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Exploring the Dynamic Human Interactions that Shape Social Change: A Case Study of an Antitrafficking Social Entrepreneurial Effort Open Access

Social entrepreneurship often occurs in complex contexts, characterized by multiple stakeholders and the need for collaboration to innovate solutions. However, most research has focused on individual, “heroic” social entrepreneurs. Little is known about how diverse actors interact with social structures via emergent processes resulting in social change.This was a case study of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), a social entrepreneurial nongovernmental organization established to educate, equip, empower, and mobilize the trucking industry to combat sex trafficking. The study examined three “game-changing” actions perceived to have created structural change. The purpose was to understand the social change process as shaped by stakeholder actions—and governed by knowledgeable actors—and their dynamic interaction with social structures. This study used structuration (Giddens, 1984) and strong structuration (Stones, 2005) theories to produce a rich understanding of the multilevel dynamics of social change within the context of key actions. TAT reframed the problem to create and grow a new anti–sex trafficking structure. It used its lack of embeddedness in the trucking and law enforcement structures to its advantage, yet was both subtly adapting to them and using soft power tactics and social capital techniques to gain legitimacy, resources, and influence to change them. The case revealed that “game-changing” actions can originate under a variety of circumstances, yet interactions of individual structures were key for both fueling the actions and fostering external structural change. TAT’s mutually empowering interactions with stakeholders helped it secure champions, who cocreated and diffused innovative anti–sex trafficking practices. Yet, TAT also used “structure” to codify these as “new norms” and scale innovations. Ultimately, TAT has become the central node for the anti–sex trafficking movement across trucking and law enforcement and a model for other antitrafficking partnerships between nongovernmental organizations and industry. Thus, the case reveals that (a) even in large-scale change, tapping into and fostering change in internal structures can be tantamount for prompting game-changing actions and external structural change; (b) TAT champions are fellow innovators; and (c) the real heroes are the trucking and law enforcement individuals who are looking for, reporting, and investigating potential cases of trafficking.

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