Designing Urban Women’s Safety: An Empirical Study of Inclusive Innovation Through a Gender Transformation Lens

  • Anke SchwittayEmail author
Original Article


This article analyzes the use of human-centered design to make urban areas safer for marginalized women. Through an empirical investigation of Amplify, the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) flagship innovation program, I ask to what extent design as a particular inclusive innovation strategy can result in gender-transformative urban safety development. I argue that, on the one hand, the projects supported by Amplify reinforced instrumentalized notions of women’s economic empowerment, while on the other they enabled forward-looking approaches such as the inclusion of men in antiviolence programs. Ultimately, Amplify’s support for mainly small-scale, individualized and technical solutions, which resulted from its use of human-center design, prevented more transformative changes to emerge. At the same time, there are opportunities to “design in” spaces for more structural interventions.


Inclusive innovation Gender transformation Design DFID Urban safety 


Cet article analyse l'utilisation d'une design centrée sur l'homme pour rendre les zones urbaines plus sûres pour les femmes marginalisées. En menant une enquête empirique sur Amplify, le programme d’innovation phare du Département Britannique pour le Développement (DFID), j’explore dans quelle mesure la conception en tant que stratégie d’innovation inclusive peut aboutir à un développement de la sécurité urbaine transformant le genre. Je soutiens que, d’une part, les projets soutenus par Amplify renforçaient les notions instrumentalisées de l’autonomisation économique des femmes, tandis que, de l’autre, ils permettaient des approches prospectives telles que l’inclusion des hommes dans les programmes de lutte contre la violence. Finalement, le soutien d’Amplify aux solutions principalement individuelles, techniques et de taille limitée, résultant de l’utilisation de la design centrée sur l’être humain, a empêché l’apparition de changements plus transformateurs. En même temps, il existe des possibilités de «concevoir des espaces» pour des interventions plus structurelles.



I would like to thank everybody at DFID, IDEO and Amplify organizations who participated in this research and made this article possible. I also thank Beth Mills, Paul Braund and Andrea Cornwall for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Able research assistance was provided by Sarah Sweeney and Susan Xi. All errors are mine.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author states that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Global StudiesUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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