UTS Respect.Now.Always.: A whole of community campaign for sexual violence prevention
Design Innovation Research Centre UTS
UTS Respect.Now.Always. Program
University of Technology Sydney Office of the Provost
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Respect.Now.Always.(RNA) Campaign aims to create cultural change by tackling the attitudes and behaviours that support sexual assault and sexual harassment (hereafter ‘sexual violence’), through whole-of-community engagement and participatory design. The Campaign represents the core of UTS’s strategic response to reducing sexual violence on campus.
Design Innovation Research Centre and Rushly Images
Following an Australian Human Rights Commission survey quantifying levels of sexual violence at Australian universities, peak body Universities Australia issued a broad directive to all universities to develop strategies to prevent sexual violence on campus. Each institution then framed its own response to this challenge.
Historically, strategies for eliminating sexual violence have focused on deterrence through punishing offenders, and broadcasting the consequences of offending. These approaches breed fear, can alienate and confuse people, and paradoxically do little to deter individual instances of offending, since sexual violence is the tip of an iceberg of normalised inappropriate behaviours and enabling attitudes.
Recognising the ingrained and misunderstood nature of this problem, UTS designed a response based on ground-up cultural change.
We established goals to: listen deeply to students and amplify their voices, uncover broader university attitudes and engage the entire community in an unprecedented, frank and open conversation about sexual violence.
The project employed participatory co-design at large-scale activations and workshops, where students and staff at all levels worked together to identify the problems and solve them.
Results include: increased community literacy in sexual violence; community-owned interventions; a framework for community-led prevention; a precedent for engaging with students; and highest-level executive endorsement.
The high levels of participation in campaign activations (over 8000 people over three years), positive responses, and appetite for community ownership of a campaign focussed on such a difficult topic highlight the positive impact that design can have on social, cultural and organisational change.
While the project fulfilled the immediate brief by producing important community insights about sexual violence that have shifted UTS practices (see Social Impact), its legacy is deeper.
UTS leaders are now recognising the potential of design in other areas, e.g. new projects have since commenced to co-design UTS corporate services culture and boost social research collaborations.
The campaign centred around participatory co-design at large-scale public activations and workshops. These activations (often held during student orientation) incorporated novel artefacts designed to attract, engage and educate participants around the prevention of sexual violence.
Novel features included approachable campaign branding using an ice-cream theme with a tag-line "Wanna Spoon? Ask First!" -referencing the importance of consent in everyday interactions, as well as intimate ones (spooning being a metaphor for cuddling). Free ice-cream was served, with flavours re-named with consent-related puns developed with students in social media competitions. Merchandise (including t-shirts, condoms and stickers) enable participants to publicly declare their support of consent and respect.
The activation spaces were curated so participants experienced highly accessible education and could participate in interactive games and activities, guided by staff and student volunteers. While building sexual violence literacy and intervention skills, these activities also provided research data on community perceptions. Topics addressed included attitudes that underpin sexual violence, bystander intervention and support services, using novel interactive modes such as sticker voting, poster writing, photo booths, competitions and dialogue.
Over the time, the campaign has generated significant research insights which are now synthesised in a comprehensive, community-led strategic framework to guide future University action.