Reimagine Lab -- Stopping Cycles of Violence

Reimagine Lab was a 6-month design lab, where fifteen other fellows and I came together to generate innovative solutions to prevent cycles of domestic violence and family violence. Each lab represented one phase of the design thinking process.


During the first lab, we focused on understanding the issue and timeline of domestic violence. For example, I learned that only by 1993 was marital rape illegal in all 50 states. I also learned that while there were movements and legislation to protect those who had been assaulted, there was lesser protection for undocumented women, brown and black women, trans women, etc. It was obvious to us from the get-go that we had to approach our solution with an intersectional and innovative mindset.


To narrow the scope of our solution, my group decided to focus on undocumented women. Due to the complexity of immigration status, we understandably had trouble finding undocumented women who were willing to speak freely with us. We conducted three interviews with undocumented women and one interview with a lawyer who works with undocumented women. We asked the following questions:

1. What are the most challenging things in your experience as an immigrant?

2. Have you experienced a time when you have been scared for your safety from someone you love? If so, where did you experience it? Do you know anyone else who has experienced something similar?

3. How did you manage it? What did you find helpful? What would you have liked to have/see?

4. If we had a magic wand, what would you change about your experience? OR What would you like your children, nieces/nephews, future family members to know or have..?


Although our generalizations of our user group definitely do not fully reflect the dynamic and distinct contexts/situations of each undocumented woman, we discovered two repetitive observations: financial stability and a lack of resources were major concerns and obstacles for these women--especially with those that experienced domestic violence. Financial dependency on an abusive partner as well as the lack of a way “out” forces undocumented women to stay in their situations.

As a lawyer stated, “Women might rely on their partner or employer to continue existing as an undocumented person in the U.S., either because their perpetrator has leveraged their undocumented status to keep them from coming forward (‘If you report me for DV, I will report you for being undocumented’) or because they see their partner's documented status as a road to gaining citizenship themselves.
One undocumented woman revealed: “I have felt most challenged because of my immigration status. [At home], I lived afraid for my safety for X of the X years that I have been in this country. I was able to leave my husband X months ago. He was undocumented also and he knew that I would not report because I was too afraid to be deported and he would at times tell me that I couldn't because of fear of deportation.”*

*some information was intentionally left out to protect the interviewee

Understanding that women are not able to report to the police and taking into consideration the recent crackdowns on illegal immigration, undocumented immigrants are even more afraid to seek support (particularly from government) or trust another person. These circumstances have created an environment that makes them feel alienated, lonely, and unsafe.

To address the concern of alienation, the lack of help/resources, and need for financial stability, we asked: How might we equip community leaders in communities with a high density of undocumented residents to advocate for policy decisions that support undocumented residents and motivate greater economic investment, with a particular focus on empowering undocumented women?

More broadly, how might we create a tool that supports data-driven advocacy for undocumented communities?


We decided to create a data dashboard--a tool that policymakers, representatives, and community organizers can leverage to create positive legislative action protecting undocumented women. Our intention is that this data service will reduce the misconceptions about undocumented women, provide an incentive for politicians to support undocumented women, and better inform policies/community efforts regarding undocumented women. This will, in turn, would create more resources (avenues of help) in communities that needed them.

This dashboard aims to tell a story that answers, among others, the following questions:

- How susceptible is this community to undercount, and thus underrepresentation in regional policies?

- What are key attributes of the most vulnerable demographic subgroups in this community?

- What is the current landscape of economic investment in the target community? Do regional spending patterns reflect the needs of these communities?

By presenting existing needs alongside the landscape of existing solutions, the dashboard aims to highlight gaps and help community leaders advocate for policies that address those gaps. Additionally, framing regional data as a juxtaposition between the economic contributions of vulnerable residents and regional economic investment in these communities may provide a more compelling case to policymakers.



Some examples of datasets/variables that could be integrated into this dashboard:

- Mail return rate (Census)

- Hispanic population/ethnic makeup (Census)

- Employment, business/industry data (Census)

- Municipal/county expenditures and revenue data (regional open financial data)

- Existing resources data (i.e. shelters, hospitals, etc.)


Our intention of this idea during our brainstorming phase is shown below. We wanted to create a simple, easy-to-use tool for policymakers and advocates to gather the information they needed to further inform their work.


created by Mayuka Sarrukai

VIEW 1: View community centers superimposed on hard-to-count (HTC) tracts

- Identify areas where greater investment in community centers is necessary

- Other location markers that can be used as mapping layers: domestic violence shelters, educational facilities, etc.

VIEW 2: Map local businesses & their attributes, superimposed on hard-to-count (HTC) tracts

- sizes of circles can be used to represent additional variables (i.e. number of employees in business, number of local residents served by business, revenue produced by business)

VIEW 3: Filter data reporting by target demographic

- Add target demographics to investigate how selected region invests in that population

- Bar graph: show allocation of municipal/regional funding that benefits specific demographic groups

- Line graph: show changes in proportions of fund allocation over time, compare spending patterns to other counties or the state


Using this prototype, we developed the following questions:

1. What variables would you like to be able to map with this tool?

2. What attributes would you like to see about the location markers shown in blue? (for example, details about size, revenues, contact information, etc.)

3. What conclusions can you draw from this map?

4. What “at-a-glance” statistics would you like to see about your region?

5. What considerations should we keep in mind when representing sensitive information such as the locations of domestic violence shelters or the density of undocumented residents?

6. Thoughts about a “policy bank” with bills/policies relevant to the target demographic in the selected region?

We asked these questions to a 22-year old student at Stanford University, who has worked in legal non-profits and reproductive health clinics. Some notable takeaways from the conversation are highlighted below:

- Advocates would find more data focusing on disadvantages undocumented people face and how they can address those disadvantages useful.

- Include more health metrics, such as life expectancy, reproductive health, etc. with some explanation on those metrics (either as a pop-up or a link to an article).

- A map of resources available to undocumented women would be helpful. For example, a map of Planned Parenthoods or highlighting communities where not very many women are insured.

- Have the map be translated into different languages.


Our user testing determined that we need to do more user testing. We learned that the concept is good, but our concerns were also confirmed: that this data could be manipulated in a negative way. We may even need to shift in focus and start with a map of existing resources for undocumented women. This would be a quicker short-term goal to directly help undocumented women, while we also create this data dashboard for policy makers. A second iteration could include more data that policymakers and advocates could use to make greater legislative impact in their communities and create necessary resources.


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