Using creativity to make the world a safer place for women

How design can help domestic violence service providers. You might know a lot about Lara Stephenson & my work with the Social Good Outpost and how most of our clients recently have been in the domestic violence service provision space.

It’s no coincidence – my experience for the last four years has been working with domestic violence service providers across Australia, facilitating domestic violence prevention workshops for minority communities, and advising peak bodies and government on domestic violence service provision.

But how does our work with graphic and web design help aid the cause of stopping domestic and gender-based violence? Since November 2016, we’ve been working with Domestic Violence Work Aware, an organisation founded by multiple Working Women’s Centres across Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia. We were set with the aim of designing an inclusive, responsive website and branding that was not just sensitive of audiences who were potentially in very difficult and dangerous situations, but also accessible to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups, LGBTIQ communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and rural and regional populations.

Our work has just been entered in the Victorian Premier’s Design Awards for 2017, and as such, I thought I’d share a little bit more about what can make design accessible for service providers working with critical social issues and vulnerable populations.

1. Features centre around the needs of designing for vulnerable populations. Specifically, for individuals effected by DFV, but also, for minority groups who may be multiply-marginalised or at an intersection of violence and abuse. This might include LGBTIQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer) audiences, who may suffer not only from DFV but wider societal homophobia and may be still ‘in the closet’, hence a need to be able to quickly exit the website and also have the website use terminology which reflects their identity. This is one of our first features – using non-gendered language and inclusive design.


DVworkaware12. Secondly has been designing for CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) audiences, who may be affected by racism and inaccessibility due to language, on top of experiencing DFV. The design was structured specifically around providing images and references which people can relate to, regardless of and inclusive of their cultural or ethnic background. One of the things we found to be incredibly important in a website which caters for DFV is that CALD people must be able to see themselves and feel welcomed, accepted, and understood when using the resource.

DVworkaware23. Aiding the accessibility for CALD individuals was the addition of a language conversion tool embedded in the website. This aided DVWA in communicating their message regardless of whether the audience spoke English or not. It also enabled communities who may not be able to read or understand English to have access to vital resources which could change how the story ends for them – on a very personal and very important note. Being able to access and read all the resources is very important for DVWA to reach these otherwise hard-to-reach populations.

DVWorkaware34. A further design feature has been the addition of a ‘quick exit’ button, accessible on all pages of the website. Once this button is clicked, the website closes and is redirected to the Google search page. This is important on two fronts. Firstly, it is important that individuals who are experiencing violence in the home can quickly close the website in case their abuser arrives home, or checks on what they are doing. Secondly, it helps to maintain confidentiality and privacy from colleagues in the workplace, where individuals may be searching for material as DVWA is primarily promoted in workplaces.

DVWorkaware45. The final functionality and benefit of this website is that it is an all-in-one resource, where employers, employees and anyone experiencing DFV in the workplace can access support and information. The website is both a first point of call and a pathway for ‘what’s next’ for both employers and employees. This project is driven almost entirely by the website, supported by in-person training, and therefore its design has been crucial to delivering solutions for dealing with DFV when it is experienced by those in the workforce – a service that has truly been pioneered by DVWA.


School workshops on the future of work

Ground Chai is a social enterprise that lets cafe consumers contribute to Australian youth’s work and life readiness, in the age of globalisation, automation, and work transformation. Think: commercial sales of amazing chai funding workshops for rural and regional schools and communities on entrepreneurship, communication and leadership for the changing world.


For the past 8 months we have been working closely with the CEO and Founder, Mikhara Ramsing, to develop, design and strategise Ground Chai’s impact, and we wanted to share a bit about the organisation. Read this to know more about what incredible projects exist in this space of helping youth transition to job-readiness, and where good design can help projects and organisations as they start out or transition to new spheres of influence.

Case Study: Ground Chai

The premise behind Ground Chai was simple:

Ground Chai is a social enterprise providing the grounds for connection over chai.

So, we designed a website around two themes:

Buy Chai | Get Help For Your Community

With economic forces transforming work through globalisation, automation and more flexible work, young people need the skills to navigate this new world of work. The Foundation of Young Australians found that nearly 60% of university students and 70% of VET students are currently studying or training for occupations where at least two thirds of the jobs will be automated by the time they graduate. Keeping up with the rapid pace of change is a big problem. For schools, the job is difficult, particularly given the sometimes slow-moving nature of the education system in which we currently educate, prepare and empower our youth.  The space for innovation here, is huge.

Enter Mikhara and Ground Chai. We first came across Mikhara in 2014 when she was part of the organising team for the IMPACT Youth Social Enterprise Conference. Taking this depth of experience, and 10+ years working with youth across Australia, India, Nepal and Tanzania, Mikhara is using Ground Chai in a unique way to connect youth + skills needed for the new world of work + a sustainable business model, which also happens to involve delicious chai.

