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A Trusted Network of Physical Hubs

Creating physical location Hubs for individuals to meet others traveling along the same route or possibly to the same destination. The goal is to travel with others. No scheduling required -- once two or more want to travel together they can organize and leave at any time.

Photo of David Price
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It's no question there's safety in numbers, but how do you organize a process and system for 1) building 'trust' among others and 2) coordinating group travel?

The location permanence of specific Hubs would create a 'neighborhood community' where individuals would become known and trusted. New, unknown individuals would have to earn 'trust' in the network before others would feel comfortable traveling with them alone.

It's expected the Hubs would become more and more self organized over time due to repetition of use.

The Hubs would also serve as a platform opportunity for communication and education.


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Photo of An Old Friend

Yes David, it looks like we tick similarly. While I was writing "the buddies system" my thoughts were very similar to yours however mine involved the schedule.

How would these women and children know to meet at a hub or who is available to travel when they need to without a schedule similar to a public transportation schedule? I think your hubs would be an excellent meeting point but, if I were a female and needed to be somewhere, I am uncertain of how to know if someone else would be there too? Incorporating schedules would give me more of an ease that others have planned to meet at a certain time rather than relying on coincidence. Thoughts? What is your thinking? I am interested in expanding on the idea with you!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great questions, Katie. My experience in working in low-income, urban areas in India points to the prevalence of cellphones (though not smartphones) Perhaps there's a way for queries and responses to be sent for particular locations? Might be more inspiration on this via platforms like Ushahidi: Looking forward to thoughts from others on the issues you've raised too. And David – as your thinking grows from conversations here, be sure to post your evolved concept to our upcoming Ideas phase.

Photo of David Price

This is more for the Idea stage, but we can definitely start describing the design problems around this concept. I'll take a quick stab at questions off the top of my head:

1) What are the necessary Characteristics of a "Hub"? (e.g. location, 24 hour availability, safety features, monitoring, etc.)

2) How can behavioral rules be naturally created and enforced?

3) What kind of feedback loop will be necessary to continue to improve networks?

4) How will people find out about the Hubs?

5) How will people 'learn' about safely using a Hub?

6) Should Hubs per permanent or should they be 'pop up'?

7) How will schedules be created and maintained? Are schedules necessary?

8) How can Hubs remain accessible to everyone?

9) Will Hubs themselves become a target for violence or aggression?


Photo of Luisa Fernanda

David, Katie and Meena,
I love the enthusiasm and points you bring up about this idea. During the research phase it's a great time to answer question number 1, that david brings up. What are the necessary characteristics of a hub? I would love to know what do you observe when you ride public transportation in your city? Are there informal hubs already in place? I personally always hurry off the train in Oakland to make sure I walk with the group and not by myself. When the group of commuters disperses mid- way through my walk I switch from the sidewalk to the side of the road to avoid the dark. I am less scared of a car running into me than of being assaulted in the dark sidewalk. You could get amazing information by interviewing commuters. Also, I have observed in a few cities around the world that school girls travel together to feel safer, they usually wait for their friends at designated places around school and keep company to each other. This would be a great group to interview and observe. I can't wait to hear from your research so that when the ideas phase comes, insights inform the path of this fantastic idea! Also do you know of any initiate similar to the hubs that has already been implemented?

Photo of Meena Kadri

Hi Lusia & co. Something I'd also like to highlight to folks here, as we march on to the Ideas phase – is to consider that the way we use our phones and jump on new apps with high digital literacy can be very different to how things play out in low-income environments. Many well intentioned apps / mobile initiatives have been developed to support people in low-income communities – though the barrier is often around uptake. If folks are thinking about mobile initiatives, I'd encourage them to think about the incentives and motivations which would encourage their uptake. Part of this is likely to require in-depth exploration of how and why people in low-income contexts use their phones. Perhaps this is something that the Amplify Team could explore while in India – and folks who have access to people they could speak with in low-income groups could also help tease this out. Lots of opportunities for human-centred insight!

Photo of An Old Friend

In regards to Luisa's and Meena's points, I can quickly respond with an observation and first-hand experience regarding public transportation.

Before I moved to California, I lived in Montana. Public transportation there is somewhat minimal, existing in the bigger cities (40,000+) but much less than that it can be pretty obsolete.

