In a lot of ways, 2017 has been a very big year for feminism and women all around the globe. From the global movement #MeToo becoming Time's Person of the Year and Merriam Webster coining 'feminism' as the word of the year, to Saudi Arabia finally lifting its ban on women driving and women of colour reclaiming political and feminist spaces, it's been glorious.
2017 was also a hugely successful and significant year for us at Chayn, but not without its challenges. We not only launched three new projects, but also published our findings from the Tech vs. Abuse project, in collaboration with Snook, SafeLives and Comic Relief.
We were widely published, though not as much as we'd hoped, but we're slowly getting there! We hosted our first Facebook Live in 2017, during Chayn's 4th birthday bash, and we also dabbled in podcasts for our Tech vs. Abuse project.
Through our events, projects and launches, we also came up against a few challenges - experiences that we think could be interesting for other organisations, particularly other volunteer-run projects, to hear about.
Like always, we work hard on our impact report to share not only our successes but also highlight the challenges we faced and overcame, and what we should be working on in order to improve further in 2018.
Across all of Chayn sites and projects, we reached a whopping:
These visitors came to us from all around the world including US, UK, Germany, India, France, Canada, Italy, Australia, Russia, Netherlands, Pakistan, UAE, China, Singapore, Switzerland, Ireland, Brazil, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Spain, Belgium, Mexico, Sweden and Chile.
This brings our sum total from 2013 till now to:
Here's hoping we cross 1 million page views by 2018, and help more people facing abuse with our guides and toolkits!
In 2017, we upped our Facebook and Twitter game because we saw that most women were finding us through social media (after searching on places like Google), so much so that several of our new volunteers who joined over the latter half of 2017 did so because they saw our posts on social media.
Before we dive deep into 2017, let's review the top highlights of 2016. The DIY Online Safety Guide was launched in December 2016 and is now arguably the most successful Chayn project ever. The same year, we launched Chayn's Italy chapter and also started our monthly newsletter.
Something a little different than usual, we collaborated on the viral Snap Counsellors campaign, a partnership with LoveDoctor.in and Rajshekar Patil. Snap Counsellors is a micro-counselling abuse helpline on Snapchat for teens, which became one of Nominet Trust's top 150 social tech projects of the year. This campaign partnership also won Two Kyoorius Creative Awards in India and the 'Graphite Pencil' for D&AD Impact Award 2016. Currently, the helpline is being run by Day One NY.
On May 23, 2017, we launched our Good Friend Guide to help people reach out to their loved ones who are in an abusive relationship.
In our attempt to understand abuse patterns, one of the stark realisations was that for many women, the lines of understanding abuse can become blurred within abusive relationships. A friend who is able to take an outsiders opinion can help significantly in recognising signs of abuse and advising on seeking help.
As one survivor shared:
"In the depths of my nightmare, having a friend was the only thing that kept me going. Her perseverance to encourage me to seek further help and being someone who offered unwavering support and consistency against a tumultuous background was so important to me. One day I did take the leap and left my abusive partner. It wasn't easy, and without the help of my friend, I don't think I would be living th_e positive new lifestyle that I do now, and I am eternally grateful for that."_
For this reason, we were proud to launch our guide offering simple and practical tips on how to support a friend facing abuse. The guide was originally produced by Cagne Sciolte in Rome but was remixed by Chayn, and features advice and experiences from survivors, who were either supported by friends or in retrospect, wish they had been. The guide provides tangible tips and strategies for being a supportive friend to someone facing abuse, such as tips on how to listen, making your friend feel comfortable and patiently helping them to recognise the abuse they're facing.
Since launching in May this year, the Good Friend Guide has been accessed 4,276 times by 1,854 people. It's been read globally, with visitors coming from countries all over the world, including UK, US, Italy, Germany, France, Russia, Netherlands, India, Pakistan and Ireland.
In June 2017, we launched a new guide called Manipulation is Abuse, which identifies and tackles controlling behaviours and emotional abuse. While physical abuse gets a lot of attention, we are still far from identifying psychological and emotional abuse as real problems.
