Vito Design Principle #1: Centre community safety and security

In building Vito, a new platform for gathering online, we want to be intentional about baking our core values into the design process.

For this project, we’re excited to be working with Debs — a designer and the co-organiser of Afrotech Fest — who has guided us in defining 10 Design Principles for Vito.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be exploring each one on this blog, and giving you an insight into how they’re having an impact on Vito as a product, and us as a team. The first is: “Centre community safety and security”.

What does this principle mean?

From the start, it has been our top priority to build a safe, privacy-first platform. From our leadership coaching work with Kim Crayton, we understand that tech is not neutral. So this design principle is a marker of our commitment to reducing harm downstream, which is how we define our core value of integrity

This means that we:

  • Prioritise participant safety, optimising for the most vulnerable.
  • Allow participants to engage as much or as little as they would like.
  • Aim to be clear about what Vito does to ensure the safety of its community.
  • Consider what harm design decisions (or lack thereof) may cause, and actively seek to minimise the risk of it occurring.

This principle in practice

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been working on building out our security features, including a form to report Code of Conduct (CoC) violations. In doing so, we’ve frequently come back to our design principles, and in particular this first one.

To provide a concrete example, in our effort to prioritise participant safety, this week we built out a form which allows for the anonymous submission of CoC violation reports.

Screenshot of CoC violation report form

The aim of this decision is to allow participants to feel safe and secure to express their concerns honestly without fear of negative consequences or harm coming to them as a result. We hope this will be particularly beneficial to vulnerable participants.

If participants do choose to identify themselves, they can then state whether they wish to receive a follow up notification about their report. This ties into our goal to allow participants to engage as much or as little as they would like. We also hope this fulfils our aim of making it clear and explicit what action will be taken when someone submits the form.

In considering how we can minimise harm, we thought about the different reasons someone might feel anxiety about reporting a CoC violation. Perhaps they might feel like they’ll be disbelieved or interrogated. Perhaps they’re fearful the report will get back to the person they’re reporting and that person will be angry with them. Maybe they’re reporting someone they know personally. 

By giving granular options to reveal or conceal their identity, we hope that this should reduce the potential for anxiety, resulting in more people reporting violations, which in turn will help keep communities and individual participants on Vito safe and secure. 

It’s important as well to acknowledge that, despite our best efforts, we can’t expect to eliminate harm completely. But we should constantly find ways to reduce the potential for it.

There’s plenty left to do, but following the design principles is making it easier to both plan and appraise each new feature we build.

In an upcoming post we’ll be talking about our second Design Principle: “Design inclusively”.