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Evaluating systems change and place-based approaches – Online Course – November, 2019

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  • Jen
  • Zazie
  • Ellise
  • Anna
  • Jess
Lesson 8, Topic 97
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Story collection methods Copy

Individual interview

In this more structured approach, the program staff or evaluator interview beneficiaries or partners. Stories can be documented either by hand (interviewers should read their notes back to the storyteller to check they have captured the essence of the story) or using an audio recorder. The story is more valid if it is recorded in the storyteller’s own words. The technique can be improved by using a semi-structured interview guide. These interviews can be a useful way of generating many significant change stories in a short time when a group of people are dedicated to the task.

Group discussion

Rather than having one person interviewing another, a group of people can share their SC stories. For example, sharing stories at committee meetings can trigger additional stories from other people who are present. It is a very human thing to respond to a story with a second one! A tape recorder can be used at these meetings to record spontaneous significant change stories. Stories collected in this way can also be documented using pen and paper. This can be a fruitful and enjoyable way of collecting stories.

Beneficiaries or stakeholders document their own stories

Beneficiaries or other stakeholders can also document their own stories. You could invite people to describe what they have done and the impact that it has had on them/their family/the community. This could be as part of a competition, for example. In this case, give guidance about the type of information you are looking for. This method depends on stakeholder involvement. Unlike other methods, this technique requires storytellers to have adequate literacy levels so that they can document their own stories.

Program staff write down stories they have heard about

In this case, program staff document unsolicited stories they have heard as part of their work. The assumption here is that program staff will come to learn about change stories in the normal course of their work because they have regular close contact with beneficiaries. This is a way of collecting stories opportunistically, rather than actively going out to collect them.

Program staff write their own stories

It is also possible for the program staff to document their own stories of change but be sure to make it clear that the story is being written by the program staff about a change they are describing from their perspective. This is also good for documenting negative stories which can be discussed during selection. This can be a useful process to bring known issues to the table with a view to improvement activities.


Sample story collection methods (User Guide pp. 92-96)

Sample story reporting formats (MSC User Guide pp. 103)

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Dr Jess Dart

CEO & Founder

Inventor of practical methodologies and highly demanded facilitator, Jess navigates complexity with comfort and helps her clients to become clear about their desired outcomes and how to get there.

Recipient of the 2018 AES Award for outstanding contribution to evaluation, Jess has over 25 years experience in evaluating and designing social change initiatives and strategies in Australia and overseas.

In October 2005, Jess founded Clear Horizon Consulting and is now CEO. She is also a board member of the Australasian Evaluation society.

Jess is passionate about developing and designing real world evaluation and strategy for social justice and sustainability. She particularly works with systems change interventions, large scale strategy and social innovation. After completing her PhD she co-authored the Most Significant Change (MSC) guide alongside Dr Rick Davies, which is now translated into 12 different languages.

MSC is well suited to evaluation in the complex emergent context. The latest innovation by Jess, Collaborative Outcomes Reporting (COR), is a collaborative form of impact evaluation.

Jess is also an active mum and has two teenage boys. In a quiet moment, she loves reading far-future science fiction and enjoys long distance running.

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