Snowglobe LGBTQIA+ Chatbot Co-design

I’m the founder of Q Co-Lab, a former charity building innovative crisis service empowering LGBTQIA+ Australians to connect with resources and services supporting their gender, sexuality, sexual health, bodies, identity, feelings and relationships. 

Artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled, evidence-driven and empathetic DMHIs are an emerging format for delivering supplementary care and content on-demand and can be disseminated to a wide audience at a low cost.Rather than traditional one-sided support services and resource centres, chatbots exhibit empathy, curiosity, understanding and collaboration by replicating real conversation, proven to result in deeper intrinsic patient motivation to engage and adhere. 

The overarching design principle of Snowglobe was going a step further than traditional consultation by becoming co-design partners with the community. We used co-design mindsets, including valuing many perspectives, elevating the voice and contribution of lived experience above academic knowledge, living in the grey, learning through doing, hospitality, and curiosity.

We established a model of care for co-designers to create a trauma-informed, consent-driven practice and support co-designer well-being. Care and trauma-informed practice apply to everyone, recognising the far-reaching impacts of trauma and the necessity of safety and belonging for good co-design practice. Our progress moved at the speed of trust and centres on truth-telling, care and healing.

Chatbots and text services are beaten only by in-person support services for queer youth.

LGBTQA+ young Australians overwhelmingly prefer chat or text services (19.1%) over telephone services (2.1%), beaten only by in-person services (Writing Themselves in 4). Our surveys show young LGBTQIA+ people would prefer to text a chatbot support service over a person, and the delivery mode of services prevented many from accessing support. 

After redeveloping Lifeline’s crisis service using chat technology, an independent review by the Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong found that “As many as 42 per cent of people who texted [Lifeline] said they would not have sought help via phone or another service if the textline had not been available”.

Compared to human beings, chatbots are perceived as less judgmental, which facilitates self-disclosure among users, and allows for more conversational flexibility. In fact, it is proven that some people prefer to interact with chatbots over professionals (especially within minority groups such as the LGBTQIA+ community and those with mental health problems), powered by their anonymity and accessibility.

Chatbots are infinitely scalable and have no staffing or overhead, eliminating waiting times, bias, stigma, and need for volunteers, allowing us to focus on continually improving and promoting the service.

Whether it’s fleeing domestic violence, beating anxiety, communication therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, accessing contraception, or fighting COVID-19 misinformation, chatbots are proven to reduce stigma, connect people with resources and enhance education with a conversational approach that creates a simple and informative experience by reinventing the most critical pillar of human communication.

Statistics 

How many Australians are members of the LGBTQIA+ community?

  • 11% of Australians are of diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity (2.7 million people)

Suicide, self-harm, abuse and mental health

  • Transgender youth are 20x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
  • 79.9% of Australian transgender youth have ever self-harmed (compared to 10.9% general population).
  • And 57.9% report feeling neglected, verbally or emotionally abused within their family.
  • 25.6% of LGBTQA+ Australian youth aged 16 to 17 had attempted suicide in their lifetime, almost five times the 5.3% reported among the general population aged 16 to 17.
  • 62.1% of LGBTQA+ young people aged 14 to 21 reported ever having self-harmed, going as high as 85.8% of trans men.
  • 38.5% of gender-diverse Australians have limited how much they eat or drink to avoid using the toilet.

Homelessness

  • Almost one-quarter of LGBTQA+ youth had ever experienced homelessness, and 11.5% had this experience in the past 12 months. 
  • And more than a quarter of participants felt their experience of homelessness was related to being LGBTIQA+.

Education and work

  • 60.2% of LGBTQA+ youth had felt unsafe or uncomfortable at their secondary school in the previous 12 months
  • 52% feel they can’t be open about their identity at school. 
  • 66% experience discrimination or harassment due to their identity.
  • Two-fifths (40.3%) said they felt unsafe or uncomfortable at full-time work in the past 12 months due to their sexuality or gender identity. 
  • Over one-third of secondary school reported missing day/s at school in the past 12 months because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
  • More than three-quarters of trans men (74.3%) and trans women (67.7%) said they felt unsafe or uncomfortable at their educational institution.

Sources: Trans Pathways Report, Telethon Kids Institute (2017); Writing Themselves In 4, La Trobe University (2021); LGBTIQA+ Health Australia (2021)

Impact measurement

Q Co-Lab worked with Amplify Social Impact Centre by the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW Sydney, University of Western Australia, and Swinburne University to measure the impact of our programs. Indicator Engine captures data from our users using literature-reviewed and inclusive survey indicators, which are then analysed with artificial intelligence in the Yardstick program, identifying opportunities for improvement and allowing us to measure our impact.

Organisational establishment and capacity building

As the founder of Q Co-Lab, my responsibilities included following the strict legal guidance for becoming a national charity, reporting to governments and partners, seeking grant funding, networking with other charities, accounting, child-safety, marketing and promotion.

Providing a confidential and stigma-free, but trusted way for young people to access expert-written resources was the primary goal of Snowglobe.
Snowglobe’s database of questions is powered by the real experience of young LGBTQIA+ people, with answers backed by expert educators and doctors.
Using the InfoXChange support services database API, Snowglobe could query thousands of LGBTQIA+ friendly support services across Australia in a conversational, stigma-free format.

Deliverables

  • Literature review
  • Interactive Figma prototypes
  • Social media posts
  • Charity branding
  • Co-design workshop facilitation
  • Model of care
  • Event planning
  • Grant funding
  • Qualitative interviews
  • Impact measurement guidelines
  • Artificial intelligence development
  • Security compliance
  • Web development
  • Systems administration
  • Legal compliance
  • Reporting to government and partners

Partners

  • Victorian State Government
  • Pride Foundation Australia
  • Awesome Foundation Melbourne
  • Transcend Families
  • Royal Children’s Hospital Gender Service
  • ACON NSW
  • Transgender Victoria
  • WayOut
  • Connecting Up
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Amazon Web Services
  • VentraIP
  • Linktree
  • Canva
  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • Grammarly
  • VideoAsk
  • Facebook
Snowglobe’s AI, built on BotPress Enterprise and hosted by Amazon Web Services, was built to detect and extract queries from user prompts, then use APIs to query our databases and provide an appropriate response.
A content management system (CMS) allowed experts such as doctors and educators to easily contribute content without needing technical experience.
I established a bank of activities and playbooks for co-design, all created for use with young people who were neurodiverse and had learning disabilities; traditionally excluded from the traditional design process.
A Figma component-based design system allowed co-designers to easily create prototype interfaces by dragging and dropping, using unified styles and Auto Layout 3.0.
Numerous ideation workshops were held in the design of Snowglobe, including creating co-design activities with young people, brainstorming user stories, and articulating successful support interactions through therapeutic models of care.
I conducted an extensive literature review utilising hundreds of peer-reviewed articles from across the world on the frontiers of digital mental health interventions (DMHIs)