The power of design to affect change
UTS sexual violence prevention campaign wins Australian Good Design Award.
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Respect.Now.Always. campaign has been recognised as one of Australia’s most successful design projects for driving societal change.
Respect.Now.Always. is an ongoing UTS campaign which aims to create cultural change by tackling the attitudes and behaviours that support sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The Good Design Awards Jury praised the Respect.Now.Always. campaign commenting, “The jury loved the whole community design and engagement approach, as well as the redefining of the problem with a creative solution. Congratulations!”
The campaign centres around large-scale public activations and workshops. These events, which have often been held during student orientation weeks, incorporate approachable visuals and activities designed to attract, engage and educate participants around the prevention of sexual violence.
Topics addressed included attitudes that underpin sexual violence, bystander intervention and support services. The campaign has been adapted for online in 2020.
Bridget Malcolm, a researcher and strategic designer from the DIRC team, said the Respect.Now.Always. campaign was developed through a highly consultative and participatory design process.
“We really engaged deeply with students and staff to get a broad understanding of the problem. This allowed us to see it in new and different ways, something we refer to as ‘reframing’ in design practice.”
“Sexual harassment and the attitudes that support it are embedded in our society and it's very difficult to do something meaningful about it.
“We’re thrilled to win this award, and it’s validation for the nuanced, targeted and unique design solution we came up with to address what is a very complicated issue,” said Malcolm.
Novel features of the campaign include approachable branding using an ice-cream theme with a tag-line "Wanna Spoon? Ask First!". This idiom references the importance of consent in everyday interactions, as well as intimate ones (spooning being a metaphor for cuddling).
“We intentionally used physical posters, t-shirts and stickers that can be interacted with. This physicality provides an opportunity for people to engage with this very complex topic: to build a broader understanding of it and start to dismantle previous assumptions,” said Malcolm.
The campaign was commissioned by the UTS Office of the Provost and represents the core of UTS's strategic response to reducing sexual violence on campus.
Recognising the ingrained and often misunderstood nature of this problem, RNA Program Manager, Catharine Pruscino approached UTS’s DIRC, an industry leader in generating innovative participatory design initiatives that support social, community and organisational change.
Conventional design approaches to the problem of sexual violence have predominantly focused on deterrence through shame and highlighting the punitive consequences of offending.
“The Respect.Now.Always. campaign instead creates a space for opening up the conversation and normalising discussions about consent, sexual harassment and sexual assault in a way that's accessible and non-threatening,” said Pruscino.
The campaign, now in its fourth year, has had more than 8,000 people attend campus activation events, with almost 400 students and staff volunteering to help run the activities and discussions.
The success of the campaign is evident in the hundreds of student comments on question boards, including identifying unacceptable normalised behaviours, and bystander strategies.
The first project report based on student voice insights from the campaign also led to adjustments in UTS policy, such as greater flexibility in disclosure response and increased training.
Pruscino says that UTS recognises that as a university it has an overarching responsibility to lead on this issue and has well-established systems and governance policies and protocols in place.
“However, we also know that this isn’t enough to prevent sexual harassment and assault on campus.
“The strength of the Respect.Now.Always. campaign comes from giving members of the UTS community the information and analytical thinking skills to understand the way that societal structures support sexual violence, and this helps them to recognise their own individual power to affect change.”