One central aspect of the guide is to help survivors and friends of survivors identify what types of behaviours and feelings define a healthy (or unhealthy) relationship. It also tackles 'what manipulation looks like' by giving examples of manipulative behaviours: isolation, financial control, guilt-tripping, gas-lighting etc. We incorporated relevant language when describing the emotional abuse, because women often expect violence to manifest itself in physical forms, and our tone had to accommodate and illustrate ways a victim or survivor would perceive manipulative actions.
Since its launch in June, our Manipulation is Abuse guide has been accessed 3,574 times by 1,611 people. These users came from all over the world including US, UK, Pakistan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, India and Ireland.
Our Tech Vs. Abuse project is a collaboration between four organisations - Chayn, Snook, SafeLives and Comic Relief - to find out what role digital technologies can play in helping to support people affected by domestic abuse.
In January 2017, we published our research findings based on conversations we had with over 250 people affected by domestic abuse and 350 support workers who help them to see where digital could help.
Via the Tech vs Abuse website, we continue to search for and document every instance of technology that helps in preventing abuse and supporting survivors. The site documents our research findings and the design challenges we created to ensure the most immediate difference to people affected by domestic abuse.
To further understand the findings and the methodology of the project, we invited three key people who had worked on the project - Afsa Akbar from Chayn, Nissa Ramsay from ComicRelief and Penny East from SafeLives to record a podcast, explaining this in more detail. The episode was hosted by journalist Rosie Spinks and is available here.
Soul Medicine is a mental wellbeing programme that we designed to reduce loneliness and depression by providing people with tech-facilitated access to crowdsourced and inclusive knowledge courses. We are currently aiming at specific and vulnerable sections, such as women experiencing violence and refugees. The courses are curated to deliver important information that is immediately helpful and easy to take in, and are available in multiple languages.
For our first prototype, we translated our course on the biology of the human body into five languages. This was aimed at providing valuable information about personal health and fun facts in an accessible way. Additionally, Comic Relief also facilitated the project to be mentored by the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) in the form of a boot camp, designed to support charities on project planning and establishing user personas.
We were invited to host a workshop at Mozfest 2017 to develop inclusive bite sized courses for the service. The aim of the workshop was to receive feedback on the project from Mozfest attendees, gathering insight on how we could best design the courses and hopefully recruit some enthusiastic volunteers. To do this, workshop participants were divided into two groups to build personas. The results included the following:
After working on Supernova for over an year, we finally launched it on July 25, 2017! The project was led by Michelle Parfitt and took us almost a year to finish. You can check it out at supernovaproject.org.
Chayn Italia and volunteers from our global team realised that as queer relationships are rarely represented in mainstream culture, there's almost no discussion about queer relationship abuse.
Former volunteer, Maryam explained: "If queer relationships aren't being talked about, and no one really knows what a queer relationship looks like until they're in one… how do they know they're in a healthy one?"
Most domestic abuse resources are heteronormative, focussed on cisgendered women facing abuse at the hands of cisgendered men. However, statistics show that abuse in queer relationships is just as prevalent as in heterosexual relationships. In fact, in the UK Stonewall shared that almost 49% of all gay and bi men, and a staggering 80% of trans people have experienced some form of domestic abuse.
To address this gap in domestic violence support, The Supernova Project hosts guidance and resources specifically for the queer community from 36 countries!
Currently, we have content focussed on same-sex male relationships, same-sex female relationships, trans men and trans women. However, our long-term plan is to host content for all members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and we'd love your help.
After a successful launch, the Supernova Project had an impressive press run, and was written about by our own volunteers too. Here's where news about Supernova Project was shared:
Open Democracy published an article on Supernova.
The Supernova Project was featured in Gaylaxy Magazine
The Supernova Project was featured in Not So Popular
The Diva Magazine featured us in their November 2017 issue
Friend of Chayn, Mollie Hanley, blogged about the Supernova Project.
However, the reach of this project has been disappointing and we feel like we need to do a better job of linking with existing projects and reaching our target users.
Only 1,000 people from United Kingdom, United States, Germany, France, India, Canada, Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and Chile have visited the site in 2017. We can surely do better!
Chayn launched Ammal in 2015 as a means of upskilling women via skill-sharing, with the hope of attendees then passing these skills on to other women they know.
