We hear it all the time, especially since the pandemic, and now with civil unrest sweeping across America.
It’s a heartfelt wish in treacherous times. But as a society, how can we make it more than just a platitude, but an everyday reality? How can we create a “culture of safety” an expression of our mutual social contract, which goes back to John Locke and the Enlightenment values America is based on?
The pandemic and the explosion of emotion following the murder of George Floyd speak independently and together about the existential need for every American to feel safe in every moment of our everyday lives.
This requires a combination of data science and social norms reinforcing each other. It is challenging but within reach. Done right, it will support all of the sodalities that are the constituent parts of a healthy, thriving society. Everyone will benefit: individuals; companies, large and small; communities—granular to the neighborhood level; industries such as tourism, including destinations; schools and universities; nonprofits; and local governments.
My company GeoSure has been dedicated to creating a culture of safety since its founding. We have delivered hyperlocal safety data since 2014, including the only health and medical, women’s and LGBTQ safety experience, scaled over 65,000 communities.
Three key elements are necessary to bring every American their inalienable right of safety. These can not only be described, but quantified; I’ll get to that later, but first it’s important to understand the three building blocks for a true culture of safety.
Physical Safety—From All Forms of Physical Harm
We put this foundational element first; we must feel free of bodily harm, both health risks and personal assault. Some groups have systematically been at higher risk, whether it be older people or Blacks and Latinos from the pandemic; Black men at the hands of the police; or women and the LGBTQ community when traveling. Safety, in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, appears just above basic survival requirements like air, water and food.
Psychological and Emotional Safety
This is premised around a cooperative understanding of wellbeing across one’s circle of trust, which embraces family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and community. Our current mental health crisis highlights the ways in which our physical security and emotional safety are forever interconnected.
Safety comes from external forces, socially responsible policing, for example, and from internal dynamics (e.g., the power of crowdsourcing). We must work together to improve neighborhood safety, bringing sophistication and discipline to the collection of safety information and developing better data supply chains to share it with appropriate organizations, including startups like GeoSure, that can convert it to good public use.
The very enactment of this will help; behavioral psychology tells us that mere cognizance of safety in one’s environment becomes self-reinforcing. We are hard-wired to contribute to group and community wellbeing.
I’m hopeful that the pandemic, while profoundly painful, will be a forceful first step in creating a culture of safety. We’ve seen practices like social distancing, mask-wearing and hygiene become adopted with a rapidity of acceptance rarely seen. That’s good news. Rather than it being imposed, the purest form of a culture of safety is internalized, in the same way that we reflexively put on a seatbelt to protect ourselves and others.
We can’t allow issues like mask-wearing to be symbolized for political ends; a culture of safety is fundamentally apolitical, non-divisive, classless. It transcends wealth, poverty, education, attitudes, customs, religion and social order. It is Locke’s social contract theory in a 21st-century world.
But we must recognize that systemic racism stands in the way of a culture of safety. It is tragic to note, but critical to acknowledge, that many Black men would rather expose themselves to COVID-19 than wear a mask because of racist policing tactics, as this study found.
The Role of Data in a Culture of Safety
GeoSure has already pioneered location-based safety with no cost to those who need it. Our mobile apps are available to anyone with a smartphone. In addition to democratizing safety, promoting community and travel safety, GeoSure mobile enables users to report their safety comfort levels—which then get factored into our global scoring models for tens of thousands of cities and neighborhoods.
Now, we are taking the next step with our “Safety Culture Multiplier.” [SCM = Xn = [(100+ GeoSafeScore™)/100] n, where X = index of an organization’s facilitation of safety strategies, n = diffusion rate constant: a measure of networking density and activity, GeoSafeScore™ = GeoSure Safety Score at organization location(s).]
It’s a mathematical model that makes it possible for safety to go viral, across any entity’s entire stakeholder network. Our current safety experience and scores can be integrated into the datasets of any organization. This then triggers a “multiplier effect” because every user and stakeholder who acts on that data becomes a node of safety transmission.
By doing this, we empower large employers and organizations to leverage their networks to create an exponential and algorithmic culture of safety. The user interface is simple and intuitive, but the tech behind it is sophisticated, relying on artificial intelligence and a massive amount of analysis that processes structured and unstructured data.
Entire communities can participate and contribute in their own economic and psychological wellbeing. An additional byproduct is that community progress as a success metric can be measured.
A Culture of Safety Starts With You
Any sponsoring organization, whether a corporation, NGO, university or municipality, can let its teams know that they have access to GeoSure through all available channels. This will inspire all constituents to act collaboratively and responsibly. We have worked to “gamify” GeoSure for maximum engagement through our Experience Reports™, which enables people to contribute data in real time, as they go about the daily arc of their lives.
There is no cost to the organization. But in a world where companies are under increasing pressure to operate ethically, to support the health and wellbeing of their employees and to perform in ways that demonstrate their commitment to the social good, GeoSure’s availability sends an important signal.
Cost? Zero. Reputational benefits? Unlimited
According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, “only 38 percent believe business is doing well or very well at putting people before profits.” On the other hand, “people are strikingly optimistic that long-term, positive change will emerge.”
Now Is the Time
The notion of a”culture of safety” is as old as the American republic. It is for all the people. In August of 1790, George Washington penned a letter to the members of the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island. He thanked them for welcoming him and, quoting the Old Testament, described his hope for a nation where “everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
I can think of no better words to live by, and 230 years later, it’s what motivates us every day.
Michael Becker is the cofounder of GeoSure, a data science startup which aggregates thousands of data sources and signals through its proprietary predictive analytics and risk modeling platform. For more information about a Culture of Safety, simple integration steps, and GeoSure, contact email@example.com.