What really happened? Learn the details behind situations your users face.


identify focus communities


40 min - 1 Hour





Knowing the details helps build awareness around the situations faced within communities and gives insight into how products, policies, and practices can help mitigate or avoid risks. There are three different kinds of stories the narratives prompt people to share: stories when they felt unsafe in their job, stories when their device was confiscated or looked at by someone else, and stories about general or specific events you want to learn more about (crossing the border, participating in the Uganda Women’s March, at a protest, attending a conference, etc.).

MAterials Needed

  • Printed ‘Narratives’ cards

  • Writing utensils

  • For a paperless deployment option, see facilitator guide.


Unsafe Situations

The aim in learning about unsafe situations is to discover ways we can protect physical safety and increase support for the individual at risk.

  • Security does not exist in isolation. Many things can be done to feel or be more secure. In learning about situations when individuals feel unsafe, it helps us understand the real situational constraints, needs, and current protocols people have in place.


Confiscation scenarios

The aim in learning about confiscation scenarios is to discover ways we can protect physical safety and preserve important information.

  • For privacy and security-enhancing tools, it's crucial to protect sensitive information on devices. Knowing about the scenarios when that information is exposed to adversaries helps us collectively understand what features, practices, and protocols we can put in place to protect user safety and preserve important information.


general or specific events

The aim in learning about these events is to discover ways we can protect and support the individual or information at risk. Context is everything, and there are many cases specific to an organization, group, or particular event, that they may desire more facilitated sharing or learning around.


How It’s Useful

For Development Teams

  • Identify and prioritize capabilities on the development roadmap

  • Discover use cases

For Product Teams

  • Identify real user stories to consider in design

  • Understand user behaviors and factors that influence their decision making

  • Identify threats

  • Emphasize time regarding how quickly a situation can become threatening or dangerous

For Organizations & Trainers

  • Identify and consider real life scenarios

  • Identify threat models

  • Identify gaps in organizational security

  • Plan for scenarios by creating internal security and/or travel protocols

  • Hold space for storytelling


Why We Love It

Storytelling is a vital part of design! It can be challenging to design for specific users when we aren't aware of their challenges, concerns and needs. The 'Narratives' activity allows the details of real stories to be heard, captured and communicated so designers and developers can build tools that better speak to specific needs.


Get It Here!

In the facilitator guide, you’ll find all the instructions you need to deploy this activity. You can choose to print the activities, run them digitally, or go paperless. Have fun!

View ‘Our Research Principles’ for insight into what we consider when planning an engagement.


Pairs Nicely With


Persona Builder