Highly Commended 2021


Monash University, Art Design & Architecture, XYX Lab / Crowdspot

‘YourGround: Mapping a safer Victoria for women and gender-diverse people’, is an interactive map to enable more inclusive public spaces.

‘YourGround: Mapping a safer Victoria for women and gender-diverse people’, is an interactive map and communication platform designed to enable more inclusive public spaces for everyone to enjoy leisure, sport and play. As the impact of gendered violence reverberates across our communities, Monash University’s XYX Lab, and digital consultancy, CrowdSpot, teamed up with 23 local Victorian councils to crowdsource perceptions of safety in public space. YourGround empowered individuals to critically assess their local streets, parks, trails and recreational spaces in order to expose the often hidden public safety experiences of women and gender diverse people.

Design Brief

How safe women and gender diverse people feel in public space continues to impact on how they confidently engage with it. This is a problem shared by multiple communities across our state, and one that Local Government Authorities (LGAs) are committed to addressing. However, they require data that is site-specific to their locations in order to fully understand the challenges unique to their communities.

In order to locate particular spaces and gather the data pertinent to what makes them ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’, XYX Lab and Crowdspot developed a simple, easily accessed, web-based mapping tool by which diverse community members could precisely (and anonymously) document locations and how they felt within them. Once gathered together and analysed, this project generates significant data on which to create a richer understanding of public experiences and identify spatial design changes that facilitate safety for women and gender diverse people.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

XYX Lab and Crowdspot have collaborated previously. With the data generated through these experiences, and the accumulated research of XYX Lab, it was clear there was opportunity to scale up the approach. In early 2021 a communications pitch was launched to invite LGAs to invest in the project and in doing so, expand the reach of the mapping tool, and engage metro and regional councils as co-facilitators of the project. This project also enables them to achieve the goals set out within the Gender Equality Act 2020.

An identity was developed within XYX Lab and deployed across a range of media as well as the map. An abstracted ‘Y’ and ‘G’ intersect to reference a pie-chart in the centre, referencing the data generated on the project’s completion. The logo’s centre also became the icon within the map, used to identify both ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ locations in order to not stigmatise a location or prompt undue anxiety around it.

An invitation secured 23 LGA partners. By workshopping the needs of the diverse communities represented in the LGAs an extensive communication campaign was developed across bill posters, postcards, billboards and social media. Each LGA provided site-specific imagery and identities to incorporate into their individualised campaigns. To increase our reach, instructions were printed in the seven most prevalent languages spoken across the municipalities.

The communication campaign was strategically released at staged intervals across diverse locations and media to ensure continued participation. It spanned large scale advertising along the Monash Freeway; targeted paste-ups in urban areas frequented by pedestrian traffic; real estate billboards near recreational sites; and a social media campaign. The latter provided an opportunity to share data as it appeared; repost articles from the press reporting on the project; and introduce short ‘influencer’ videos from ALFW players Darcy Vescio and Isabel Huntington.

Design Excellence

The YourGround communication campaigns are richly inclusive with multiple representations of diversity; of culture, gender, abilities and age. The data gathered from the pins has reinforced the capacity for a single project to reach multiple audiences if carefully codesigned. By working with the LGAs from the beginning, and securing their visual representations, the designers were able to accurately reflect the real social makeup of each individual municipality. This resulted in a genuine, rather than token, representation of diversity across the LGA communities. With the instructions made available in the top seven languages across the locations, and the usability of the map tested with LGA participants, the design team could ensure its ease of use. Being web-based there is no necessity for participants to download an app; nor the requirement for LGAs to invest in one. Once on the website, the map uses smartphone location technology to enable people to accurately pinpoint where their experience is occurring (or had occurred).

Simple prompts encourage participants to reveal why they feel safe or unsafe, but they can also expand on this by including their own story. The ambition of YourGround is to use authentic and real-time data to create frameworks of understanding of public safety. In particular, it is concerned for those who feel least safe in our communities: women and gender diverse people. The resulting reports provide the information LGAs, policy makers and urban designers need to respond to, ensuring we create safe, inclusive recreational spaces, and address those that are not. Used with traditional sources (such as crime statistics) the YourGround finding will enable local governments and communities to forge strategies – based on evidence – that will improve safety so that women and gender-diverse people can freely use their local environments.

Design Innovation

Designers, architects, planners, councillors, policy makers, even equity experts, cannot make assumptions about what women and gender diverse people experience in public spaces. As a grassroots, crowdsourcing tool, YourGround uncovers the experiences that restrict their access to exercise and movement; and provides important insights for those tasked with making key decisions regarding urban spaces.

The YourGround project promotes inclusion through visual representation, and by engaging the community itself. A simple, proactive, easy to use mapping tool, provides the platform for a diverse community to feel empowered; giving voice to their concerns, their observations, and their sense of public wellbeing. This is a platform designed specifically for their needs. Creators of public space frequently neglect gender as a consideration in their planning. The reports generated by YourGround will forefront the concerns of women and gender diverse people, in order that they are genuinely considered in future metropolitan and regional developments.

The covid pandemic has escalated people’s engagement with recreational spaces especially in Victoria, as the lockdown exercise permissions included outside public areas. By tapping into this restriction as an opportunity the XYX/Crowdspot design team were able to ensure the project went ahead as planned. QR codes, now frequently used by the public, were published on every piece of collateral to ease the ability of participants to connect to the map. This ensured people could connect quickly, and not defer their participation through having to self-navigate to the site.

YourGround secured over 6000 individual pins and hundreds of detailed comments explaining ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ locations. Once the campaign was complete Crowdspot were immediately able to create ‘heatmaps’ that identified certain areas of concern as well as those exemplars of safety. The text-based data has been analysed by XYX to generate site specific information that help frame future approaches to inclusive placemaking.

Design Impact

The impact of YourGround is significant. It has enabled people, in particular those who are frequently marginalised and not specifically addressed in public place making, to have a voice and help shape the safe, community facilities they need. By gathering the lived experience of women and gender diverse people into reports specific to individual municipalities, the LGAs responsible for civic development and safety can clearly address the needs of their community. ‘Safe’ pins provide the exemplar spaces; and by analysing their attributes they will understand what works towards making a space feel safe and inclusive. ‘Unsafe’ pins provide equivalently valuable data. They locate areas in need of immediate attention, but also the specifics of what makes them feel ‘unsafe’. The YourGround project reveals there is not a single way to design safe, inclusive spaces, but a multitude of ways that must be nuanced for particular communities. By engaging community users, a more site-specific understanding can be established relevant to their experience and their relationship to the location, its attributes and infrastructure.

With the recent implementation of Victoria’s Gender Equality Act 2020, creating inclusive spaces is a priority state-wide. YourGround is one of the first responsive, widespread engagements where women and gender-diverse people are invited to share their experiences. Negotiations are currently underway to extend YourGound to locations in New South Wales in 2022.

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