You can read more about the success of Ammal so far in our blog post on Medium. We've realised that while we loved the energy and impact of in person classes, it's not sustainable for us in a volunteer model. So we decided to publish two formerly internal courses online to help others. You can find these ammal courses here: How to Design a Logo in an Hour, How to be a kick-ass project lead for Chayn.
We'll put this down as an experiment we learned from and a programme we will now discontinue.
At the end of 2016, Chayn launched our very own Do It Yourself Guide to Online Safety: an intersectional feminist guide to online safety and privacy, focused particularly on women who are at risk of surveillance due to relationship abuse.
We published two versions of the guide, a bite-sized short course focused on the essentials, called our Starter Pack, and an extended version of the guide, named our Advanced Guide. We're very proud that the basic guide is available in 8 languages: Arabic, Spanish, French, Greek, English, Urdu, Farsi, Russian, and Pashto.
In 2017, we worked to build on the guide's success in 2016. Chayn Italia launched the Italian version of the DIY online privacy guide, together with Pasionaria.it. We also continued to get the word out in other ways, via:
We held a #SayftyChat on Twitter in December, sharing tips on online safety
Our DIY Safety Guide was highlighted by the Feminism in India Facebook page
We blogged about 16 ways to keep yourself safe online, during the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.
The basic guide is by far our most popular resource. It's so popular that it blows all our other resources out of the water. We reached 26,000 people through the basic guide and 8,700 through the advanced, generating a total of 156,218 pageviews!
The countries in the top 15 sources of traffic were United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Russia, Netherlands, Australia, Mexico, Switzerland and India. It was surprising that our guide, which is in 8 languages, didn't get as many views from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa as we had expected (because of the languages we'd provided).
Our theory at the moment is that because of the way the guide has spread from word to mouth and social media, it is mainly being read by migrants based in Western economies. We're keeping an eye on this to see how we can find more about our users and increase engagement with countries with lower views!
Chayn India is the Indian chapter of Chayn, which has the same aim as our umbrella organisation - to leverage technology to support people to live their lives free from relationship abuse - but providing advice and support specific to India. This includes a number of our guides translated and in 2016, included the launch of our SnapChat teenage relationship counselling service - Snap Counsellors.
In 2017, we worked to update our Chayn India site. As a result, we've now updated Chayn India's legal section, including the section on mutual consent divorce and its procedure. This is the most requested information and we realised we could make it simpler than it was.
44,000 people came to Chayn India last year generating 122,473 page views, with the most visited content being about law and divorce, forced marriages, and how to get out of abuse. These visits came from India, US, UK, UAE, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. We believe a significant portion of our users are Indian immigrants living abroad.
This year was very important for Chayn Italia. The chapter turned one on March 22, 2017 and after one year of hard online work, the team decided to strengthen its offline network by promoting Chayn's materials and by developing new partnerships across Italy.
This meant physically participating in many initiatives, presenting our projects to different audiences and even finally meeting with the rest of the team: we had two Chayn Italia team summits - in Rome in July 2017 and Milan in December 2017.
During this year, we established a very fruitful collaboration with the women's aid centre Frida Onlus, located in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto (Sicily). We have been very glad to share our materials with those participating in their training course for social workers, receiving important feedback to improve our resources. In Sicily, we also participated in two events organized by Frida, where we presented our project to Sicilian refugees and aid centres.
In March 2017, we translated our DIY Online Safety Guide to Italian! Our guide obtained immediate attention, especially from the press.
Chayn Italia was featured in
We finally decided to celebrate our efforts and achievements, and organised Chayn Italia's first ever birthday party in April 2017. The event started with a satirical theatrical piece on gender stereotypes, performed and written by Chiara Becchimanzi, and continued with the amazing music of DJs Playgirls (from Caracas) and Psylocke.
We also closed two other important initiatives this year. On December 2, Chayn Italia along with Frida Onlus and the Association Eurete, organized and facilitated a training course on domestic violence tailored for journalists. This training raised awareness on the topic of violence against women and girls, providing guidance on the dos and don'ts of writing about such a sensitive topic.
The year ended with a bang on December 10, when we met Milan-based feminist collective, Grrramigna and shared our knowledge and experiences.
