For every product or idea, it is critical to stay connected and familiar with the people you seek to serve. At Okthanks, we make it a practice to put ideas, prototypes, and mature projects in front of focus communities.

When doing user research within the ever-changing climate of today’s world, one must be adaptable and sensitive. Always listening, learning and evolving. As we work to uphold these principles, we acknowledge the daily practice of them may look different over time. As such, we aim to evolve with grace—treating all people with dignity and respect.

Trust-based collaboration

We couldn’t do our work without the help and support of trusted partners on the ground. Many are established organizations, leaders or activists working locally with communities. We value these relationships and work intentionally to maintain and uphold the safety and integrity of these trusted partnerships.

  • Every community has different risks, concerns and comfort levels when sharing input and information. We prefer to speak with our partners beforehand to understand their level of comfort and address any risks before deciding how to run a research engagement.

  • In some cases, a full threat assessment is necessary before engaging a community. Internews has developed a detailed framework to follow or use as a reference: Safetag Risk Assessment & Analysis and Safetag Threat Assessment.

Enthusiastic, informed consent

  • In all projects, we value the individual’s willingness to participate and want them to feel safe and respected while working alongside us. We hope to foster a space where participants can share freely, comfortably and enthusiastically. We ask for consent, either written or verbal, from participants to record and share data. We are open about who will see what data, in what form and why we are asking to share the data. For us, it is essential to be as transparent and truthful as possible with all participants.

  • We have a responsibility to protect and respect participants’ recognizability and traceability. No one is 100% anonymous. However, we work hard to keep sensitive and identifiable data (in all forms), pseudo-anonymized, stored securely and kept for only for as long as we need.

“The goal of design research isn’t to collect data; it’s to synthesize information and provide insight and guidance that leads to action.”

The Little Book of Design Research Ethics” by IDEO is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Honest, Inclusive Insights

  • We aim to listen to what participants say and observe what they do. Throughout our synthesis process, we aim to remain honest and represent our findings accurately.

  • We incorporate both qualitative and quantitative information gathering in our research. Looking through the participants perspective, we can gain valuable insight often missed in just analyzing quantified data. By combining the two, we begin to experience the narrative.

Some considerations that inform our engagements and deployments

  • First and foremost, we want to protect the safety and privacy of each participant. The threat model of the focus community will inform the appropriate way to deploy research activities. Following, are some of the questions we discuss as a team and with our partners when planning an engagement.

    • Note: This is not a comprehensive list and may be updated from time to time. For a detailed guide on conducting a community threat analysis, we recommend Safetag, developed by Internews: Safetag Risk Assessment & Analysis and Safetag Threat Assessment.

      • Who will be joining?

      • Who do I need to protect?

      • What am I concerned about?

      • What threats currently exist toward the community?

      • Based on these concerns, what can we do to eliminate potential risks?

      • What are the consequences if we fail to protect participants properly?

      • How is the research engagement promoted?

      • What information is revealed in communications about the event?

      • What is the best method for deployment? Some options to consider include an in-person gathering, a remote focus group, an online survey or a conference call.

      • Is the location safe and do we finish while it’s still light outside?

      • How will we collect data? Where will it be stored?

      • What is the best method for communication when sending audio recordings and sharing participant feedback?

      • With whom will we be sharing insights? Does this change how we gather information?