Tales from the lab: tackling domestic and violent abuse

Twice a year we all come together, off the clock, for a Labs Day to get our collective heads around a problem for a good cause.

It’s no secret that 383ers love tackling the gnarliest challenges going. We’re often found at the sharp-end of critical product thinking for some of the most well-known organisations around. We even make it a regular pastime of ours, an opportunity for everyone in our team to get involved and dream up new approaches.

So twice a year we all come together for our 383 Labs Day to get our heads around a problem that’s been on our minds. Innovating with Chatbots and voice interfaces? Yep that’s been done. Digitising the operational management of a volunteer program for a huge public sector org? Nailed.

As long as we end the day with a working prototype or a blueprint for how a product or service will work, we call it a job well done. It’s amazing what a day of intense focus and one big team can yield.

The challenge

We were looking for our next challenge when we found Gilgal, a local charity in Birmingham, who are a refuge for women and children who have been victims of domestic and violent abuse (DVA). Their refuge provides emergency accommodation and support services to help victims get back on their feet (domestic abuse is increasing in the city with an estimated 41,000 individuals experiencing domestic abuse).

They were looking ahead to where the next five years would take them, and in collaboration with Birmingham City Council, they intended to strike at the source and focus more on stopping DVA entirely.

According to a study by the Birmingham Domestic Abuse Prevention Strategy (2018-2023), one in four women in Birmingham will experience domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking at some point in their life. That’s a big ratio, and for Gilgal, building a bigger refuge means the core problem isn’t being solved. So how do you move from aftercare to preventative measures using digital as primary driver?

That’s a huge challenge.

Not only do we get to spend time together as a team, we get to share ideas, learn new things and give something back to some truly inspiring causes

383 Labs Days

We’ve been running our labs days for a while now and whilst the format alternates to suit the challenge, our reasons for doing them hasn’t. Fundamentally there’s two reasons:

1) We want to do our bit and give something back – Sure, we could go out and paint fences or do a team tandem skydive but what’s really beneficial to the organisations we work with is applying what we do professionally day to day to a real-life problem they have. By turning our focus entirely on them, hopefully, we’re able to give them long-term solutions that they’d otherwise struggle to get.

2) Spending time as a team on one challenge benefits 383ers in multiple ways – With a studio of nearly 50 people, working on different problems for different clients at different points in their lifecycle means it’s hard to get time together. With such a variance in work too, there’s a huge amount of knowledge and experience amassed and we’d be foolish not to create an environment to share it collaboratively. By spending a day together, we create the perfect time and place to talk, share and bond – benefiting us all, personally and professionally.


The day

Fast forward six hours and our team’s vision of the future was complete. There were shiny new wireframes for a Gilgal website of the future to check out, but most importantly a core strategy underpinning them. This started with making the website responsive and accessible so that any user on any device can both discover and engage with Gilgal’s content. This solved concerns over victims only being able to use a mobile device to find support, and not being able to access Gilgal’s details with ease.

Catering for a multilingual community was also at the heart of the proposition, Gilgal had housed victims from 18 different nationalities in the last five years so our team kept accessibility at the core of the design.

Layering in more functionality to help Gilgal’s discoverability and expand their support network was a big feature of the site designs. Volunteer applications, quick donations, content downloads, chat support and history clearance were all chief considerations, alongside a revised content strategy for populating the site.


The team always love dreaming up blue-sky features. The biggest challenge facing them was how do you stop DVA happening in the first place or soon thereafter, rather than focusing solely on victim support. What about a private digital map showing safehouses for victims to access, quickly? Or, an app that records DVA in progress but appears in an off-state? Or a dedicated content plan to support rehabilitation of offenders when they reintegrate back into their community, so they don’t re-offend? With so many potential opportunities, we tried to focus on which would be the ‘right’ ones for Gilgal – right for them as a charity and right for the people they help.

The biggest prize for our team at the end of our Labs Day is when they get to present back to the client involved, and we were thrilled to have a few members of Gilgal’s board visit us the following week to review our recommendations for the future.

Working with 383 has been an absolute pleasure. We were so impressed with the way they understood our work and our digital needs. The team has shown nothing but compassion for our cause and the women we work with. We have witnessed their infectious enthusiasm to find the right solutions for us to make our charity more sustainable. They have really made a difference to our charity and those we seek to help and we can’t thank them enough.

Joanna Holloway,

Deputy Manager, Gilgal Birmingham

We’re now busy plotting our challenges for 2019. If our Labs Day opportunities sound like your sort of fun, we’re always looking for the brightest talent around to join our team.  Check out our careers pageyou could be here in time for our next Labs Day.

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