What does it mean to feel safe and empowered? It can be pretty hard to articulate. Whatever threats exist in our lives and our cities—real or perceived—we tend build our day-to-day routines to avoid, mitigate, or ignore them. When the Amplify team traveled to India to conduct on-the-ground research into safety factors for women and girls, we knew that engaging women in a dialogue about their general sense of safety would be challenging. In order to spur conversation and uncover the urban environments ripe for design solutions, our team brought with us two map-making prototypes to guide our interviews.
HOW I USED THIS METHOD
We asked women and girls—community health workers, taxi drivers and secondary school girls—to draw a map of their community, and used their maps to guide a conversation around the factors that allow for or inhibit safety. First, we had interview subjects draw a map of their community, using stickers or hand-drawn symbols to identify businesses, schools, bus stations, and other landmarks. Then, we asked them to identify areas that are safe for women with a heart and areas that are unsafe with an X. Finally, we used the maps as conversation guides to compare and contrast different places and understand why some areas are perceived as safer than others.
WHAT I LEARNED
By doing the same mapping exercise with several different groups of women in Delhi, our team was not only able to explore people’s individual perceptions around safety, but also to draw various insights from comparing and contrasting the maps. Maps are tangible, so they allow for a conversation grounded in reality. Also, for potentially sensitive subjects like safety, having someone draw a map is a great way to phrase questions that are less intrusive or direct. When a woman we interviewed seemed less comfortable opening up about her own experiences, we were still able to extract insights by asking her about places on her map that she would or would not advise another woman to go and why. One degree removed, many of the people we interviewed became much more candid.