The city I spent my undergraduate in had no public transportation when I first arrived. Halfway through my program, a small public bus system was implemented and signs with their schedules went up at various spots, identifying that spot as a stop. There was no hub, sometimes no light, just a sign and a schedule. It was a very bare-minimum attempt to start a public bus system.

Since several of these stops where in rather desolate areas, I found that finishing late from my studio desk would often leave me the only person getting off at my stop, leaving me completely alone to walk home in the dark.

I am a huge believer in the "no-commute" way of life so I got to know my driver well. When my nights became longer and Montana dropped to it's painful cold temperatures, my driver would take myself (and in rare cases a few others) straight to their houses instead of leaving us at the bus stop alone, in the cold. He later provided me with his direct bus number and the option to request, via SMS messaging, a pick-up off/drop-off if I was going to be walking alone and the time was late.

I was and am forever grateful for this mans genuineness. It completely took away any anxiety and worry those nights I knew I would be working late hours at school.

Maybe this could be a way that we start to incorporate the use of cellphones into this "hub/buddy" idea that we are all discussing-- provide women with a SMS hotline during late-night hours where they can have the option to request a pick-up/drop-off by bus, cab, or other service if there is no available "hub-buddy" to travel with at the scheduled time.

I picture these hubs as being octagonal in shape(maybe because we are trying to "stop" violence?), fully enclosed ( with the exception of entry), and seating around the inside parameter of the hub. This leaves the center open for options; an information stand, an empty space, social interaction etc.

Can anyone expand on this idea?

Photo of Haydee Izaguirre

I think this buddy- system is great. It could be a variation of the systems used in University Campuses around the US, where students volunteer to walk people home from the library to their dorm if it is late at night.

1. In terms of the “hub” I don’t think these need to be created, I think already established legitimate places should act as the hub. Places such as churches, schools, community centers, etc that are close to transportation routes. This would decrease behavioural risks associated with creating a new space. It would also guarantee that the place is respected and not vandalized since it already carries some sort of community legitimacy. This already created hub, could; however, be updated if needed, lighting added, surveillance installed, etc.
2. I think using sms based system would be excellent. Ushahidi is great, also a system like crowdring, where a missed called to a number could signal that you need someone to walk you home.
3. In terms of incentives for using the cell phones to promote their uptake; perhaps just removing the cost would be enough to promote its use. If we provide a free texting system then people especially in low income areas would be more likely to use it. Or in turn if you become a volunteer, and walk people home then you could receive phone credit.
4. The question of “trust” I think is an important one, but perhaps this could be bypassed if it is promoted by a legitimate community institution.

Photo of DeletedUser


Yes, I like this concept. To start in building the network, it would be great to build upon existing hubs and places that are already used as a safe place in these urban areas. Perhaps there is a way to interview and identify generally which types of places qualify and which characteristics to look for in new places that could be hubs.

Photo of David Price

Really enjoying this thread.

Katie, great example. Thanks for sharing your story. And, a bit off topic, I once ran out of gas in western Montana. Oops...

Tim and Haydee - yes! Great lists and ideas.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi, just wanted to follow up on a point made by Meena regarding use of cell phone as this is a point highlighted by Sean from the Amplify team:

Photo of DeletedUser


I love this idea.

If women are waiting in numbers, I could imagine the hubs developing communities, spurring entrepreneurial or off-hour commercial activities such as markets, rickshaws, food stands; or provide opportunity for information sharing, documentation/witnessing of people's last known locations, etc.

Luisa, regarding your question about informal hubs and personal experiences: when I worked in Manhattan, I used an informal shared transportation system on my daily commute. My bus into the city terminated at the Port Authority, but I still had to go across town. Mid-town cross-town transportation is difficult, for everyone. Through word of mouth I found out about people who shared taxis going to 9 W 57th, using that one route to do drop offs along the way. It was informal, and very effective. People went to the gathering spot at the taxi stand and waited for others until they numbered 4 (the max a taxi would take as a shared fare). At that time they got into the cab as one group, with one destination and multiple drop-offs along the route. This was the late 90s, before smart phones and apps. It was analog, grassroots and self-organized. You quickly learned the rules--have exact change, no deviation from 57th unless you're the last one and even then maybe not. It was surprisingly easy and efficient, surprisingly reliable and very robustly used. Unless it was a holiday or off hours, I always found the system active.

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