How location technology is making cities safer from sexual violence

Introducing SafeCity as the 2020 Foursquare for Good winner

RedDot Foundation Foursquare Hero Image

Earlier this year, we launched our third annual Foursquare for Good competition. This program has been a labor of love for me and many at Foursquare, because every year we receive so many inspiring proposals from around the world with ideas on how to help unlock the potential of location technology to make people’s lives better and create meaningful change. The results are always heartening and thought provoking, and between the two previous winners alone, AsylumConnect and ObjectiveZero, these organizations have impacted, improved, and even saved many lives in the communities they serve.

This year, nearly 40 non-profit organizations submitted proposals, outlining ways to make the world a better place through the power of location technology. From helping first-responders by improving location accuracy, to helping those facing homelessness find safe support services in their communities, there was no shortage of inspiring proposals with huge potential for impact.

The Foursquare for Good mission is to partner with developers, academics, non-profits, and data scientists to make the real world a better, smarter, safer, and more inclusive place through the power of location technology. One proposal this year stood out from the rest for its commitment and focus on making the world a safer and ultimately better place. I’m excited to share that the Red Dot Foundation’s SafeCity initiative has been named the 2020 winner of the Foursquare for Good program.

SafeCity’s Mission:

According to The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 1 in 3 women face some form of sexual assault at least once in their lifetime. Moreover, many of these instances go unreported for a myriad of reasons, which inhibits the ability of local communities to enact change. SafeCity is looking to change that through the power of technology.

Safecity is a platform that uses technology to anonymously crowdsource personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces and aggregate this data to create heat maps to help keep people safe. This data is also used to inform local administrations about the trends that are happening at a local level, and to help inform strategies and solutions for making these communities safer for all.

SafeCity was selected by a panel of judges for its perserverance in protecting the safety of women and other disadvantaged groups, raising awareness around the prevalence of sexual assault, providing a safe space for reporting personal experiences, and for its commitment to working with local administrations to help create real, tangible change.

To start, Foursquare will work with SafeCity to integrate our Places API into the SafeCity app to help users tag the location of an incident for more precise reporting, add/create venues if they do not yet exist in our database, and solicit ratings on places where incidents were reported. The hope is to continue to work with SafeCity to integrate our Pilgrim SDK to proactively send SafeCity app users notifications when they are approaching hotspots/sites of recent incidents, to help them avoid these known danger zones and help them stay safe.

“Our mission is to make cities and communities safer by encouraging equal access to public spaces for everyone, especially women, through the use of crowdsourced data, community engagement and institutional accountability. The addition of Foursquare’s location technology to our tech stack will help our users tag and identify the locations of street harassment and abuse, which will ultimately help keep countless women safe and out of harm’s way,” said ElsaMarie D’Silva, Founder and CEO of SafeCity.

Here’s what our judges had to say:

“Part of the initial vision when we launched Foursquare was to make cities easier to use. When we opened up our API and SDK to the developer community, it was our hope that they would take our tech and use it to build on top of that vision. The Red Dot Foundation’s SafeCity app for making cities safer for women is exactly what we hoped people would use our location tech to build, and I am honored to work with them to help make this vision a reality.” – Dennis Crowley, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, Foursquare

“Red Dot Foundation’s Safecity is a compelling use of location technology to help combat sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. With Foursquare’s support, I’m excited to see the platform shed much needed visibility on this issue while ensuring our cities become safer for women and girls.” – Jamie Sgarro, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Asylum Connect (2019 winner of the Foursquare for Good competition)

“Red Dot Foundation’s use of location data for Safecity is an empowering tool for women and victims of sexual harassment and abuse to reclaim safe spaces. The service has the potential to scale and could be used by law enforcement to aid in fighting impunity for perpetrators. The reframing of the issue to focus on data is an actionable step that could help victims come forward, reduce victim-blaming and make streets safer for marginalized groups.” – Monica Melton, Assistant Editor, Forbes Innovation

“The Red Dot Foundation is taking a smart approach to reducing sexual violence in public spaces with the Safecity project. Proactive, anonymous, and place based, when deployed, the Safecity project will empower women to break the silence on sexual violence while still keeping their identities secure.” – Nicole Dunn, Program and Marketing Manager, Fast Forward

“For all people, but women and girls in particular, awareness of one’s surroundings is a critical component of personal safety – but this can be extremely challenging, particularly in new environments. Red Dot’s pioneering mission to deploy tech, data and a community-based approach against making cities safer and easier to navigate for women is well-aligned with Foursquare’s long-time vision about the potential for location technology to improve the world. It’s an honor to contribute our platform to this effort.” – Lauren Smith, VP Strategy, Foursquare

If you’re interested in working with Foursquare to do some good in our world, visit Foursquare.com/for-good or email ForGood@foursquare.com.