainability of social change organizations
  (SCOs), our team of MA candidates in the Public Administration program at the Monterey Institute of
  International Studies (MIIS) — Elizabeth Carlson-Bast, Adriana Taboada, Johanna Lounsbury, and
  Tahmina Karimova—developed an action research consultancy with the local non-profit organization
  One Less-Una Menos. This consultancy was carried out as part of the course requirements of the class
  “IPOL 8534—Organizational Sustainability of Social Change Organizations”. The broad purpose of this
  consultancy was to carry out a process to diagnose a specific organizational sustainability ‘area of
  concern’ of a local organization and offer recommendations on how to improve specific processes or
  systems within that area of concern. This report presents the main findings and recommendations of
  our action-research process.

1. Introduction

One Less-Una Menos is an anti-human trafficking, non-governmental organization with
501(c)3 status founded by 5 MIIS graduate students in early 2008. The mission of One
Less is to educate the public and spread awareness of human trafficking, empower those
most vulnerable to falling victim to this crime and eradicate the worldwide injustice of
human trafficking. In the past, One Less has organized a human trafficking awareness
week, a self-defense workshop, a train-the-trainer seminar with the San Jose Police
Department (SJPD), and trainings about domestic abuse and human trafficking in
universities in the state of Mexico, Mexico. Current projects include the production of a
documentary about human trafficking and training programs in high schools in Mexico
state. The board members of One Less include MIIS faculty and Lt. John Vanek of the
SJPD Human Trafficking Task Force.

Two students in our team have direct affiliations with One Less as student liaisons and
campus club members. This helped us in gathering insightful information, as well as in
developing a framework and methodology to address a specific area of concern within
this organization.

This report contains a comprehensive description of the action research project completed
by our team; with particular focus on the following key aspects:

    Identifying an area of concern;
    Conceptualizing a methodology for looking into the area of concern (CATWOE,
    Developing Findings and recommendations
    Sharing group reflections/lessons learned on the overall research process.
Our report aims to answer the following questions:

       How can One Less better involve volunteers and student liaisons to assure further
        sustainability of the organization?
        o How can we better recruit and retain volunteers and student liaisons,
            including past their graduation date from MIIS?
        o How can strengthening the volunteer and student liaison program within One
            Less help ensure the overall sustainability of the organization?

2. Area of Concern

The area of concern we chose to focus on Figure 1—Area of Concern for the action research
is expressed below in figure 1, in which
we have depicted One Less as a seed
planted in fertile soil, which is a metaphor
for the MIIS community. Students are
represented as water while nutrients
represent faculty. Shoots and flowers
growing out of the seed are symbols of
current projects; the documentary
“Breaking the Bondage” and gender-
based violence trainings in Mexico. The
flowers that have fallen are past projects
such as gender-based violence trainings
and the creation of the STOP human
trafficking club at MIIS, which is shown
establishing its own roots in the MIIS
fertile soil. Sitting near the One Less
plant is a watering can, which represents
the student liaisons and volunteers for
One Less. The watering can is full, yet
not being used to water the One Less
plant. What‟s more, it is actually leaking
volunteer resources into soil that does not help One Less. This is symbolic of a lack of
long-term commitment on the part of volunteers. Alethia Jimenez, founder of One Less,
is depicted as a sun providing support, or nutrients, for the organization albeit from afar.
Finally, the partners, the South Bay coalition, the California Central Coast Coalition to
Stop Enslavement and donors are depicted as heavy rain clouds, full of the potential to
rain support onto One Less.

We initially came up with numerous key concerns for One Less-Una Menos. First off,
there was a lack of volunteer interest. The sad truth of human trafficking is that many
people are unaware of its existence even though it is a worldwide issue with millions of
victims in bondage1. Campaigns to end trafficking have only begun recently and it is an

1According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP

issue that hasn‟t yet entered the psyche of the general public. Even the MIIS community,
although undoubtedly international, isn‟t very aware. This means that volunteer
recruiting entails providing education about the issue instead of relying on pre-existing
knowledge or concern. Additionally, there is little knowledge on campus about the
existence of One Less itself. These two factors have contributed to One Less‟ inability to
garner and retain strong volunteer support and to hold the interest of student liaisons after
they have graduated from MIIS.

Another problem involves the structure of the organization. The original structure calls
for three action teams of student volunteers; one team for fundraising, one for program
support and the other for research fellowships. This structure assumes a long-term
commitment from student volunteers; in our estimation this is an unrealistic expectation
for unpaid labor. The fact that this has not been changed results from limited
communication between the director and student volunteers. Of the four founders,
Alethia Jimenez is by far the most active although she is currently living in Papua, New
Guinea. The result is that the director is a little bit removed from the current culture at
MIIS. Hence, the student liaisons and director sometimes have different visions for One
Less, with few avenues for developing shared vision.

