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Women's Safety Challenge Community Prototyper - Prototyping the Women's Pool Idea in İstanbul

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Cansu Akarsu is our current volunteer Challenge Community Prototyper. You'll see her popping up across the Women's Safety Challenge with handy tips about prototyping. Below she outlines her prototyping process for this challenge.


İstanbul calling! In this blogpost I share how to prepare for and run a prototype. For this purpose, I have been working on the idea, Women’s Pool, where women connect with each other in an easy and safe way! In this prototype we set out to test two questions that were prompted by the User Experience Map that Mathieu and I shared in my first blog post.


Read along to learn steps to prototype your idea or to run a second version of this prototype. Our process is modeled after the Prototyping Guide by and +Acumen. 


Define clear questions to test with your prototype.

First we wanted to know: Do women feel safer when traveling in groups?

The idea is based on the premise that ‘Women feel/become safer when they travel together’ This has been a critical discussion topic in the comments on the idea too. Therefore, it was important to test if this assumption was true.

The second question we wanted to test was: How might users easily identify the meeting point and other participants?’We decided to focus on this question after developing the User Experience Map of Women’s Pool. This excersice brought up several questions. For example: How does a user discover the pool? How does she meet a partner? 


Map out the steps for your prototype.

I collaborated with Ezgi, an ideator from İstanbul, to brainstorm how to run this prototype.

If you have ever visited or lived in İstanbul, you might have seen that a busy shopping area could be next to a dark and scary alleyway.



For the prototype we wanted to re-create an experience as close to reality as possible. We laid out a journey that started at the Beyoğlu end of Tünel and ended up in a friend’s house in Tarlabaşı and it included a number of dark walking paths, a lonely bus stop and a short bus ride.

We realized that one prototype wasn't enough to test our questions. To test the first question we created two prototyping scenarios: Phase 1 and Phase 3. To test our second question, participants were asked to "hack the urban space" to discover how they might identify ways to meet each other.           

Phase 1: Each participant takes the journey alone


Participants were provided with a transportation card and a map to fill in the ‘unsafe’ spots during their journey. A team member welcomed the participant at the destination, and took them out for coffee. We held an individual interview to find out- What was her expectation before the journey, what did she experience, and where was it unsafe?


Phase 2: Participants hack the urban space


Participants were given tape and were asked to mark themselves and their pooling space at Tünel Square. Observers monitored and documented as the participants hacked the urban space, met each other and started to share the journey - How did the users mark the pool space and themselves?


Phase 3: Participants share the journey together


Participants were asked to mark their new journey on the map - How might moving together change their path and marked locations where they felt unsafe?


While an observer monitored the participants throughout the journey, the interviewer welcomed the participants at home. We held an interview at a nearby cafe. The interview focused on‘how different they might have felt when they shared the journey,’ and ‘how the urban space might be hacked to identify the pooling space.’



Make sure you have all the tools you need to run the prototype and document learnings.



We used low-fidelity maps and low-cost tape. We provided the participants with a bus ticket to cover their expenses and made sure we had the necessary tools, such as a sound recorder and a camera to document the process. If you are trying out this prototype, don't forget to treat the participants with a bar of chocolate or some tea :)


The tools we used to collect feedback from participants included both photographing, observing, and recording sound during their journey. Participants were also asked to fill in a low-fidelity map we created to record locations they felt unsafe. Later on, we interviewed the participants individually and in groups to compare taking the journey by themselves vs. together, and we brainstormed on their behaviors at unsafe situations.


​Gather your learnings and reflect on what works and what doesn't in order to modify your idea accordingly.

Here are some of our insights and discoveries from the prototype:

‘How might we identify the pool space and the users?’
  • Seeing the pool from a distance is a major concern.
  • The pool visuals do guide the participants towards a central location.
  • The pool is an opportunity to take weather conditions into consideration and provide shelter.
  • Participants prefer to be matched with a female partner, not a male partner at the pool.

‘How safe might we feel when we share our journey?’
  • Participant found that the journey went faster and more relaxed since they were chatting.
  • While chatting, participants got distracted. They missed the bus stop and had to get off at a further stop (at a much more dangerous location).
  • One participant used to protect her bag while walking alone, but she did not pay much attention when sharing the journey.
  • On one hand, participants were less alert than taking the journey alone.
  • On the other hand, they believed they could help one another in case of a harassment.
  • Having a third person in the pool could avoid distraction and help them become alert.
  • Participants felt safe when they were occupied and when they did not question their safety.
What aspect might have felt unsafe during the journey?
  • Empty dark streets where one can not see the end made participant feel unsafe.
  • Parked cars created unsafe and dark spots where predators may hide.
  • Men sitting at door fronts or stairs, looking around, doing nothing felt like a threat.
  • Participants had outfit concerns; they would not take the path wearing a skirt.


How did you tackle the safety concerns during the journey?
  • Walking by women (typically prostitutes in the area) who can probably defend themselves
  • Moving towards noisy areas, especially towards music
  • Making a curve to put a distance when walking by potential predators
  • Not smiling at people on public transportation
  • Sitting away from the men on the public transportation

Eager to prototype the Women's Pool in your city? Follow the steps above and report back your learnings. Or use the steps to prototype your own idea.
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Community Champions , Women's Safety Challenge


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