She’s A Crowd: Using storytelling data to end gender-based violence

She’s A Crowd: Using storytelling data to end gender-based violence


Organisation: She’s A Crowd

Innovation Program: Humanitech Lab

Collaborators: Women-identifying and gender-diverse people with experiences of gender-based violence and customers, such as state government departments, universities, private transportation companies and rideshare companies.

  • Challenge: 87% of incidents of gender-based violence are unreported in Australia, providing an incomplete picture for decision-makers to meaningfully act.

  • Technology: She’s A Crowd has crowdsourced the biggest location-based set of gender-based violence data in the world to provide insights and mapping tools on survivors’ experiences. The organisation provides a safe and anonymous crowdsourcing platform where survivors from anywhere in the world can share their stories of sexual assault, street harassment, domestic violence and other gendered incidents of violence.

  • Validate: She’s A Crowd completed validation with both users and customers to understand how to best present and package data insights to make the greatest social impact and to scale the organisation’s business model.

  • Feedback: Survivors strongly believed their data should be used to promote education, awareness, and change with government and peak bodies. Identifying customer needs led to the She’s a Crowd team ideating a suite of new data products, including the workplace equity chatbot, the subscription-based insights dashboard, and the Gender Safety Scorecard, which presents a score that represents the safety of locations based on the experiences of survivors, enabling decision-makers to make spaces safer.

In 2017, Zoë Condliffe was working in gender advocacy when actress Alyssa Milano sent a tweet. Containing the words ‘me too’, half a million people tweeted the hashtag and another 4.7 million people used the phrase on Facebook in the first 24 hours. It galvanised a global movement.

Having experienced gender-based violence herself, Zoë was aware of the power of survivor storytelling, but also aware that most experiences are unreported. In Australia, it’s estimated that approximately 13 per cent of incidences are reported to police.

“There are a wide range of reasons as to why survivors choose not to report their experiences, which leads to many stories falling through the cracks. As such, it is difficult for decision-makers to make decisions based on evidence and which are contextually specific to locations, institutions and intersections of experience,” said Zoë.

In response to the gender data gap, in 2018 Zoë launched her tech startup, She’s A Crowd. She’s A Crowd uses crowdsourced data to make cities and spaces safer for women and gender-diverse people.

“We are doing this by closing the gender-data gap,” she said.

She’s A Crowd offers an anonymous storytelling platform via their website for users to share their story from anywhere in the world. A chatbot is also built into the platform to support users to access mental health and wellbeing services, as well as a global resource list for support.

The platform receives approximately 10 million monthly visits, with 32 per cent of visitors submitting their stories. This leads to 300-600 stories coming in each day, manually recoded by the She’s A Crowd team to remove any identifying information from the data to help protect survivors’ identities. From there, high level information is shared on the website’s public map and a full report is coded onto She’s A Crowd’s private dashboard for customers, such as government departments and universities.

The world’s largest geolocative database of gender-based violence

Having built a database of approximately 120,000 stories of gender-based violence from around the world to date, She’s A Crowd has been focusing on getting the survivor storytelling side of the platform ‘right’ before exploring scaling their business further.

“We’ve been working with decision-makers in Australia for years, however we hadn’t found a way to commercialise as a data company to the scale that we want to,” said Zoë.

“The next stage for us requires turning our attention toward optimising our data insights for best practice use by decision makers,  so that we can deliver on our promise to survivors – that we use their data to create change,” she added. “It’s all about closing that loop set out in our theory of change.”

To progress this work, She’s A Crowd partnered with Humanitech, an initiative led by Australian Red Cross in collaboration with founding partner Telstra Foundation. The program is dedicated to exploring new approaches to designing and developing technology for humanitarian impact by working alongside affected communities.

“Survivors are at the centre of everything we do at She’s A Crowd, so we were really encouraged that Humanitech was aligned with our values and supported us to be led by survivors in the way we went about this,” said Zoë.

She's A Crowd CEO and Founder Zoë Condliffe

Using data to make a difference

To validate their approach, the She’s A Crowd team went back to their community on how they wanted their data to be used.

They found that 95 per cent of users agreed that it was important to them that their data was used to instigate change, however more than a quarter (27%) did not understand how  their story would be heard and contribute to change.

“This told us that more work was needed to be transparent with survivors about how their data is being used and that we needed to share more case studies and examples of the projects we conduct with our customers,” said Zoë.

Other important insights were into the specific focus areas survivors wanted their data to be used for:

  • 40 per cent indicated education and awareness.
  • 56 per cent for partnerships with politicians and government bodies.
  • 25 per cent to empower lived experience voice sharing.

From there, the team engaged with their existing customer base (including governments, private transportation companies and rideshare industries) to learn more about their needs and whether the dashboard that She’s A Crowd was developing would meet them.

“We found that the geolocative interactive insights dashboard and the downloadable reports that we provide were really helpful for the teams that we work with, and that we could develop an extended suite of data products servicing those working on the ground in communities, all the way up to a policy level ’ said Zoë.

“This led to us pivoting our approach to explore how we could service new industries and make our data even more accessible, usable and integratable into existing decision-making processes.”

The Gendered Safety Scorecard

Drawing upon existing approaches in the community development sector, She’s A Crowd began developing a new product, the Gendered Safety Scorecard. It uses an algorithm to weight factors across 5-10 determinants of gendered safety to generate a rating of specific locations based on insights provided by survivors.

The scorecard has been refined through further workshops, testing and stakeholder feedback. They are currently seeking further funding to complete the project.

Zoë says that working with Humanitech’s Humanity First prototype has been instrumental in shaping She’s A Crowd’s approach during the project. Humanity First is an approach that’s being developed to guide the ethical development of technology in addressing humanitarian problems, and explores opportunities to maximise the benefits of technology while addressing its risks across society.

“We have thought a lot about Humanity First and what it means to be a tech start-up that uses survivors’ data with transparency,” said Zoë.

“We have worked hard to be transparent with our privacy policies and our data security, but it has  challenged us to see how we could go even further than that and share back to survivors how their data is being used to enact change.”

It was survivor feedback in the validation survey that led to the team identifying this area as a further opportunity to work on.

“Survivor voices have shaped this project from the very beginning and will continue to be at the very centre of everything we do as we continue to use their stories to create a ripple effect of change,” said Zoë.

She’s A Crowd with governments, universities, organisations and not-for-profits to provide insights into gender-based violence in municipalities, workplaces, demographic or school. They are currently raising capital and funding to continue the work started through Humanitech. To enquire about donating or investing, obtain a data insights report in your area or access gender lens consulting service, contact the team to find out more.

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