A clear area of shared vision between Alethia and student liaisons, however, is an
increased involvement of the MIIS community. Alethia has stated that she would like to
see One Less retain its presence on the MIIS campus, providing MIIS students with
experience working with a non-profit, grant writing skills and program development
experience. Retaining a presence on the MIIS campus does, however, mean a constant
turnover of student liaisons. As MIIS graduates most often move away from Monterey
after graduation, it is difficult to keep them involved in One Less. Therefore the problem
here is how to keep student liaisons involved after graduating.

Finally, the roles of student liaisons are not clearly defined. There is no structure for
training new liaisons and the expectations are a little undefined as well. This compounds
a feeling of disconnect that occurs when the director is far away and limited to a voice
over the phone.

The problem areas we defined can all be addressed with some action on the part of the
student liaisons and the director, Alethia Jimenez. In addition, the anti-human trafficking
movement is gaining momentum as more people become aware of the issue. Many
people are passionate about ending human trafficking yet do not know how to help.

3.   Key Findings and Recommendations

In the previous section we presented a broad area of concern as a starting point in our
action-research with One Less. In this section we present specific findings that emerged

Report), estimates vary from 4 to 27 million. The International Labor Organization (ILO)
estimates 2.4 million people were victims of human trafficking from 1995-2005. This estimate
uses the UN Protocol definition of human trafficking, and includes both transnational and
internal data.

via the application of our methodology, as described in section 4.1. We then follow with
recommendations that respond to these key findings.

3.1. Findings

Upon identifying several common themes within the responses of our interviewees, our
team set out to conduct a comprehensive analysis; and consequently, provide a set of
recommendations that would address each theme. One of the main findings of our
research that is important to comment upon, is that all interviewees believe that the
organization has great potential because of its access to the MIIS community. In addition,
they also commented on their passion to eradicate human trafficking as one of the reasons
why they first got involved with the organization. The volunteer coordinator and student
liaisons stated that despite some of the challenges of working with a very new
organization, they were glad to be able to contribute to the mission of One Less and be
part of such a committed group of people.

With regards to issues and potential threats to the sustainability of the organization within
the area of concern of „recruiting and retaining volunteers and student liaisons‟, our team
identified key findings in the following areas:

      Inadequate organizational Structure
      Unclear roles and limited communication
      Limited incentives for volunteers and graduates
      Lack of clarity of One Less identity at MIIS
      Inadequate outreach and recruitment
      Limited local presence

1. Inadequate Organizational structure
The first concern that appeared in several interviews was the issue of organizational
structure, which was seen as far from ideal. One Less‟ organization structure is set up so
that the volunteer coordinator is the main liaison between the director, Alethia Jimenez,
and the two other student liaisons. In addition, each student liaison is supposed to lead a
team of volunteers. However, teams have not been formed because of lack of interest and
commitment from other students. Therefore, each student volunteer is currently handling
an extensive load of work because they lack the help from other volunteers. Finally,
because of the way the organization is structured, the student liaisons are dependent on
the volunteer coordinator, who might not have the capacity to be in charge of providing
guidance for all projects.

2. Unclear roles and limited communication
Many interviewees voiced their concern over the lack of communication between the
director and the other members of the team, more specifically the student liaisons. The
students also felt that the expectations of their work could be sometimes unrealistic due to
time constraints and school workload. Currently, student liaisons and volunteer
coordinators have been trying to use One Less for their class assignments; however, in
some cases, the projects were not necessarily related to their established role within the
Closely tied to the issue of communication was the perceived lack of definition of roles
among the student liaisons. The student liaisons were provided with Terms of Reference,
which indicated their duties and the expectations of their work; however, these were
provided at the beginning of the semester when it was hard for the liaisons to assess their

Other related issues included the feeling that meetings between the director and student
liaisons as well as between the liaisons and the volunteer coordinator were too infrequent,
and that the projects did not have clear timelines or due dates; and therefore, seemed lax.
The leadership team also voiced their desire to have more guidance from the director.

