Reflection on a Policy Placement with PaCCS and the TISCreport

Reflection on a Policy Placement with PaCCS and the TISCreport

Reported by Yongyu Zeng

The research report “Progress & Challenges in Tackling Modern Slavery in Local Government Supply Chains” emerged from a three-month Policy Placement that I undertook with the Partnership for Conflict, Crime & Security Research (PaCCS) and the TISCreport. I was delighted to be involved in the organisations’ work, and to have the opportunity to collaborate with TISCreport CEO Jaya Chakrabarti as part of my secondment.

Jaya is extremely passionate about delivering positive social and environmental impact through the application of sophisticated techniques which can improve corporate transparency. Throughout my placement, I played a key role in exploring the state of ongoing work to improve transparency in local government supply chains through a research project I co-designed, co-managed, and executed in collaboration with Jaya and the PaCCS team. 

The goal of our research was to empirically investigate the challenges facing local government officers in tackling modern slavery in supply chains. More specifically, our work explored to what extent relevant measures have been employed in the procurement cycle. We also examined the factors which influenced the measures undertaken by local authorities to improve supply chain transparency. Our research uncovered encouraging progress by local authorities in actively contributing to modern slavery risk assessments, and in driving suppliers towards socially responsible practices. However, there remain gaps between aspiration and practice, which we suspect to be linked to challenges in financial resourcing.

Using our findings, we produced a list of recommendations which are addressed to stakeholders in local, regional, and central government. These recommendations outline steps which could be taken to strengthen their efforts to improve supply chain transparency and tackle modern slavery. We believe that by promoting best practices and sharing practical solutions among local authorities, certain challenges associated with the implementation of the TISC Provision can be overcome.

My policy placement offered the opportunity for close collaboration with an industry partner and provided me with the opportunity to conduct research which delivered impact. In the initial stage of the placement, Jaya shared with me her insights on the challenges I might face over the course of my work – including in accessing up-to-date supply chain information – and shared her knowledge on assessment of corporate impact and the risk posed by criminal activities throughout supply chains. Faced with a tight timeline, close collaboration throughout this project was vital in efficiently carrying out my research. From this starting point, I conducted a literature review to refine the research question. Then, we co-developed a pilot survey and administered it during the height of the pandemic and conducted in-depth interviews with officers from local government.

Surveying and interviewing local government officers during the pandemic proved to be challenging. However, we were able to use TISCreport connections with local government as a starting point, and to build from this effort through “snowballing” to reach a larger set of participants. For this, I sincerely thank the local government officers who took part in this research, and who have worked so hard to support communities during this difficult time. I hope our report sufficiently represents their voices and helps to develop solutions which address the issues they have encountered in risk-screening suppliers.

My placement greatly benefitted from the time and efforts devoted by Dr Tristram Riley-Smith, my supervisor at PaCCS who provided thorough support and professional comments on the final report; Jaya Chakrabarti – who offered substantive insights into my topic; the University of Cardiff’s Professor Mike Levi – who provided professional opinions on the project and offered feedback on the initial draft of the survey; and Kate McNeil – who produced the policy briefing and made sure that the research findings were seen by people.

For more information about this project, you can read the Policy Briefing or download the full Report.