The planet, as a global community, needs people working together as allies to create forward progress. It is in this shared togetherness that I want to create a tool(s) of empowerment that helps users make informed choices.

Simply being gay doesn’t automatically make someone aware of their rights in countries they travel. Allies often learn something later and say, “I had no idea, if I had known I would have made a different decision.” It is exactly these kinds of reactions that made me realize I want to find ways to activate awareness and allyship from within our global community. It is both the LGBTIQ person and the well-intentioned ally who need easily distributable tools of empowerment to help them make choices that are right for them. In targeting both groups simultaneously I want to support our global community in becoming a Planet of Allies.

As a social media activist and specialist, I have instinctively started to crowd source this idea and have created a Global Advisory team, made up of amazing thought leaders and activists to help me best work through the labyrinth of opportunities and challenges as we embark on this journey.

What it does

Planet Ally, in its first iteration, is a mobile friendly website, that focuses on travel and the LGBTIQ, with a particular focus on allyship and solidarity.

Planet Ally empowers LGBTIQ and allies to make informed travel decisions. It arms travellers with the information they need to make decisions that are right for them based on their own views and values. On each destination page Planet Ally currently offers:

  • A series of #knowbeforeyougo alerts (both progressive and regressive, where applicable) to inform users on current and important information pertaining to laws, medical, social, community, or work-related issues. (Static at the moment, but will build interactivity – news feed, links to social media, links to Embassy information, etc.)
  • Short curated videos on important travel-related issues when considering that destination.
  • Real-time geo-location information (only LA version currently functioning), leveraging data from Grindr and Refuge Restroom, to assist LGBTIQ travellers looking for friendly spaces and restrooms.

How I built it

Tech Stack: Wordpress and Divi style (for site), Google Map APIs, Grindr Data exported to JSON, Javascript, Refuge Restrooms API for data, geohash js library

Challenges I ran into

The most obvious challenge would be coming into this hackathon with just under a week to go! We knew that would be hard but had hoped to attract developers and coders a lot earlier in the process.

As we are in our infancy in the tech/hack space a big challenge was knowing how to even articulate what we want to do and achieve. We were fortunate enough 4 days out to find the most amazing and tirelessly committed word press guy in Kenton!

Naturally with a team across the globe, and me having to travel in the middle made it difficult but the team were so committed and motivated, I was humbled to see how far they have gone and how much they have put into this. We are a leaderful team and that was key when we handed over from HK, New Jersey and Sydney!

We used @slackhq throughout and it was very helpful keeping us in touch and on track.

We tried to reach out to seek more support from the LGBTIQ travel community but alas our deadline was just too tight.

We have limited skills as a team in design and coding so that has taken much time, we would hope moving forward we could benefit from having quality production but hope our work is still able to convey the larger vision that we have re coding and production value etc.

Another challenge given Planet Ally is so information-driven was access to updated information from NGOs and official government websites etc. We used tweets and DMs both on Twitter and Facebook to crowd source information and access to data and reports etc.Going forward I would like to take the time to verify information and accuracy with trusted local partners, consulting with our global advisory and conducting interviews on the ground etc.

Overall, we tackled a big project with a large scope, over 3 continents, so consistently raining in and focusing on making something that worked and was presentable was hard, but we did it! I am so proud of every one of our team, who absolutely went above and beyond and now are all keen to take Planet Ally to the next step!

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Personally, I'm an out Australian expat rainbow Mum and professional activist living in Hong Kong. My wife flies as a Captain for Cathay Pacific. We travel a lot, especially for our youngest son's medical appointments (he has cochlear implants and is going blind). Being an out woman, being a mother, being an expat, being a traveller, being an activist, being a professional networker – I wear a lot of hats and I’ve become a member of a lot communities.

I'm proud that I have been able to have a concept that has resonated and enabled me to gain support and commitments from some of my favourite and most influential global activists and thought leaders. Before the Hack4Equality came along Planet Ally was something I was talking about this idea but not acting upon it, truth be told I was overwhelmed as to how to even kick off!

It's incredible in such a short space in time to have the support and the ear of VIPs like: Geena Rocero (Gender Proud) Matt Beard (All Out) , Lia Parifax (Arcus and Athlete Ally), Nigerian activist Bisi Alimi, LGBTI academic Lee Badgett, MTV Genderqueer star Jacob Tobia, Swedish activist and technologist Nadia Zabehi and to my shock and delight Indian Prince Manvendra to name a few.

I'm turning 40 in a few weeks and I have been passionate about wanting to make Planet Ally happen, I just didn't know how. I planned and still do plan to use using my birthday as a 'hack for human capital'. I will be walking all my friends – mums, dads, athletes, artists, activists, allies, you name it – through this first iteration of Planet Ally to gain as much insight, feedback and inspiration as possible. Creating and curating Planet Ally is the next phase in my activist career.

Hack4Equality is the most spectacularly serendipitous opportunity and I just can not thank all involved enough for the gift it's given my team and I to really think what about our hopes, vision and next steps are for Planet Ally.

