FemLab.co is a seed-funded initiative by the International Development Research Center (IDRC), Canada, as part of their Future of Work series. We build on an understanding of communicative ecologies of marginalized women groups and other vulnerable populations in specific sites of informality in the Global South. We explore the everyday labour of these populations in using digital media to broaden their networks, self-representation, expression, voice, and agency. We believe that these online networked practices may foster new forms of livelihoods, fairer work conditions, increased and meaningful digital connectivity, ethical global supply chains, and feminist governance structures and design.

Despite limited access to smartphones and data plans, restricted mobility, and gendered legal and social norms, marginalized groups tend to organize themselves in ways that, if attended to, can radically overhaul how we approach design, governance, networks, and visions for their work. Access to a digital platform could result in previously unthinkable independence, professionalism and respect, joy and pleasure, dignified work, and other positive repercussions if designed in an inclusive and ethical manner.

By taking a user-centered and feminist approach to design and deployment of new media tools and working alongside diverse stakeholders such as tech designers, policy makers, NGOs, aid agencies, feminist and worker activists, and scholars and business folks, the FemLab team come together to envision in concrete terms how digital platforms may be optimized to enhance representation, share information, and connect and collectivize in a changing and increasingly precarious market and society.

The insights from our diverse projects are applied to 1) designing ethical platforms, 2) creating digital storytelling campaigns/ outreach, and 3) making accessible legal services via visual contracts/toolkits.

Insight: To build user and stakeholder insight through ethnographic engagement 

Design: To guide in ethical design and deployment for empowering workers from below

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