Originally written for and published at the Catalyst.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Digital transformation has been a key trend for the past five years but the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this beyond what we could have imagined. Many charities have decided to improve their digital capacity by creating new services or upgrading capacity. And many have bid for funding to make this happen.

But not every bid will be a winner. You might be one of those which didn’t get funding, and wondering how to make progress.

The feeling of not getting the money to kickstart an ambitious project off the ground is not new to me. I’ve bootstrapped Chayn, an organisation creating resources for survivors of gender-based violence, on a shoestring budget since 2013. We’ve only achieved the kind of scale many organisations achieve in a year, some five years down the line. …


How to get the best out of me.

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After much push from Dama and inspiration from Cassie, we’re doing user manuals in Chayn for staff, trustees and long-term volunteers. I’ve done a summary card above and detailed one below. The idea is that by explicitly saying what and how you like to work, we bring things into the open which are either misunderstood or unknown thus removing the friction of working in teams — especially distributed ones. Ours is truly global so we want to carve space for empathy, mistakes and fun.

You can find Cassie’s template for this here.

Conditions I like to work in

  • I like a mix of quiet and vibrant working environments. If I’m trying to concentrate on a task, I find it hard to work alongside noise and distracting conversations. …


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What I did

  • I wrote our first Board of Trustees package. It was painstakingly slow to write but we did something different. Dama suggested we ask the volunteers to record short videos explaining how different projects work and then I added more details in the written package. This way they get to meet the people in the team!
  • We hosted a farewell party for our tech leads who are both moving on to do other roles. Both have been with us for two years or more. We played Codenames online and had a blast. Highly recommended!
  • I took part in a session for social entrepreneurs organised by Kering Foundation for their grantees and I found a really interesting project called HeHop. Though I reeled at the use of the image of bruises, I’m intrigued by their work with cities in France. I am planning to reach out to ask about how they get around legal issues! …


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What I did

  • Chayn was one of the semi-finalists at Puig’s impact competition, thanks to Ashoka UK. They hosted it like a shark tank episode and it went well! We’ll find out soon if we won.
  • We hosted a launch event for our research collaboration with UCL STeAPP on the state of knowledge on #StalkerWare and intimate partner violence. See the super slick event below or read the report here.
  • We’re about to enter a recruitement drive for a Chaiperson, Treasurer, two Tech Leads, a Product Manager and a Movement Builder so I’ve been working on all of their briefs.
  • Outside of Chayn, I’m working on an exciting project with Feminist Internet but I can’t say more for now! …

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What I did

  • We launched YSM. What can I say? We’ve worked on it for a year and the app has turned out to be how we want it, despite us iterating it so many times. We’ve obsessed over every little thing but strangely, it was this promo we did — a last minute idea (it was put together in a week) — that really hit home for the team. We all shed tears. We just couldn’t believe it. Especially the last line. The event was perfect. You can see the video here. I’m really proud of the team, made up of volunteers and contractors. Volunteers took on research, writing, UX, illustrations, service design and turning their own experiences into a product. Our contractors developed the app in partnership with the team, helped with user research, a content moderation guide, creating the following illustration and impact measurement matrix. …

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What I did

  • I moved to the new house and I have no internet. Every inch of my body hurts and I can’t even binge-watch TV to dull the pain or more importantly, retrained to working on the biggest Chayn launch of the year on my mobile phone.
  • We were one of the 7 finalists of the Goldman Sachs Gives global competition. Our team from the Goldman Sachs London office did a spellbounding presentation about our future and won us $75k — the third place!
  • I had the pleasure of speaking at this session. 10 minutes before the talk was supposed to start, my laptop stopped charging and my battery charge dropped from 20% to 13%. I had total panic. I might have made a world record for the amout of times and combinations a mac charger can be plugged into the sockets of a home. My macbook is temperamental and does this sometimes and then like moody teenager, will decide to cooperate at a different location. I found my spot 1 minute before the event started. I learned a lot from this session especially about physical security. Sometimes we get this question at Chayn and I’ve always struggled to find reliable advice. I found some in this session such as always parking the car the right way into a garage so you have a clear escape route, and using bolts and big wooden logs (like beams) at the door to create a barracade. …

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What I did

Though I did many things this week, I’ll only focus on one chunk of my week. We hosted a project retrospective and reflection session with the Bloom team. I’m going to go into what, why and how we did it.


Survivors in our team and community came together to help us create something we all needed

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Written by Hera, Lakshmi, Nooreen and Connor. Through out this blog, you’ll see things survivors told us.

“I didn’t tell anyone because I felt shame… as if it was my fault.”

After more than a year of extensive survivor-led research, continuous development, and all-round hard work, we at Chayn are incredibly humbled and excited to announce the launch of our web app — Your Story Matters (YSM). With this web app, we hope to change the way survivors of sexual assault can access resources and get the help they need. It is accessible from any browser on most digital devices!

Chayn’s been working on gender-based violence for over seven years. …


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I’m a week late to post this but better late than never! Don’t want to lose my writing streak. As I write this, I’m getting ready to paint the master bedroom in the new house! Excuse typos.

What I did

  • The Slate Studios and Mozilla Firefox campaign “UnfckTheInternet” came out and I’m one of the three activists they chose. They got in touch with me earlier last month to say I’m on their long list. When they interviewed me about it (10 mins), I honestly didn’t think I would make it to the shortlist because there so many amazing activists using the web for better. …


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What I did

  • This week was bittersweet. I lost my grandmother’s sister, Bushra Nano, to Covid. When I was growing up in Pakistan, we would go to her house every week or so. When my mother was studying in Lahore (her family and relatives were in Faislabad), she would go to her house every weekend. My mother didn’t stop talking to her every week since then. When Bushra Nano moved to Canada, I visited her twice and stayed with her in my last visit. This is the fifth death in my family due to Covid. I cried for most of this week and because of that, did not do a lot of work. I was very distraught and still am. I had to force myself out of the bed for most of the week, thanks to a little help from my cats who know something is wrong if I don’t move by 10.30 and start meowing. I am still struggling to write to-do lists, when my mind feels like a field of fog on a winter morning. Many asked me to take the days off but it’s really hard for me to do that simply because the skills gap in the Chayn volunteer team are only filled by me. I’m tired of explaining this. I am kind to myself. I don’t work myself to the ground when I’m mourning but I cannot completely switch off. If I step out for three days, no one else can do those tasks. …

About

Hera Hussain

Building communities. Feminist. Pakistani. Founder @chaynHQ & CEO fighting gender-based violence with tech. Championing openness. Forbes & MIT Under 30/35.

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