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Feminist Approaches to Labour Collectives (FemLab.co) is a seed-funded initiative by the International Development Research Center (IDRC), Canada, as part of their Future of Work series. This project builds on an understanding of communicative ecologies of women in specific sites of informal labour to explore how digital platforms can be leveraged by them to share grievances directly to the top of the supply chain, allowing their voices to contribute to the governance of the future of work.

The overall objective of the initiative is to support the collective agency of women workers at the bottom of supply chains leveraging on new digital tools and include them in larger conversations on fair work conditions and supply chain transparency. By taking a user-centered and feminist approach to design, informed by the voices of the most vulnerable stakeholders, platforms may be harnessed to enhance representation, share information, and connect and collectivize women workers in a changing and increasingly precarious labour market. This presents opportunities for workers on platforms, as well as those in traditional workplaces to utilize technological advances to advocate for decent work conditions. 

This initiative focuses on diverse sectors (construction, sanitation, garment, home-based salon services, ride-hailing, and petty artisanal work) in India and Bangladesh where low-income women workers have a significant presence or are increasing in their participation. Using ethnographic approaches, the FemLab team is dedicated to capture and share an understanding of the realities of these worker’s lives, and the existing and potential strategies of organizing themselves to improve working conditions.

We examine closely the design and deployment of digital platforms that serve as intermediaries for such employment and the new digital collectives in this gig economy that have a distinctive gendered dimension. These insights will be applied to 1) design ethical platforms, 2) create digital storytelling campaigns/ outreach, and 3) make accessible legal services via visual contracts/toolkits.

Insight: To build user and stakeholder insight through ethnographic engagement 

Engage: To make legal knowledge accessible through multimedia storytelling

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

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