Discovering New Forms of Storytelling with Data
This blog post was guest written by Zoe Condliffe, CEO and founder of She’s A Crowd. She’ll be guest speaking during the “From Endangered Animals to Gender-Based Violence” session of the Women Rock-IT series on September 25th.
Imagine if women could report their stories of harassment, assault, or violence in a way that did not re-traumatize them, but instead connected them to one another. Those stories could be used to collect data and help decision makers understand the problem.
That’s the idea behind the company I’m building today. She’s A Crowd will ensure every woman, anywhere in the world, can access a platform to share her story safely, and that those stories will be heard by people who have the power to change the outcome.
Over 85% of sexual assault goes unreported here in Australia, which means that decision-makers cannot correctly understand the problem. If you can’t understand the problem, how can you solve it?
She’s A Crowd is harnessing the power of technology to empower women to share their stories, and to ensure those stories are used to address the data gap in gender-based violence. We use a combination of data analytics, crowdsourcing technology, and community development theory to achieve impact.
We have built a digital storytelling platform that allows women to share their experiences of gender-based violence and sexual assault. These stories are geotagged and timestamped, then aggregated at the back end into reports that are used to inform the design of safer cities for prevention.
Our data is being used by transport authorities to design safer stations; by universities to understand their students’ experiences of sexual assault on campus; by companies to gather anonymous data on their employee safety; by international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to develop election campaigns that raise awareness on violence against women; and by property developers to design the safest new suburbs they possibly can.
Our demo is live on our site, and we are currently working with developers to build out the second phase of our platform, which will focus more on the public-facing, interactive element, allowing women to connect with other stories and see how their story fits among the themes and trends we identify.
I was lucky enough to be selected as one of six female, global tech company founders to complete the She Starts Accelerator — the leading technology accelerator for women. I’ve been able to develop my company, She’s a Crowd, with the support of this program. And even though I am a non-tech founder, I have been able to access the tools I need to build my own start-up.
But building a tech company is not something I thought I would ever do, even in my wildest dreams. And although I’ve felt very out of my depth for so much of it, my background in international and community development, as well as the arts, has prepared me in ways I never thought possible.
I have worked for the last three years in youth and gender advocacy, developing partnerships with decision-makers like law enforcement, governments, universities, and engineers to help them understand how gendered violence plays out and how we can address it in a proactive and preventative way. Through this collaboration, I digitized global safer cities programs for girls through a digital mapping app, which was rolled out across five continents to prevent street harassment.
I have my Master’s degree in female collective storytelling, and I truly understand how and why women share their stories. I’m passionate about such stories, and I know how empowered women can become when they share them.
She’s A Crowd has taken off; with pilots lined up in three continents already, we’ve attracted the attention of the United Nations, NOW Australia, property developers, corporations, and universities. We were recently listed as number 7 on Smart Company’s Smart 30 Under 30 list.
Gender-based violence is not uncommon. One in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence, but because most of these stories aren’t reported as data, we don’t realize how common it really is. I believe in the power of storytelling because, for me, it saved my life.
My own personal experience of violence came with all of the shame and secrecy common to my experience. But eventually, I started telling my story, because I was sick of the silence around what had happened. I was sure I wasn’t the only one. And something incredible started happening — other people came forward to tell me their stories.
I realized that storytelling is contagious. And sharing my story here, I know other women will read this and feel less alone. I want every woman to feel empowered by sharing her story, as I do, and know that their story will contribute to a broader narrative of change.