3. Limited Incentives for volunteers and graduates
Our team identified another theme that seemed to hold quite a bit of importance among
the leadership team and the funder—the fact that the leadership team is not being paid or
reimbursed in any other way for their contributions to One Less. While the student
volunteers seemed content at the moment to contribute their time and efforts to the
organization in whatever ways they could, when asked what they would need in order to
stay involved past their graduation, all of them responded with the need for some form of

Students also felt that if they would be awarded fellowships or paid internships, they
would be more committed to complete their duties, since there would be an incentive to
commit to working on a number of hours for their organization or turning in a number of

4. Lack of clarity on One Less identity at MIIS
Throughout the interviews, it was observed that different members of the organization
had different ideas about One Less‟ role in the fight against human trafficking. It also
became clear that the service areas had not been defined for the organization; therefore,
interviewees were unclear about One Less programmatic areas and what could be
considered its niche.

Interviewees also expressed concern that One Less and the STOP Human Trafficking
Club on campus at MIIS are too interrelated, which makes it difficult to discern which
organization is which. Currently, two out of the three members of One Less also hold
positions at the STOP club. The volunteer coordinator is in fact the President of the
STOP club. Consequently, the student volunteers also have to fulfill two different roles,
and this creates more of a burden for them. This overlapping of responsibilities between
the two organizations creates confusion internally and externally in regards to duties and
also the identity of One Less.

5. Inadequate outreach and recruitment
There are currently limited approaches to reach out to potential volunteers.
Announcements are made in classes and workshops by the leadership team and at STOP
club meetings. However, because of the informality of these announcements, and because

faculty is not involved in One Less projects, it was evident that the leadership team was
having issues with recruiting more volunteers though the existing channels.

6. Limited local presence
Comments were also made in regards to the lack of impact that One Less has at a local
level, and whether their efforts in fighting human trafficking were measurable and
realistic. Because of a limited presence, the interviewees mentioned that it was difficult
for them to market One Less as a relevant organization.

3.2. Recommendations

Once the common themes were established, the team combined brainstorming with
suggestions from the interviewees to formulate seven recommendations that each address
one or more of key concerns identified from the interviews. These recommendations are
divided into categories according to the findings they address.

Unclear roles and limited communication
To address the communication issue, both between the director and the students as well
as between them, our team proposes that One Less set regular meeting times which can
be used to discuss major happenings within the organization as well as check in and
confirm that work is going according to schedule on all levels. We are also
recommending that there be a more formal definition of the roles and responsibilities
of the student liaisons—a Terms of Reference outlining exactly what is expected of each
position and a timeline with due dates for specific projects for each liaison. These
measures, in combination with regularly scheduled meetings, will help ensure each role
within the organization is clearly defined and liaisons are held accountable for the tasks
they are given in a timely manner.

Inadequate Outreach and Recruitment
Because several interviewees expressed the view that the marketing and outreach efforts
of One Less could be made more robust, we recommend that Jan Black, who is a member
of the One Less board, incorporate the option of working with One Less into the
curriculum of her Human Rights Assessment course. We also recommend Mrs. Black
sponsor a J-Term Practicum trip to an area where One Less is working, such as
Mexico, where they will have the opportunity to observe the programmatic offerings of
One Less in action. Both of these recommendations work towards encouraging the local
community (more specifically, MIIS students) to become more involved and engaged
with the work of One Less, which would most likely lead to more interest in volunteering
or becoming a student liaison.

Limited Local Presence
Regarding the concern about the lack of local action and impact, our team recommends
that One Less organize more local community events in the Monterey Bay area, such
as marches, fundraisers, and awareness campaigns that would involve not only members
of the MIIS community but the entire community at large, and raise awareness among
those who might possibly get more involved in the anti-trafficking movement in the
future. Because partnering has been so successful for One Less thus far, we also
recommend that a Monterey Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking be founded,
which would bring together members of the anti-trafficking community in Monterey Bay
who would otherwise not know of each others‟ existence. This would help create a truly
local anti-trafficking community in which members could share resources, knowledge,
and manpower.

Lack of clarity on One Less identity at MIIS
Although the STOP Human Trafficking Club at MIIS is an absolutely vital strategic ally
for One Less, we recommend that the leadership of STOP be separate from the
student liaisons of One Less. This would eliminate some of the confusion that is present
among student liaisons about the dividing line between the two entities, which has
blurred the lines of their own duties to a certain extent.

Limited Incentives for volunteers and graduates
Our final recommendation deals with the suggestion that student liaisons be compensated
in some manner for their work with One Less. We believe that in order to retain the
talented and passionate student liaisons past their graduation from MIIS, One Less will
have to find some way to pay them. We suggest they be granted fellowships for their

If One Less is willing and able to implement any of these recommendations, our team
feels they will be more successful in both recruiting and retaining team members. This in
turn will contribute to the overall sustainability of the organization, which has the
potential to make a substantial impact in the fight against human trafficking.


