Empowering women is a core value of Greg Attwells who believes deeply in their capacity and potential for leadership, influence, creativity, and impact. For the Australian native, those sentiments struck a chord and led him down a path where empowerment for women is at the forefront through the creation of his projects, “Iysha” and “Creatable.”
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 51 percent of trafficking victims are women and 20 percent are girls. “What a lot of people in Australia don’t realize is that human trafficking happens here, too; women are being trafficked throughout the country in illegal brothels, forced marriages and forced labor,” said Attwells, IP strategist at FINCH. “It’s an emerging issue in Australia, and the unfortunate thing is there are no supported accommodation services set up to support women who are being rescued.”
Attwells began talking to his wife Penny, a lawyer with 15 years of experience working with marginalized and disadvantaged people focusing on child protection and child and family work. Through their talks, they realized there is a gap in supported accommodation services for human trafficking survivors with only one safe house in Sydney that has 30 beds to offer and costs about $30,000 annually per bed.
They saw the safe housing model as an expensive “supported accommodation” solution that is often unsustainable for a lot of charities. There had to be a restorative pathway that was more scalable. This led them to look into what the leading tech companies were doing, if they were doing anything, honing in on Airbnb and Facebook.
“Airbnb is the biggest real estate company in the world and doesn’t own any of its property, while Facebook is the biggest media broadcaster in the world and doesn’t create any of its content,” said Attwells. “They have this innovative idea—a collaborative community over a tech platform—but it uses an existing infrastructure.”
The Attwells then created Iysha with the idea that there are hundreds and thousands of homes that already exist with safe, stable and functional families; families that may have a bedroom that is not being used. They could potentially take on a trafficking survivor for a period of 6 to 12 months in order for them to transition back to being an integrated member of community life. Iysha uses ‘safe families’ to help women make the transition from ‘safe houses’ back to being fully independent members of the community again.
Since Iysha is still in its pilot stage, survivor referrals are accepted from various NGO’s that are already doing something in the ecosystem of services out there. The survivor is interviewed by one of the Iysha caseworkers and is paired with an available host family that has already gone through the application process.
“One way of thinking about it is decentralized support and accommodation with centralized practitioner support; there is still case management that happens,” said Attwells. “ It’s a bit of journey, and we are hoping to meet a gap and solve a problem in the ecosystem of services out there.”
Through his work as an IP strategist at FINCH, a production company in Australia made of filmmakers, artists, and engineers, working at the crossroads of storytelling, entertainment and technology, Attwells also feels a responsibility to ignite passion through creative technology in young women. When recruiting to hire about three creative technologists at FINCH, employment coordinators at Sydney based universities sent resumes of graduating mechatronic engineers looking to work in storytelling innovation, and out of 67 applicants, only two were female.
This led him to develop Creatable, a future-focused, industry-linked way to build confidence and capacity in all things STEM to young minds while teaching technology in the context of creativity. It is aligned with the Australian design and technology syllabus and is a twelve-month project-based learning curriculum that FINCH designed after their innovative cycle or process.
“We genuinely believe that innovation requires diversity and that women solve different kinds of problems differently; more women in tech, means more possibility,” he said.
With a mission to give young women the tools and confidence to change the world, Creatable’s STEM education experience has given 150 female students, from schools like Kambala, SCEGGS, St Catherine’s and St Scholastica’s College, the tools to investigate everyday problems, ideate, pitch, design experiences and rapidly prototype their ideas. Creatable has taught them to channel their creativity through technology realizing their potential to create the future.
Since its inception in 2017, Creatable has increased student enrollment in Year 9 Design & Technology with a 625% increase after just one year of teaching the curriculum in St. Scholastica’s College, a Sydney private school for females, which was also the pilot school. As Creatable grows, Attwells hopes to get more traction by bringing stakeholders on board so that the students’ projects can be fully realized and commercialized.
“By teaching young women how to pitch their ideas they learn how they can bring more stakeholders on board to make their ideas happen,” said Attwells. “By teaching them how to prototype, their ideas become reality. We also help them find a way to angle that product idea so they can commercialize it.”