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

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Lesson 8, Topic 47
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What’s in a story? Copy

Aliki September 23, 2019

A story needs three main parts.

  1. A beginning (Things were bad…)
  2. A middle (Then the project came…)
  3. An end! (Now things are better!)

You’ll need some descriptive detail to fully understand the significance of the change from ‘bad’ to ‘better’.

For example, if someone is explaining that they used to have to walk to school, but now it’s much easier because they can take a bus, you’ll need to get some more detail about what this means to them. You might look for responses to questions such as these:

  • How long did they have to walk?
  • What were the implications of this to their life?
  • How is the situation different now that they take the bus?
  • What difference has this made beyond the time saved?
  • What are they able to do with the extra time?

This extra detail helps the reader to understand the significance of the change.

The initial question forms the basis of the information you are seeking, but you may need some additional probing questions to capture the full story.

How long should the story be?

Most MSC stories are a page or less in length, with some up to two pages. Shorter stories are quicker and easier to read, but you must ensure that vital information is not omitted. Some organisations value short and to-the-point accounts, while others favour epic accounts told engagingly in more detail.

Adding to your story

Give the story a catchy title that captures the essence and sums up what it is about. You can, optionally, include recommendations or lessons learned. These can help to draw out the implications of the story.

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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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