Leadership & Decisionmaking

Example: Leadership and Decisionmaking in Task Forces

The South Bay Coalition (Task Force) has four working committees – Law Enforcement, Victim Services, Legal Services, and Community Outreach and Education. The Executive Board consists of the four heads of committees, the Coalition chair, and the Coalition coordinator. Each committee is tasked with creating 1-year plans and reporting back to the general body as well as the Executive Board. The Executive Board makes decisions about membership, visitors to Coalition meetings, funding, policy, collaborative requests, etc. Other topics addressed by the Executive Board include formal terms of office and voting/nonvoting membership rules, as well as more comprehensive data (case and training) tracking.

The Western New York Human Trafficking Task Force uses consensus between Task Force co-facilitators and subcommittee chairs to make decisions. If consensus cannot be reached, the opinion of the chair with the most experience in that area is weighted more heavily.

Leadership structures of existing task forces vary widely, from a single individual within a police department or sheriff’s office to leadership teams composed of individuals from the major agencies on the task force. Successful task forces can be led by a variety of agencies or organizations, and it is up to each task force to determine the leadership structure that best suits its needs.

Regardless of which agency the individual(s) who lead the task force comes from, it is important to select leadership the membership will respect and follow. In many cases, the individual or individuals will be a ranking law enforcement officer or an experienced Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA). Often when law enforcement is involved in a task force, having another law enforcement officer or prosecutor in a leadership role is crucial to ensuring his/her engagement.

Ideally, the task force leader(s) work full-time on human trafficking, such as an AUSA who also serves as a lead prosecutor on trafficking, a law enforcement officer who leads trafficking investigations, or a service provider who works primarily (or exclusively) with trafficking victims. The leader(s) should give sufficient time to maintain continuity of task force operations and understand the work of the task force.

Key Skill Sets for a Leader

Training: Build your leadership skills through OVC TTAC Web-based Leadership Institute

The Leadership Institute is designed for victim service administrators and leaders who wish to enhance their leadership skills and abilities. Participants will learn theoretical concepts and practical skills to lead their organization, team, or work group more effectively.

Being an effective leader within any collaborative effort requires the leadership skills to allow everyone involved to feel their input is heard and considered. The leader must foster an environment that is inclusive of those who want to contribute, and promote these practices by exhibiting strong collaborative skills.

Leadership and decisionmaking within a task force environment differs from expertise in responding to human trafficking, and therefore requires specific skills. Leadership within a task force should not be conferred solely because of expertise regarding human trafficking, but rather for specific leadership and collaboration skills that will lead to the growth and sustainability of the response to human trafficking.

Centralized and Decentralized Leadership

Experience shows that task forces routinely develop into one of two leadership models: centralized or decentralized. One example of a centralized leadership model could be where two organizations are funded through federal or state grants, perhaps a local law enforcement agency and a victim service provider that are large enough to offer comprehensive victim services under one roof. In this case, the two organizations may elect to create a leadership team composed only of individuals from these two organizations. Other agencies or individuals may be invited to collaborate with these organizations, and these organizations may even seek input or guidance on issues affecting the broader collaborative, but ultimately, decisions will come only from these two organizations or their representatives on the task force.

One example of a decentralized leadership model could be where several organizations are funded via grants and subgrants so each has a financial role within the task force, or where the organizations prefer to promote a broader decisionmaking process in which several (or all) stakeholders have a voice in decisionmaking. A decentralized leadership model is most commonly found in task forces where no agencies are receiving grant funding specifically for anti-trafficking efforts, or where the task force was formed through the organic efforts of several persons or organizations.

It should be noted that these illustrations are only examples of centralized and decentralized models, and in practice, task forces can significantly vary in how they are organized for purposes of leadership and decisionmaking. One model is not inherently better, or preferred, over the other. What is important is that regardless of the leadership/decisionmaking model used, the model supports the overarching goals of the task force: identifying victims and delivering comprehensive services; investigating and prosecuting cases; and raising knowledge and awareness within professional sectors and the community at large through a collaborative and victim-centered response.

The designation of the following four key leadership roles can be sufficient to meet most task force management needs:

  • Group Leader: Provides overall coordination; coordinates service providers and law enforcement; and conducts meetings.
  • Group Administrator: Provides administrative and logistical coordination; and may provide grant management support and support to task forces seeking funding.
  • Victim Services Coordinator: Provides primary liaison and coordination of various victim services that may originate in several organizations.
  • Outreach Coordinator: Coordinates and leads in the development and delivery of outreach efforts. This may include individuals who can serve as community liaisons who are connected to target communities and have culturally and linguistically appropriate training and outreach capacity.

Management and Coordination of Activities

To maintain a balance in workloads and responsibilities, it may be effective to rotate task force roles and responsibilities on an annual basis. In an ideal situation, one where funding and personnel resources are available, it is highly recommended to have a full-time task force leader or administrator. Some task forces have designated administrators or managers who support the routine functions of the collaborative efforts, such as coordinating meetings; coordinating the work of various subcommittees; ensuring that identified victims of trafficking are cross-reported to all the necessary agencies; maintaining accurate records related to the type and number of victims identified (without personal information) that can be used in press releases; or coordinating trainings or public presentations made by task force members.

Supporting Roles

Depending on the size, capacities, and needs of the task force, additional leadership roles may be useful. Many task forces form committees focused on outreach, training, public awareness, advocacy, and other issues, which members can preview. Sharing membership and leadership roles on these committees is one way to engage a variety of community partners in building and sustaining the task force. For more information on task force committees, see Section 3.1 on Committees.

For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 3.1 Task Force Membership & Management.