She’s A Crowd app: Helping to make transport safer for women
A Melbourne-based startup, She’s A Crowd, is helping government make transport safer for women by shining a light on gender-based violence.
And it all hinges on data crowdsourced through the company’s app, which is integrated into the She’s A Crowd website.
That data, spanning people’s current and historical recollections, will be pumped into an ‘insights delivery dashboard’, making it a handy resource for decision-making and policy development that goes much deeper than crime statistics.
Voice of the people
She’s a Crowd has been working with government for the past 18 months to address women’s safety on trains, trams, buses, ferries, light rail, Uber, rideshares, and taxis.
The company’s mission is to create change: safer cities for women and non-binary people to live, work, and play, says Jessie Tang. She’s the Sales & Stakeholder Manager, having started as a research intern in April 2020.
For decision makers, we present a way for them to hear from community members and understand the issues that they face. We have direct access to users and communities through our social media presence and are less of an authority figure. That allows people to trust and confide in us to share their stories about their experiences.
She describes the startup as “… more grassroots, innovative and nimble”.
There’s also a wide consensus among victim-survivors that the police are not equipped to respond to disclosures. That’s why prevention-based projects that are informed by victim-survivors (like ours) are so important and why we believe decision making in this space should be informed by this lens.
A start-up with traction
Zoe Condliffe founded She’s a Crowd in 2018 and in 2019/20, took part in CivVic Labs accelerator program led by LaunchVic and the Department of Premier and Cabinet, which helped connect her with government. She’s A Crowd has also worked with the City of Melbourne, Transport for New South Wales, and other organisations looking to make their cities safer.
Their partnership with the Victorian Department of Transport has arisen from the CivVic Labs program and will span two years.
Jessie says her company is working closely with decision makers who want to make their cities safer by providing “bespoke insights to help address the problems that they’re facing”.
“However, now that our dashboard has now launched, working with us has become a lot easier, as decision makers are able to subscribe to our dashboard to gain regular access to this data.
“As we deal with incredibly sensitive data, none of this is publicly accessible. However, we have a project in the works for our users, where we plan to use our data.
“Organisations who subscribe to our dashboard … “will be able to access data such as specific insights from the qualitative stories, or trends from our quantitative data to inform their decision making and policy.”
Historically, men have predominantly designed city transport and how they operate – currently, it’s a male-dominated field.
Jessie says: “This project will be powerful in ensuring a gender lens and a trauma-informed lens to guide transport planning and hopefully bring about reform to genuinely enhance women and non-binary people’s feeling of safety on public transport.”
Tapping into the narrative
So, how exactly is this data collected?
She’s A Crowd has used social media – Facebook and Instagram – and influencers such as Clementine Ford to put the call out for people to share their stories about gender-based violence on public transport in Australia. Originally, the campaign was going to run last November, but the COVID shutdown delayed it.
“The first part of our campaign was centred around raising awareness about the issue while the second part was centred around collecting stories. Through sharing anonymised stories normalise the conversation around these issues and make people realise that they’re not alone. That latest campaign was so successful our app even crashed – that’s a first for us.
“We want to empower people and encourage them to realise that their stories are meaningful, important and need to be heard. Victim survivors no longer need to be silenced or suppressed because [our] platform allows people to share these experiences of harassment and assault with us.”
“People need a space and a sense of community to heal from such traumatic experiences. It can be isolating afterwards, but we want to ensure that that is not the case”.
Balancing ethics and anonymity
The idea is for people to write about their experiences in an app integrated into the website of She’s A Crowd that’s also mobile responsive. That app allows the stories shared with them to go into the database, which is stored in a safe and secure manner and provides anonymity.
“For some people, that’s important, but others who have found comfort in sharing their stories online as a form of feeling less isolated,” says Jessie.
“We encourage people to share their stories through our app. It helps build our evidence base and close the gender data gap.”
Jessie says people from across the world have uploaded their stories, some as far back as the 1990s. Most of the incidents are Victorian and NSW based. However, we hope to become a global-wide database. The data collection includes not just the journey on public transport, but the walk, or cycle, for example, to get there. That’s all part of someone’s transport journey, Jessie says.
“Despite working with large sets of incredibly sensitive data, we find that each story carries its own weight.”
A peek at the back engine
She’s A Crowd work with software developer WhyHive, another purpose-driven tech startup, to build their dashboard.
While we believe it is important for decision makers to access this data, we also want to ensure it is used in a positive way. Otherwise, it would feel like a disservice to the people from whom we’ve collected stories. It needs to be used in the manner it’s intended to be.
We hope to follow our client’s journey after using our data to form case studies around their successes. As we’re working towards long-term change, it can be difficult to articulate the change we create, but we hope this project will demonstrate to other decision makers that our work is necessary to end gender-based violence.
She’s A Crowd is using the project to see how the technology might be applied to other sectors to make their work inclusive of a gender lens.
“Being around for three years, our company realises there’s a need for this all over Australia. And with our CEO, Zoe, previously working on a gender crowdmapping project, we realise how powerful this is for people, and we’re keen to scale our impact on a global level.”
When asked for her tips for women and non-binary people to be and feel safe during transport journeys, she stresses the importance for victim-survivors not to fall into the trap of blaming themselves.
“It shouldn’t be only up to us to take control of our safety. Transport providers and society ultimately have a collective responsibility to take care of our safety. We know women, non-binary people, and girls shoulder the burden to have to account for their safety every time they venture out late at night or in an unfamiliar place and that’s not right,” says Jessie.