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The Lyft or Uber Models Rebranded and Revised

In SF if a stranger offers a ride in his car, chances are you will get in. Years ago that would never have happened. Why the drastic change? Online car service platforms have created new ways to trust based on the company's vetting, training and background checks. Visual identifiers vary: Lyft brands trustworthy drivers with a silly pink mustache; Uber uses subtler tactics. What if we created a similar platform for low-income urban areas, with public identifiers denoting that a person or space can be trusted by women and girls in danger? When approached one could find the closest safe space through the app and, with a click, connect to the police, a shelter, or the app's support team.

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Creating an organization that publicly identifies safe people or spaces functions on multiple levels:
  1. It creates safe community. In crowded, urban areas it's often curiously hard to make human connections and know whom to trust. In cases of emergency, this platform makes it clear whom to approach and where to go. Women and girls who have the app can use GPS to find help. Those who don't can look for visual identifiers of safety.
  2. It deters harm. The branding is a public statement to predators that harming women and girls will not be tolerated.
  3. It educates. To become a member of the program, in addition to background checks one must go through training to learn about emergency resources and best practices. In addition, the organization has community-building spaces online and offline to train women and girls about self-defense and protection.

There are several challenges to this idea that must be taken into account, which I would love to hear feedback on:
  1. Predators adopting the brand. That would backfire the whole project!
  2. Motivation for entering the program. Uber and Lyft drivers agree to the background checks and training because of financial motivation. Is the desire to have a safer community for women  (or the social pressure to adopt that stance) enough motivation? 


Join the conversation:

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Nathalie, this sounds like a great idea! It sounds as if you want to create a platform connecting women to pre-existing (possibly licensed) shelters, police & other safe places/people? I think it would be especially helpful to connect women to safe places other than just police stations. Curious to hear more about such alternative safe places. Or would this be too great a liability for those people? Another concern I would have is whether someone seeking help would be able to maintain anonymity? I think that many people hesitate from seeking help out of fear of retaliation or embarrassment, etc. Thank you for posting!

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Hey Heather. Thanks for your note. This is admittedly an idea in its most embryonic phase. You bring up an interesting and important point about anonymity. That definitely should be taken into account as this idea iterates.

To answer your question--yes, I was thinking of this as a means to connect women to people and spaces traditionally known as safety zones (e.g. shelters, social workers). But in addition, I was also thinking that the app might be used in case of emergency to connect to people and spaces that are not normally recognized as such (i.e. the visual brand hanging on someone's purse or outside a restaurant would indicate that a person in need has found a someone safe trained to assist ).

This would simplify, of course, if all women and girls in question had a smartphone and could, through GPS, locate safety spaces and people nearby (e.g. a la Tindr). But of course in most places around the world that wouldn't be the case, which makes the visual indicator helpful (e.g. look around to see help instead of to your Google map). One way to solve the anonymity factor might be to have the visual indicators change periodically so that the only people who recognize them are in the network.

Food for thought! :) Thanks for your response.

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Just saw your response! I enjoyed reading your comments. Technology is such a great tool (and so useful for documenting incidents of abuse as well). I hope you will continue to post about your work in this area. Perhaps the anonymity issue wouldn't be such a huge factor if the safe people/places aren't required to report incidents to law enforcement. I was thinking mainly of local domestic violence issues here in the states, and of the numerous reasons why people don't go to law enforcement for help. The visual indicator tool sounds great. All the best!

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Nathalie - I was a Lyft car for halloween. Although wearing a giant pink mustache may not be as practical on clothing, perhaps there is some other wearable to signify 'certified' safe community walkers or cab/pedicab/rickshaw drivers. This type of branding and proven certification/vetting system may be applied to some sort of community wearable perhaps Of course as you mentioned, the branding would need to have some safeguards against predators capitalizing on the perceived safety. Great post!