4.1 Methodology

We used several methods to analyze One Less and provide viable recommendations for
its improvement. Some of the tools we used involved interviews with key stakeholders,
brainstorming among team members, document review, and rich pictures. Our first step
into finding out about the area of concern was to interview One Less‟ Director Alethia
Jimenez. Based on our interview with her, we created a rich picture of One Less‟
challenging situation as we understood it2. This enabled a discussion about the levels
where our intervention could have a greater impact. Hence, feasibility was an important
criterion when deciding our intervention, because we wanted to make sure that any
recommendations would have a chance of actually being implemented.

After having a better idea of the overall area of concern we used the CATWOE tool to
specify our purpose and determine the actors that would be involved in the
implementation of our recommendations, possible threats to it, and the organization's
worldview with regards to this action research consultancy “system”. CATWOE is a
mnemonic that breaks down as follows:
Table 1—CATWOE of Soft Systems Methodology (first column adapted from Checkland, 2006: 40)
     Original Description                          Methodological questions
C    ‘Customers’ affected by (T) as victims or     Who is this system designed to benefit, and who might be
     beneficiaries                                 affected—positively or negatively—by its “successful”
                                                   functioning? What are the boundaries of this system?
A    ‘Actors’, people who carry out the activities Who is responsible for carrying out the actions (i.e.
     in the proposed transformation (T) process    facilitate / coordinate / implement) of the system?
T    Purposeful ‘Transformation’ process, based    What is transformed by this system? Literally, what is
     on a particular worldview (W) that would      produced or comes out of this system, tangibly or
     make that transformation meaningful           intangibly?
W ‘Worldview’ or process philosophy/focus that What should the worldview, personality, bias or focus of
     will be satisfied by (T)                      this system be?
O    ‘Owners’ who could stop (T)                   Who has the power to stop this system from functioning?
E    ‘Environmental constraints’ which must be     In what environment—including organizational culture—
     taken into consideration in doing (T)         is this system immersed, and what implications does that
                                                   have for its functioning?

The results of our CATWOE are as follows:
    C: One Less-Una Menos

        A: Student liaison and volunteers

        T: Create strategic framework focusing on the organizational capacity that will
         help to recruit and sustain more volunteers.

        W: Maintaining a link between different networks interested in eliminating
         human trafficking, educating public on the human trafficking issues, leveraging
         from the passion of volunteers in order to sustain the efforts of One Less.

2   Note: the rich picture is presented in the section “Area of Concern”

     O: Alethia Jimenez and Student Liaison

     E: Lack of funding, volunteers‟ availability, and commitment

Once these specific challenges were outlined, and analyzed through CATWOE we
developed a research question and two sub questions that guided us in our further

 How can One Less better involve volunteers and student liaisons to assure further
  sustainability of the organization?
      o How can we better recruit and retain volunteers and student liaisons,
          especially past their graduation date from MIIS?
      o How can strengthening the volunteer and student liaison program within One
          Less help ensure the overall sustainability of the organization?

In the following weeks after our initial assessment, we carried out semi-structured
interviews separately with key stakeholders3, with the exception of Johanna Lounsbury
and Zia MacWilliams, who were interviewed together. Key stakeholders interviewed
were as follows:

·    Alethia Jimenez- Director, One Less
·    Jan Black- Board Member, One Less; Faculty Member, MIIS
·    Johanna Lounsbury- MIIS/One Less Student Liaison
·    Zia MacWilliams- MIIS/One Less Student Liaison
·    Adriana Taboada- MIIS/One Less Volunteer Coordinator
·    Maureen Fura- Funder, Richard Fura Fellowship

The team composed a separate set of questions for each interviewee; these questions
aimed at creating dialogue among the stakeholders on how the area of concern could be
addressed. In addition, we felt that old and new student liaisons should be interviewed
separately in order for their answers to be less-biased.

As part of the process of finding out possible recommendations, the team also reviewed
One Less documents and attended the Global Forum on Human Trafficking. Our findings
and recommendations are based on a thorough process which involved dialogue and
brainstorming among team members, reflecting about the interviews, document review
and participation in the Global Forum on Human Trafficking. Our overall research
methodology is shown in figure 1.

3 As a group we decided that it would be beneficial for our project to interview the volunteer coordinator,
Adriana Taboada, in a separate interview in order to reduce biases. Adriana has been working with One Less
longer that the other two liaisons and her views might otherwise influence the responses from Zia and Hanna.

                                   Figure 2—Research methodology

This framework is further supported by the following key assumptions that we identified
at two key moments in the process.

Figure 3--Overall process assumptions at two points in the process


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