We’ll get onto the amazing chai she makes, but at the heart of the work Mikhara is currently doing is empowering youth with real skills enabling them to be resilient and adaptable in a changing world. Currently working with schools in regional NSW, Ground Chai is going national in mid 2017. The dream here, is big.


This is where the potential of our work really kicks in. For social enterprises or projects where social impact is important to the values and activities of the organisation, getting the design right is important. Unlike traditional business, the aim is not just to sell, but to demonstrate impact. Part of this includes consistently working with Ground Chai to maintain their website and design presence. However, we’re also using interactive storytelling to document the process as Ground Chai’s impact spreads, and the community of adaptable, work-ready and confident individuals grows.

Interactive storytelling is a way to use more than static design, websites, videos and marketing to tell your message. It may involve games, interactive and embodied design, and any combination of new and emerging technologies. For Ground Chai, the sky is the horizon, as we canvas ideas and look to forms of poetry, art, in-person connection, physical platforms and online spaces to promote and empower young Australians with the skills for a new world.

In the meantime, watch this space. We’re excited for the incredible change Ground Chai is to bring, and as the Social Good Outpost design company, we’re excited to be the ones showing just how incredible the impact of this is.

If you want a workshop for your school, check them out here.

If you want a workshop for your community, check them out here.

If you want to support Ground Chai in another way, why not send a message of support, a recommendation for a school to reach, or any hot tips and events to Mikhara while you’re at it.

And, if you want design for your own idea – give us a shout and we’d love to help you out at The Social Good Outpost.


New research publication on women’s leadership

Research from my time in Hong Kong on the New Colombo Plan has just been published in the Griffith Journal of Law & Human Dignity, in their Special Issue on Gender, Culture & Narrative.

Often at the vanguard of equal employment opportunity (‘EEO’) interventions and movements for equality, it is surprising that universities remain inherently gendered in leadership, with few women making it to senior leadership positions worldwide. While EEO policies have been expressly designed to achieve equality and redress gender imbalances inherent in university structures, it is unclear whether EEO policies practically contribute to this, with an enduring leadership imbalance evidenced globally. To determine the contributions of EEO policies across the international labour market in which universities operate, this case study compares the EEO policies and experiences of ten women university leaders in Australia and Hong Kong. This study finds that more-developed EEO policies correlate with more women in leadership and better experiences of leadership for women within the universities. However, it is clear from a sustained gender imbalance in leadership that EEO policies do not redress gender inequality alone. Limitations of EEO interventions include the narrow focus on aspects of discrimination and inequality and over-reliance on traditional concepts of “merit” and leadership. Grounded within the Asia Pacific region, this case study demonstrates that the contributions of EEO policies to women’s leadership in universities are nuanced.  

You can view the article and download here:

Designing for Social Good

Social entrepreneurs, change-makers and do-gooders need good design. Good design means branding and websites that ‘get’ your social impact and how to show it off to the world.

This month, together with Lara at The Grazing Elk graphic design firm, we launched the Social Good Outpost. As a social entrepreneur and change-maker myself, I wanted to contribute specialised knowledge to design.

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The Social Good Outpost aims to be the go-to designer for social good in Australia.

Lara and I were inspired to create a division that worked with social enterprises and change-makers after seeing first hand the impact of design on social projects. This was catalysed when I worked with IMPACT Social Enterprise in 2013/2014, an organisation and conference that takes 120-180 of Australia’s best and brightest youth to explore social enterprise.

At IMPACT, prior to anything else existing apart from an idea, we had a brand. We had a logo and a website. We had neat, sharp, professional and edgy pitching material and design which meant that when we began talking to the first members of our team, and the first sponsors and interested parties, it looked like we were already “something”. And that something was something good.

Design by The Grazing Elk took us from having an *awesome idea* to running a successful three day conference on social enterprise for 120 young professionals in just 9 months. How can good design do this? It gave us credibility and it gave people a reason to believe that not only was our idea great, but that we were capable.

This is what we want to do for those working to better our world but need that crucial element of good design. We will be helping those who are within the ‘social good’ sphere, whether that be social enterprise, groups who may be applying for community funding, charities or any other folk who would like mentoring, design and help making their idea sustainable. From helping organisations apply for grants and funding, to designing pitch presentations, and from websites that translate your impact, to on-going mentoring and support, this is where social impact design begins.

Extensive experience in the field, combined with Lara’s expert design and creativity, has resulted in the Social Good Outpost. Whether you know someone starting a project, or have your own enterprise that you want to take to the next level, tailored design that understands your impact starts here.

Doing good? Let’s do even better.

Check out more details here


Looking forward to Doing Good with you -Elise (left) and Lara (right)