Leave Your Potatoes at Home, pt. II

What we did

By Maya Ganesh, Beatrice Martini and Dirk Slater.

Our previous post ‘Why We Did It‘, provides background and context, including a definition of marginalisation, Tactical Tech’s objectives for the project and background on WNU and sex worker issues in Cambodia.

In this post we provide details about the steps taken to implement the project, assessing WNU’s use of technology, learning about their advocacy strategies and building their capacity to use data and data visualisations in those strategies.

Tactical Tech reviewed existing research on sex workers and developed the idea of the Atlas of Sex Work

Reviews of existing research on sex workers showed a focus on HIV prevention, care and support, and a struggle between competing lobbies who are either for or against the implementation of anti trafficking legislation as a means to end sex-work. Furthermore, data and evidence about sex worker communities were often collected by outsiders and the ownership of the data is rarely with sex workers themselves.

In order to challenge this dynamic, Tactical Tech developed the idea of the Atlas of Sex Work, a series of visualisations of the evidence to engage different target audiences for the data, using the data collected by WNU and DMSC themselves. Inspired by the Subjective Atlas of Palestine, the Atlas of Sex Work was an opportunity to showcase ideas for creative aggregations of information about the lives of sex workers and the conditions of mistreatment that they face. The concept proved useful for further developing ideas and inspiring advocacy messages for target audiences.

We started the work with WNU with assessing the organisation’s abilities to conduct documentation of violence against sex workers.

We asked WNU to walk us through their current documentation process and show us their outputs. We also examined their current use of technology and realised that their paper based systems worked best and that the only improvement to be made was to have them put the information in spreadsheets.

We asked the organisation to explain their advocacy strategies.

Discussing WNU's Advocacy Strategies

Discussing WNU’s Advocacy Strategies

Talking about it together, we realised that the most effective way to frame their work towards the achievement of a tangible impact was to ask whether and how the documentation and reporting of violations against sex workers could improve their ability to conduct advocacy and decrease the amount of violence happening in the sex worker community.

Removing the emphasis on digital technologies and focusing on the use of data in strengthening their advocacy techniques was an important step. This flexibility was critical in moving forward and it was important for us to clarify this internally, with partners and the funder.

We provided them with a self-reflective research methodology that allowed them to evaluate their progress with advocacy.

Working closely with Veronica Magar and Rituu Nanda from r e a c h, WNU developed a self-reflection tool to conduct their own assessments. We were interested in documenting how the process of using data, and shaping advocacy goals and statements affected how WNU were able to think about their advocacy and the use of data. The team felt that the self-assessment tool and exercises provided were of great value. They recognised the need to expand their advocacy approaches beyond the confrontational approach they formerly relied on and to acquire relationship-building skills to engage in cooperative advocacy approaches. To learn more about the methodology that r e a c h used, see the Community Life Competency Website.

We organised workshops for WNU on how to develop survey tools and questionnaires along with the use of video and audio for interviewing.

CCHR providing insights into how to develop a survey tool.

CCHR providing insights into how to develop a survey tool.

The first workshop, led by the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) and attended by WNU’s outreach team members (primarily sex workers), focused on creating survey tools for data collection. Two survey tools were created for data collection to support the advocacy campaigns on Stop Raid and Rescue and Sex Work is Work. After implementing the survey tools for six months, WNU realised they needed to better support their advocacy aims. The second workshop focused on training WNU to conduct interviews using audio and video. Each workshop gave WNU skills that had previously only been deployed by actors from external organisations who were ultimately in control of the outputs.

These two workshops gave WNU the skills to gather their own data and use it for their own purposes without the interference of external agendas. Evidence of WNU’s commitment to their own capacity-building and development can be read into their decision to revise the questionnaires they developed with CCHR’s assistance, and conduct a second round of data collection as they felt the first questionnaire was not really addressing their advocacy objectives. By the end of the project, the WNU staff members had tangibly strengthened their confidence on their ability to manage different aspects of the data collection, management and analysis.

We conducted a workshop focusing on how to analyse their own data, and understanding the basics of statistical analysis.

The WNU Outreach Team at work with print outs of the spreadsheets containing the data collected from their survey efforts.

As the main responsibilities of the majority of WNU’s staff members were not dependent on being computer literate, their in-house tech capacity was quite low. However, the members of the team working on the project with us were interested in acquiring new technology skills, and our partnership gave them an opportunity to do so.

We focused on a pragmatic use of technology, rather than combat erratic connectivity or aim to create uniform levels of computer literacy.

WNU greatly benefitted from transferring their data from paper to spreadsheets. An immediate challenge for them was the use of non-standardised Khmer fonts on their computers, which led to problems with transferring their data to other programmes. Luckily this issue was identified early on and promptly rectified. WNU also used Excel’s built-in functionality to produce graphs and pie charts that were used to make some preliminary visualisations. In particular, this allowed them to produce leaflets highlighting the increased violence against sex workers through the implementation of the anti trafficking law, which they adopted to illustrate the problem during meetings with government officials.

A government official referring to WNU’s preliminary visualisations. Photo by r e a c h

Data and evidence about sex worker communities are often collected by outsiders and the ownership of the data is rarely with sex workers themselves. As a result of doing the evidence collection themselves, WNU acquired a clearer picture of who perpetrates violence and were able to connect the violence directly to policy.

This inspired a significant shift from reactive advocacy strategies to proactive ones, and had the effect of both enabling WNU to have a stronger connection to their own communities and building their own confidence in their ability to create an accurate picture of what is happening in their communities.

 WNU also developed key skills in analysing and understanding their own data. They now have a clearer understanding of how the anti trafficking law creates more violence but also how the acts of raid and rescue actually drive sex workers deeper into poverty.

We helped WNU develop a design brief for their visualisations, as part of the Atlas of Sex Work framework

We showed the group examples of visualisations of data, particularly infographics that had been used in advocacy, and asked them to find and share local examples of infographics. By doing this the group was able to break down existing graphics into trying to come up with a process for how they were developed, how the data was sourced and visualised, to figure out the actual process of how information can be leveraged in different way to create advocacy messages.

We then asked them how they would present their data to various stakeholders and worked together to develop three briefs for visualisations of their evidence: Rescue Us From the Rescuers, Your Law Brings Us More Problems, Not Solutions and Not Being Rescued from Poverty. These have been then developed into visual advocacy materials by the design research firm Mediashala.

In parallel, using pilot data, WNU made their own maps and charts about the impacts of the anti-trafficking law on sex workers and shared them with policymakers and partner NGOs.

WNU report that the aggregation of evidence about violence against sex-workers, even in a pilot form, garnered interest and attention from their peers and audiences and gave the small collective a great deal of confidence and assurance about working with evidence and how it can strengthen their advocacy. They are also being approached by other organisations and institutions interested in using their data to support other advocacy efforts around gender-based violence.

In our next post ‘what we learned‘ we present our most relevant learnings focusing on three core aspects of the project: stakeholders engagement, trust and capacity building; project design and choices about technology and processes; responsible and strategic use of data about marginalised communities. We also present what we consider to be our core achievements in conducting the project.

Your Law Brings Us More Problems, Not Solutions – Women’s Network for Unity (WNU).