Sharon Smith-Halstead on Storytelling in Evaluation

My name is Sharon Smith-Halstead and I would like to share tools for storytelling for evaluators.

Lesson Learned: There is an art to telling stories. Whether you are narrating the story of your grandmother’s journey to America, of your child’s first words, or of the way a program succeeded or failed, there is an art to assembling information so that it provides context, in an authentic way, that is genuine and accurate. It is the art that grabs the attention and moves your reader to action.

There is fiction in the space between
The lines on your page of memories
Write it down but it doesn’t mean
You’re not just telling stories
There is fiction in the space between
You and me

Trace Chapman – Telling Stories

Rad Resource – Impact and Value: Telling Your Program’s Story: This guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention situates storytelling within the broader context of evaluation, noting “While not your main method of presenting data, success stories contribute an effective element to an overall evaluation plan.” Success stories are presented as opportunities for illustrating and celebrating program successes within a more expansive strategy. They provide guidance on soliciting, choosing, and sharing stories.

Lesson Learned: I find that it is rare that a story is fully all success or all failure. Alternatively, we might think of genuine stories as those that truly reflect the nature of an evaluand, its greatness and its weaknesses. However, the celebratory nature, and the power of storytelling, that is shared in the guide, rings true.

The problem is all inside your head
She said to me
The answer is easy if you
Take it logically

She said it’s really not my habit
To intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning
Won’t be lost or misconstrued

Paul Simon – 50 ways to Leave Your Lover

Rad Resource – The Story-Dialogue Method: This webpage from the Evaluation Trust focuses on a specific method for employing stories as a data-gathering strategy. It does not get to the point of using the stories in a report, instead focusing on gathering and refining meaningful stores in a way that is authentic and participatory. It details an interactive exercise for eliciting stories in a group setting and then refining those stories, focusing on what, why, so what, and now what questions.

Lesson Learned: Asking people about their stories is powerful. It can be time consuming and mentally exhausting – both for the facilitator and for the participants. Plan breaks and ways to regroup and set aside the project for reflection. I regularly schedule in a 10 minute group walk.

Tell me baby what’s your story
Where do you come from
And where you wanna go this time
You’re so lovely are you lonely
Giving up on the innocence you left behind

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Tell Me Baby

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “Sharon Smith-Halstead on Storytelling in Evaluation”

  1. Pingback: Mehr als Worte: Storytelling in Monitoring und Evaluierung | Claire Grauer

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.