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Published: April 19, 2022

Storytelling for Learning: using engaging, ethical Stories for effective security training

By: Christine Persaud

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In this blog, Christine Persaud explores the value of storytelling as a tool for effective security training, and the importance of sharing these stories in an ethical, inclusive and empathetic way.

Security training over the past 20+ years has mostly followed linear teaching methods that rely on the provision of information and/or technical tools as a means to appeal to logic and learning. While it may be effective, it can also be predictable and dry, causing low learning retention.  

Meanwhile, as I was researching and writing the NGO Security Training Project: How to Create Effective Security Training for NGOs, which aims to provide security training guidance, good practice and proposed curriculae, I realised that people essentially want to process not only with their minds, but also with their hearts.  

The power of storytelling 

Security training at any level aims to impart knowledge in the hopes that the learner’s confidence and technical competencies are increased. By doing so, they can better apply security and risk management learning. At the same time, another fundamental goal is to influence behaviours.  

Certainly, we cannot and do not aim to change any individual’s personality, or personas.  But behaviour and judgement are critical in security risk management . Hence, storytelling is an important, accessible and powerful method for engaging, inspiring, teaching and influencing learners. Meanwhile, it can also be transformational and healing for the teller and listeners, but only when ethical consderations are adhered to, such as practicing ongoing informed consent.   

“Visual learners appreciate the mental pictures storytelling evokes. Auditory learners focus on the words and the storyteller’s voice. Kinesthetic learners remember the emotional connections and feelings from the story”. – Vanessa Boris  

Storytelling forges a connection between the teller and the listener. It is through this connection that we hope transformation or internalization of messages can occur. By emotionally engaging our learners, there is opportunity to inspire and create space for meaningful change and more profound learning. This in turn can influence organizational security culture and its impact at individual, team, management, executive and governance levels.  

“Storytelling has the power to engage, influence, teach and inspire listeners. That’s why we argue for organizations to build a storytelling culture and place storytelling at the heart of their learning programs. There’s an art to telling a good story, and we all know a good story when we hear one. But there’s also a science behind the art of storytelling.” Lani Peterson, Psy.D., psychologist, professional storyteller  

The value of storytelling for learning is not new! Storytelling is ancient, tested and true, and above all, culture-specific. Location, language, folklore, tradition and cultural structures all inherently inform what may be a good story for one specific community or group.   

Storytelling as a security training tool: opportunities and responsibilities 

As security trainers, we all have shared some short stories or anecdotes at some point or another. However, creating deliberate space for the purposeful sharing of a story to impart learning in our curriculums means ensuring that these stories are not exploitative; nor appropriated; nor used a commodity to advance the organisation’s interests.  

Instead, using a story with empathy and respect requires that we consult and collaborate with others, that the author’s vulnerabilities have been considered and that ongoing informed consent has been sought about the objectives, audience, and how their story will be shared. Responsible and ethical storytelling prioritises both the physical and psychological security of the teller and of the listeners, while protecting the integrity of the story. Hence, storytelling intersects with other cross-cutting themes such as acceptance, consultation, inclusivity and context-specificity.  

There are several key principles that should be respected when using storytelling in our sector for learning and development. This includes, but is not limited to, diversity, security, locations, language, beliefs and ultimately, vulnerability. Our responsibility is then to ensure that we use and tell stories with the upmost attention to ethical practices that recognize and respect culture, and create learning opportunities in which people identify with (or see themselves within) a story. This is critical for inclusive and accessible security training 

It is what you are trying to share – be it knowledge, or the story you have to tell, that matters.  

That is why GISF has developed a series of film capsules for safety and security risk management focal points with the objectives of augmenting: 

  1. Basic technical knowledge on how to use the audio-visual medium to enhance training programmes and, 
  1. Awareness of structured, responsible, inclusive and transformational storytelling.  

These learning videos are divided into two streams:  

Part I.   The Audio-visual Instructional Videos examine the basic principles of planning a video project; how to use inexpensive and accessible equipment for recording. These capsules provide guidance on basic concepts during the assembly of recorded footage and identify key considerations during the sharing of the AV project.   

Part II. The Storytelling Documentary Films cover the essentials and ethics of good storytelling as a means for learning, development and sometimes healing and transformation. These capsules explore the importance and place of storytelling in adult learning, general principles about the structure of story, moral, ethical and security considerations, and responsibilities when capturing and sharing stories.  


There are many ways in which we can attain our security learning and development objectives.  This little blog simply hopes to rekindle awareness about the value of responsible and ethical storytelling as a powerful training tool and to provide useful guidance for security managers and trainers on how to use audio-visual materials to help enhance security learning and retention.   


About the Author

Christine Persaud entered the humanitarian sector in 1999 in project coordination and emergency response. This work had her in places such as Chechnya, South Sudan, Darfur, Haiti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Middle East and Sri Lanka and more for a range of organisations that include Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children, CARE and recently the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. Persaud then moved on to provide support at country and HQ levels on safety and security risk management. She continues to pursue documentary filmmaking (www.cineluminis.com) and to provide humanitarian support to organizations as co-founder and collaborator of the Humanitarian Initiative for Leadership and Learning (HILL: www.hillcollective.org). She is also co-director of the Université of Québec in Montréal’s (UQAM) Observatoire canadien des crises et de l’action humanitaire (OCCAH) Duty of care, risk and security management learning and development initiative.


Storytelling and Audio-visual Learning Series

These videos have been produced by cinéluminis productions to support GISF members strengthen their learning and development initiatives. This learning suite of video capsules has two components. The first is a series of 4 instructional videos that cover the most basic principles of using an AV medium. The second component…

Security & Safety Training Pack

The GISF Security & Safety Training Pack provides ready-made resources and comprehensive guidance to support security staff in delivery of security training. The training pack’s modular format enables security and safety training to be adapted to the local operating environment, the threats that exist, and the needs of different staff.…


NGO Safety and Security Training Project: How to Create Effective Security Training for NGOs

The NGO Safety and Security Training Report provides a narrative of the research findings, an updated curriculum, and guidance tools for training.