I recently had the privilege of attending the Ballard Center’s 2024 Social Innovators Conference, where insightful discussions centered around the intersection of ethics and trauma-lead leadership left a lasting impact. As we strive to work with survivors of domestic abuse at the Cambodia Project, these conversations struck me on multiple levels.
One speaker who stood out was Michelle Crawford from Circles Salt Lake, a nonprofit dedicated to alleviating poverty through fostering friendships across socio-economic divides. Crawford emphasized the critical importance of understanding and recognizing triggers for trauma, stressing the need to thoroughly vet individuals to prevent retraumatization. This resonated deeply with our mission at the Cambodia Project, where our engagement with survivors demands a heightened sensitivity to ethical considerations.

The panelists underscored the significance of transparency and humility in our interactions with stakeholders. They urged us to be candid about our limitations and capabilities, ensuring that our clients are treated ethically and with dignity. Anchoring ourselves with partners who possess intimate knowledge of the issues at hand, and ideally, have firsthand experience, emerged as a vital strategy for ethical engagement—a principle we hold dear in our collaboration with local partners in Cambodia.
Trent Belliston of Saprea drove home the mantra of “listen, act, and practice” as essential pillars of ethical leadership. This simple yet profound directive encapsulates the commitment to responsiveness and continuous improvement that underpins ethical practice.

In the enlightening Big Interview segment of the conference, Chris Yadon, the managing director of Saprea, shared insights into trauma-informed leadership drawn from his personal experience. Yadon’s upbringing amidst experiences of child sexual abuse shaped his trajectory from the corporate sector and ultimately leading him to champion trauma-informed approaches at Saprea. He emphasized creating safe spaces for both program participants and organizational employees, which stuck out to me considering that many of our stakeholders in the Cambodia Project are themselves survivors.

Yadon’s call to “embrace the awkward” resonated deeply, highlighting the importance of courageous conversations around taboo topics—especially for those in positions of influence. As we aspire to be influential leaders within the Cambodia Project, fostering an environment that is trauma-informed and ethically grounded will be foundational to our success.

Moreover, Yadon stressed the necessity of maintaining a “working understanding of trauma,” advocating for ongoing education and awareness among leaders. This commitment to staying informed and attuned to the needs of our clients and team members aligns seamlessly with our mission of continuous learning and growth.
In conclusion, the insights gleaned from the Ballard Center’s conference serve a guide as we navigate the complex terrain of ethical engagement and trauma-informed leadership. By centering transparency, humility, and responsiveness in our actions, we can strive towards creating meaningful and sustainable impact in Cambodia and beyond.