We're proud that we've seen an increase in press and media coverage of Chayn projects and volunteers. Media attention is important in raising awareness of the oppression and it also enables us to reach more people facing abuse, empowering them with the knowledge that there is support available.
Ogunte founder and CEO featured Chayn in her article on how to weave inclusion into the fabric of investment funds.
We've always known the importance of blogging but it has been a struggle since we started because of the lack of writers in our team and also not having a clear production process.
We started addressing this in 2017 by bringing in a pipeline and editorial calendar to plan our work, and training team leads in managing our team of writers. As a result of this, we got messages out about our resources, launches and volunteer recruitment. In addition to the project-specific articles already mentioned, our volunteers published blog posts on:
In 2017, Chayn volunteers attended and spoke at several key events across Europe. These events are one of the best ways to get word out about our projects, to meet other social organisations and to scout for new volunteer recruits. Here's a list of events we spoke at during 2017.
Hera spoke at the British Islam Conference on February 24 and 25 in London. At the conference, Hera spoke about how domestic violence can be identified and confronted within British Muslim communities.
In March 2017, volunteer Jessica Morley spoke at a Soapbox event about design in Chayn, and how non-profit should look at designing their projects.
On International Women's Day, Chayn volunteers were out in force, with Dina, Chayn volunteer and Soul Medicine Project Lead, spreading the word about Chayn at a Tech for Good meet-up in London. Meanwhile, Aliya spoke at a Spark Salon session, organised by Tata Consultancy Services. A write-up of Aliya's talk, titled '5 Ways Digital is Transforming Charities', is available via the Digital Empowers website. Hera spoke at an OECD event in Paris on how government corruption harms marginalised women in particular.
On March 31, Hera and Dina attended RightsCon in Brussels, hosted by Access Now, to talk about how Chayn leverage technology to fight patriarchy globally, while providing women with the skills and resources to live happy and healthy lives.
From April 5 to 7, Claudia Torrisi from Chayn Italia attended the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, where she spoke on a panel about how the media narrates femicides and violence against women in a negative and dangerous way. An English translation of the panel is available on YouTube, titled 'Do not call it a crime of passion'.
On April 28, Chayn Italia held a fundraising party! Around 70 people attended a viewing of 'Principesse e Sfumature' – a play on gender stereotyping, women's desire and a few more of Chayn's favourite topics. The party raised around €350, which will help the team to cover the expenses of legally registering Chayn Italia.
On May 27, Chayn hosted our first Facebook Live in London, as part of Chayn turning 4 in 2017. We launched our Impact Report and had a panel full of our volunteers speaking of all the milestones of 2016!
From October 27 to 29, Lizzie, Hera, Dina, Jess and Roxanne attended Mozfest, running two workshops on Soul Medicine and the Privacy Guide. The Privacy Guide GIFS workshop was a particular success as privacy and security tips were shared via cats and GIFs to make the topics accessible and interactive. Details of the Soul Medicine project and workshop can also be read via Dina's blog post on Medium.
On December 4, as part of #16DaysofActivism, Hera spoke at an event hosted by Oxfam Policy and Practice on how technology can help in building a world free of gender-based violence.
We had a year packed with project launches, and this was both good and bad. It was good because we were able to produce so much content that our users had been requesting. Despite having vowed to steer clear of volunteer burnout at our strategy session 2016, we fell into the classic trap of 'do-good till you burn out'. However, towards the middle of 2017, we began identifying the challenges so we could overcome these in 2018 (and we have!).
As we're volunteer-run, all of those working on Chayn have other commitments. This means that we do not have as much time to network or attend conferences as other organisations might do, which can sometimes mean we struggle to have the professional reputation that we would like.
Additionally, this issue of conflicting time commitments mean that projects progress slowly, which can make it difficult to keep volunteers engaged and those that are can become overstretched, leading to burnout.
Another key challenge is recruiting volunteers with the skills that we need. This is a challenge we face in all our chapters, but especially in Pakistan and India, and we are particularly lacking in developer and translation skills. As a result of such skills gaps, we can become over-reliant on one or two volunteers, which can make continuity planning very difficult. We are planning on working on a recruitment campaign throughout 2018 to try to overcome this, built on the insight gathered from our current volunteers about what makes volunteering for them worthwhile.
