How do you keep Peace Corps Volunteers safe in the face of trauma?
A safety and security resource that prepares Volunteers to prevent and address unwanted sexual contact.
A safety and security resource that prepares Volunteers to prevent and address unwanted sexual contact.

The Ask

The Peace Corps asked my team and I to help keep its volunteers safe by improving the way that it trains them on sexual assault policies, services, and the resources that it provides them.
“Pre-Service Training is brutal. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting. Some things certainly do get lost in the shuffle. And in my experience, volunteers do not read what you give them.”
“At the end of this, you’re like ‘Okay, I’ve just heard ten different steps for what I need to do if this happens, and I’m trying to remember the names of everyone at this table, and I need to remember if I packed underwear.”
“There’s just no way, even with all of the handouts and all of the training guides that they gave us, there’s no way we could internalize it all and actually be able to put it to use.”
“Pre-Service Training is brutal. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting. Some things certainly do get lost in the shuffle. And in my experience, volunteers do not read what you give them.”
“At the end of this, you’re like ‘Okay, I’ve just heard ten different steps for what I need to do if this happens, and I’m trying to remember the names of everyone at this table, and I need to remember if I packed underwear.”
“There’s just no way, even with all of the handouts and all of the training guides that they gave us, there’s no way we could internalize it all and actually be able to put it to use.”

The Work

We created a safety and security product that prepares Volunteers to prevent and address unwanted sexual contact, and takes into account the psychological effects of a traumatic event.

We also provided resources that would allow the Peace Corps to redesign their training programs to better prepare volunteers for both the general hardships and more extreme dangers that come with volunteering.

My Role

I designed and tested our product prototype, as well as producing a comprehensive body of research through exhaustive audits and analyses of Peace Corps training procedures, psychological research studies, and surveys of former volunteers.

In addition to a myriad of research and design methods, I conducted a series of highly-detailed interviews with more than a dozen current and former Volunteers and assault survivors, Peace Corps officials, and a psychologist who focused on trauma recovery.

Overview

Product Goals

Prepare Volunteers to prevent and address unwanted sexual contact.
Account for a wide range of mental and emotional states.
Humanize the multitude of resources and provide immediate solutions at moments of dire need.

Skills and Methods

UX Research & User Interviews
Wireframing & IA
User Journey Mapping
Use Case Planning
Project Management
Visual and Interaction Design
Digital Prototyping
Usability Testing
Design Review
- UX Research & User Interviews
- Wireframing & IA
- User Journey Mapping
- Use Case Planning
- Project Management
- Visual and Interaction Design
- Digital Prototyping
- Usability Testing
- Design Review

Client Feedback

“Amazed is a term you could use to describe our reaction to not only the work which this team did, but perhaps even more impressive is the sensitivity demonstrated in dealing with a highly sensitive and personal subject. We did not know exactly what to expect, but I can tell you that the breadth of ideas and products definitely were well beyond our expectations. Thank you so much.”

Client Feedback

“Amazed is a term you could use to describe our reaction to not only the work which this team did, but perhaps even more impressive is the sensitivity demonstrated in dealing with a highly sensitive and personal subject. We did not know exactly what to expect, but I can tell you that the breadth of ideas and products definitely were well beyond our expectations. Thank you so much.”

Research

The bulk of my research consisted of a series of over a dozen interviews with former Volunteers and assault survivors along with exhaustive audits and analyses of Peace Corps training procedures, psychological research studies, and a surveys of former volunteers. The case study linked at the bottom of this entry goes into the findings of that research in significant detail.

Personas

I created detailed personas based on information gleaned from interviews and other research. To explore whether our product would actually help Volunteers, I then placed these personas in a dozen scenarios based on the traumatic experiences a Volunteer might encounter during service, and the potential outcomes of these scenarios with and without the help of our product.

Competitive Analysis

Through our research on the psychological effects of a traumatic event, we knew our solution needed to produce a low cognitive load and have a soothing interface, allowing the user to gain access to any resources they might seek with maximum efficiency, clarity, and comfort. We analyzed nearly two dozen competing products and found that their features were often confusing and their interfaces were off-putting for an assortment of reasons. With that in mind, and the client’s blessing to step outside of their branding, we seized the opportunity to make something that would stand out from the herd.

User Journey

During training, Volunteers are inundated with unfathomable amounts of information on an equally vast amount of topics. Much of this information, including the Safety and Security training, is not processed or retained completely due to the large amounts of cognitive load that Trainees and Volunteers continuously experience across their service. Mapping out the mental and emotional states of Volunteers allowed us to find opportunities for our product to be a solution.

First Aide

Peace Corps First Aide is a safety and security resource that prepares Volunteers to prevent and address unwanted sexual contact. It takes a compassionate and Volunteer-centered approach to delivering information, increasing awareness about the Peace Corps’ policies and the services it provides to aid volunteers.

In addition to being used during training, First Aide reaches Volunteers where they need it most as a go-to resource in the event of an incident out in the field. Our efficient and trauma-informed features will let Volunteers know exactly who to go to for help and how the Peace Corps will aid them.
In this flow, Rowan (our user) needs to file an incident report, but she’s not entirely sure how. She taps through instructions and jumps right to the call feature to get in touch with her on-site Medical Officer.

Iterations

The most substantial way that our design changed was through the navigation and information architecture, which became simpler with each version. Card sorting was a surprisingly invaluable technique that we got in the habit of employing on a daily basis, and it allowed us to find the quickest and most logical information pathways.
I made a conscious decision to not use imagery because anything but the few perfect photographs I had access to felt out of place. In future versions, I would like to test the way that photos or illustrations affect how users respond to information. Between our initial high fidelity designs and my latest iteration, I simplified the navigation and architecture even further so I could get rid of the hamburger menu, a design pattern that does not sit well with me.

Case Study

For a more detailed, written look at this project, please read the accompanying case study here. In it, I explore the specifics of the Peace Corps’s training problem and the design choices we made along the way.
View Case Study

Meet the Rest of the Team

Anneliese Fish
Nicole Rousmaniere

Thanks for Reading!

I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments, or if you’re interested in working together. Drop me a line some time.