I am also thrilled we have built a platform that other apps and technologies could plug into (including fellow hackathon entries e.g. #Hack4Equality Turn Out app for volunteers)

What I learned

I have learned so much. I was overwhelmed by how to execute and how to update information - particularly safety issues and we didn't manage to address enough yet – but we managed to come up with a first iteration that begins to tease out my grandiose ideas into a functioning, practical, usable website.

For future iterations, we need to have a better project management scope with deliverables and assigned tasks.

Truthfully I was worried that I wasn't ready to share this in such a high-profile space BUT the opportunity to participate and learn from the incredible brains trust assembling for #Hack4Equality is a rare and incredible chance to bring Planet Ally to fruition!

What's Next for Planet Ally

We want to address corporate spaces; regional and global travel mobility issues and especially those travelling overseas to work or considering relocating with their partner etc. We look forward to building some corporate partnerships and hoped to have had more on workplace travel on our site but simply ran out of time.

We also intend to attract students who are travelling interstate or overseas and give them the best information and resources to make an informed decision.

Our vision for the app and site is to enable users to navigate the site intersectionally via filter functions that allow you to self-identify according to gender, race, ethnicity, ability, family etc

Planet Ally seeks to be the world’s most influential and social media savvy group of professional LGBTIQ, ally activists, and other prominent thought leaders. Through these partnerships Planet Ally will create edgy and informative video content, curate content using a strong and engaging social media strategy, host online panels derived from our global network to educate and discuss country-specific issues, and provide relevant educational, news, and crowd sourced content.

Planet Ally is a for-profit initiative social enterprise, but one that gives back to the communities and NGOs working for inclusion, diversity, and equality. We will also support vulnerable and volatile countries and regions who most need support and visibility.

It will be a travel app that rather than focusing on fluffy pillows, mini bar contents or spa treatments, will focus on knowing your rights, evaluating attitudes and most importantly being clear on whether any money you spend ends up supporting regimes that are anti LGBTIQ.

The app will provide information that clearly presents facts on destinations with information on laws, airline carriers, hotel groups, community organizations, social spaces, and so on, so app users can make informed travel choices while also knowing their rights are on the ground. It will aggregate data and distill information into an easy to understand rating system for both destinations, as well as, travel related businesses. It will present:

  • Provide an ‘official view’ which will be based on law, policy, financial stakes, and so on.
  • Provide a curated ‘View from the street’ which will be crowd-sourced opinion from the user-base.
  • Provide links to travel bloggers and aggregated breaking news content with relevant feeds from social media and news channels.
  • Provide options to activate allyship, for example links to All Out petitions and other LGBTIQ campaigns, Out Now ally surveys, and so on.

App users will be able to check information that may affect their decision to travel or stay in a certain destination. Some examples are:

  • A Planet Ally user is travelling to a destination and is considering staying at a Dorchester Collection property, Fairmont Hotel, or a Four Seasons property when they learn that ruling regimes that implement Sharia Law own or have major stakes in these international hotel groups. It may impact their travel planning decision.

  • A Planet Ally user is travelling to Australia from the UK and may stopover in Indonesia when they read some “Views from the Street” that indicate there are growing attacks and prejudice towards LGBTIQ locals. This may impact their travel planning decision.

  • A Planet Alley user is flying from Hong Kong to Ireland and considering using Emirates airlines with a stopover in Dubai. From reading the official review they learn that the Death penalty applies in Dubai for homosexuality and that Emirates airlines is owned by the Dubai government. This may impact their travel planning decisions.

  • A Planet Ally user asks about if LGBTIQ couples have found it hard to travel through specific airports with their children or whether airlines have treated LGBTIQ families as equally as heterosexual families e.g. seats together, or whether LGBTIQ couples have encountered discrimination when checking into a hotel room in certain destinations etc. This may impact their travel planning decisions.

Current Target Markets:

  • Start off in English language
  • Identify 10 -15 markets for a soft launch (a blend of friendly and unfriendly countries)
  • Plan for mass-market launch
  • Plan for introducing in multi-languages

How to Monetise Planet Ally:

  • Approved list of advertisers that have to fulfil ethical criteria?
  • Partnerships?
  • Pay per click?
  • Sponsored campaigns?
  • Subscription Based or Member Funded via something like Patreon?

How to make Planet Ally live On-and Off-line:

  • Supporting consultancy services to help businesses become an ally.
  • Certificates of Excellence - Become Planet Ally certified
  • Training Sessions
  • Annual awards
  • Speaker platforms at travel trade conferences and relevant events
  • TED-style Event

We would love and hope to be able to consult experts, including the Grindr, Hackernest teams with regard to expertise in moving this to the next stage. Thank you again for this wonderful and humbling opportunity to share our vision for a planet of allies!

Built With

  • geohash-js-library
  • google-map-apis
  • grindr-data-exported-to-json
  • javascript
  • refuge-restrooms-api-for-data
  • tech-stack:-wordpress-and-divi-style-(for-site)
+ 5 more
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