Additionally, being a fully remote organisation has huge benefits, as we're able to work in a truly global way with volunteers from all over the world. However, it also poses its challenges for projects that are more easily completed in person. For this reason, despite the success of our first episode, our podcast team eventually disbanded and unless we find an effective way to record podcasts remotely, we likely won't be able to keep the podcast project going.
It may sound like none of these challenges are new, and that is true. This was a major realisation on our part in 2016. We figured out that many of the pressures on our team were those we put on ourselves. There is no reason to launch a project within 3 months of starting it. It didn't exist 3 months before, and if it is delayed by another month and means our volunteers are not stressed - then that is okay.
The sense of urgency we often infected our team with is great to acknowledge the magnitude of violence against women, and the dearth of resources, and while this is motivational for people who join - it can create a toxic burn out culture. All of us are volunteers and want our team to have healthy lives so we decided to change our structure to reflect the realities of running Chayn for the next decade and not just for the moment. This was tough but important.
Not having a dedicated grants team caused a considerable amount of strain. In 2018, we are trying hard to recruit more active volunteers who are equally, if not more, excited about working in this space and who have the necessary networks to make the biggest impact.
New challenges to understand
As we enter a new year, and a big year of growth for Chayn, there are plenty more nuanced challenges that we will need to get better at understanding as we look to develop a more formal structure. These challenges include:
Working out how to quantify our impact from a user perspective rather than just from a numbers perspective.
Considering how we prioritise our work, as we work on bigger projects that take up more of our time and make it harder for us to work on multiple projects concurrently.
Understanding how to balance both our local approach with our desire to grow on a global scale. For example, researching how we could diversify our model so that it's responsive to local needs.
Developing the policies that we will need to grow and become a formally registered organisation, including confirming our plans for revenue generation, resource management and financial management. This will include us looking at the opportunity for employing a full time employee in charge of managing operations, resources, volunteer management, pipeline and partnerships.
Agreeing our strategy for long-term expansion and identifying the skills that we will need to achieve our goals, like user research, UX design and designing with accessibility requirements in mind.
At Chayn, we refuse to compromise on the quality of our work, and we had to refuse and remove quite a few people who couldn't deliver that because of time issues or lack of engagement. As our volunteer system allows for ebb and flow of people, at one point our active number of volunteers in Chayn HQ went down to 25. We took this as an opportunity to do an overhaul of our management style (see below) and press reset on our work style.
Training remains a key challenge for us because it is time intensive and if volunteers leave after a few months due to work/life commitments, then we lose out on skilled volunteers and the volunteering hours spent training them.
Our new structure builds on the experience of our previous innovative model, taking the best bits from it and reworking those that weren't working. This iteration is also just that - another iteration. We're embracing the experimental approach to figuring out what works for our projects and people, and aim to not get too fixated on a particular flow.
This structure, let's call it 2.0, has enough flexibility and discipline to support productive work, while building expert capacity in our group. We designed it so that our volunteers can fit their schedules around our requirements, without feeling overworked or burnt out. Previously, our teams were project based with one or two volunteers leading the team, depending upon their skills, interests and of course, availability. Volunteers could then be part of several projects each.
We noticed that while it was exciting to have volunteers work on several areas across various projects, it meant they weren't becoming an expert in any area. This made us think. It also stretched us far and wide and left us hanging when volunteers tapped out for some time.
Now, each one of our volunteers is part of a team (maximum two teams). They're placed there because of their existing skills, and we make sure to train the project lead to enhance these skills and enable them to develop new ones. As everyone is a member of a strong team, this new structure ensures that our volunteers won't have too much on their shoulders, meaning they get enough time for themselves and won't experience burn out. This skill sharing and co-learning attitude is also something that is at the heart of Chayn, and everything that we do.
From a four member executive team, we are now a leaner three member one. From project based teams, we're now divided into teams that allow us to focus on targeted areas of our work - PR, blog, social media, content, design and development.
We'll be reviewing the impact of this approach later this year, so stay tuned!
Spread the word! Here's to an even more kickass 2018.
We'd love to hear from you. If you have any feedback or suggestions, or would just like to drop a line, you can mail us at [email protected]!