Margaret Henderson Named Voinovich Public Innovation Challenge Finalist

Faculty Member Margaret Henderson

School of Government faculty member Margaret Henderson is one of four finalists in the Voinovich Public Innovation Challenge. Cosponsored by the NASPAA (Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration) and Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, this competition commemorates Senator George V. Voinovich. Throughout almost five decades of public service, he encouraged others to develop practical solutions to challenging public problems.

This October, Henderson and three other finalists will each present their proposals at the annual NASPAA conference in Los Angeles. Other finalists include Robert Bifulco (Syracuse University, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs), Sara Rinfret (University of Montana, Master of Public Administration Program), and Gary Painter (University of Southern California, Sol Price School of Public Policy). The winner will receive money to help make their proposed innovation a reality.

Henderson received the nomination for her submission of Exploring the Intersections between Local Government and Human Trafficking. As the proposal says, “Traffickers target people with vulnerabilities. Any kind of vulnerability will serve their purpose: homelessness, unstable family, lack of social networks, economic instability, substance abuse, etc.” Henderson proposes that since local government staff work with these populations and know their communities, they are ideally positioned to identify and fight human trafficking.

If funded, Henderson’s project would increase awareness about human trafficking in various local government audiences and equip them with systemic and low-to-no-cost approaches for combatting this issue. Her project proposal lays out specific steps for equipping local governments and proposes the creation of specific resources – print materials, on-site training, articles in professional magazines, podcasts, and social media – to educated audiences about recognizing the indicators of human trafficking. Target audiences for these resources include everyone from public health nurses in school clinics to tax appraisers/assessors and even fire marshals. Eventually, Henderson hopes the resources developed by this project could also be used in states across the nation.

Henderson’s research into human trafficking demonstrates the major impact in she had had in her public service career. Henderson has been with the School of Government since 1999. Currently, she teaches in the School’s MPA program. However, she also works several key School initiatives including Engaging Women in Public Service and Project No Rest, a UNC Social School of Work program which helps NC communities address human trafficking.

Henderson is also the director of the Public Intersection Project, in which she researches and communicates strategies to strengthen cross-sector working relationships. She possesses two decades of human services experience and has worked in state and local governments as well as with nonprofits. Over the years, Henderson has published articles such as Human Trafficking in North Carolina: Strategies for Local Government Officials (Public Management Bulletin, October 2017) and Options for Reporting Sexual Violence:  Developments Over the Past Decade (FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, May 2010).