Digital Democracy partnered with Live With Design to identify opportunities where using design thinking methods could help support and communicate their work with grassroots women’s groups in Haiti. This project allowed for collaboration across disciplines at Live With Design, the team included Martha Denton, Meaghan Kennedy, Stacy Mar, Brielle Maxwell and Pritha RaySircar.
One year after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, the international community had one picture of ground conditions. This picture included pervasive cholera, lack of sanitation, and inadequate housing. Lesser publicized realities were the conditions for women in the camps, and the escalating gender-based violence (GBV) they experienced. Enter Digital Democracy, a nonprofit organization that works at the intersection of human rights and technology. Their mission is to empower more voices with technological solutions to bring transformative change. Partnering with a local Haitian women’s group they started programs for women where instances of rape were escalating. Digital Democracy then partnered with Live With Design to identify opportunities where using design thinking methods could help support and communicate their initiatives.
Process implemented was to frame the challenge using design thinking. Our team began by asking macro level questions: How can we communicate the local Haitian Women’s Groups and Digital Democracy’s commitment to prevention of gender-based violence in Haiti? Who is it important to communicate this to? Where will it have the biggest impact? How can design’s role as a visual medium bridge stakeholders across various groups?
With the guidance of the DD team, LWD began to narrow the scope of questions in order to gain awareness of key factors at work. We identified areas where Live With Design conducted further research by understanding the situation on the ground in Haiti, connecting to donors in US and abroad and gaining awareness of the sensitivities in GBV work. Live With Design recognised the need to design and implement a donation platform to support the creation of a call center that would respond directly to the rape cases.
Listening to stakeholders, our team in New York engaged with the Digital Democracy team in Haiti and the women on the ground. Hearing the women frame their situation and desired outcomes first hand, illuminated their strength and resilience. From this viewpoint, we realized there was a tremendous opportunity to amplify their voices and connect their stories directly to potential donors. Another step we took to include more perspectives during the project was to invite New York Haitian Activist community members to attend our strategy and brainstorming meetings. As potential donors as well as active and experienced participants on the ground in these camps, it was important to learn from their participation and feedback.
Then we began to synthesize the disparate elements of the findings that we made during our empathic listening phase. We learned that a combination of low-fi tools were being used on the ground to take measures against GBV such as whistles, flashlights and self-initiated community organizing. There was a new layer of digital tools emerging that include cell phones for community organizers, computers for training and blogging, hard drives to collect and store their cases and cameras to capture stories. One question we were confronted with was “Why implement technological solutions and trainings at the call center, when many of the basic needs were not being met in the camps?” We relied on prioritizing the women’s first-hand experiences with the technological tools, and emphasized their need for a relationship with technology because they felt it to be life-changing. The women viewed the tools as key to the reconstruction of Haiti. The challenge remained of how to communicate our data that resulted from first-hand stories, the use of technological and low-fi tools, services from local non-profits and community organizing.
To break down the complexities of the story, we relied on the strength of our interdisciplinary team. Our storyteller and communication strategist worked collaboratively with our visual and branding team members to establish the building blocks of this visual language.Then our visual communication specialist developed and organized iterations of the building blocks into information graphics. The information graphics communicated the macro picture of the situation for the women in the camps. Throughout the process, our branding expert worked collaboratively with the team to build on and refine each concept. Our goal was telling the story, both with key icons and the women’s words while using photographs to make it accessible across literate and illiterate populations.
The Women of Haiti website served as a place for the international community to congregate. It recognized and supported local Haitian women run and lead nonprofits through supporting the healing, rehabilitation and training GBV survivors. All with hopes of building an empowered future, to be shared by everyone.
To amplify the voices of theses women, we used their stories in their native language, creating a bilingual website. Their voices were key in demonstrating the significance of technological tools they had for their recovery and empowerment. We intentionally avoided marketing language because we wanted to highlight the powerful truths these women were risking their lives to share.
We built their website in WordPress so that the women could use their newly acquired digital training to maintain and grow the website. Currently, the platform awaits its final go-ahead, due to a pivot in focus of local partners, and grant that made the funding for the call center possible.