Monday 14.30-16.30 (Bridewell Hall)

Story-triggered methodologies: Using technology to make sense of change at scale: Franziska Mager, Oxfam GB; Molly Den Heyer, Coady International Institute; Tom Van den Steen, VECO International
Have you been wondering how to uncover and quantify complex and often intangible social change? Many development organizations are turning to creative methodologies such as SenseMaker to improve evaluation rigor, including the rigor that comes from hearing people’s experience in their own words at a scale that allows for robust findings. This session will explore the experiences of three organisations using a story-triggered mixed methods approaches, rooted in the respondent’s own interpretations. Join us for an interactive and thoughtful session!

Session Details:

Complex environments are difficult to grasp, as well as the changes you wish to bring about in them. To overcome some of these challenges when measuring intervention impacts or planning new options, Oxfam GB and VECO have been using SenseMaker-based frameworks while the Coady International Institute has opted for a mix of methods as an alternative to SenseMaker.

There is a growing use of innovative narrative-based research, monitoring and decision-making methodology, based on the collection and indexing of stories. The anecdotes, experiences or stories usually collected in large amounts are self-signified by the storyteller at the point of origin. This means that respondents themselves give meaning to their own stories, effectively drawing the analysis closer to the participants and reducing the bias that researchers or other intermediaries bring to interpretation.

The session will be rooted in three case studies, two using SenseMaker and a third using a mix of software programs. The cases explore (a) Oxfam Great Britain, Ethical Trading Initiative and Oxfam Intermon work with women workers in the strawberry sector in Morocco; (b) VECO’s work with youth pursuing agricultural careers in Ecuador and Peru; and, (c) Coady International Institute’s transformative education programs with development practitioners from the Global South.

All of these organisations recognise the value of hearing beneficiaries’ voices and including their view on how change happens in their livelihoods. Participants will leave our workshop with clarity on the potential of SenseMaker and other programs for evidencing the hard to measure dimensions of social justice in citizen’s own words, and on the added value and challenges of using these in complement/instead of more traditional methods.

Session Leads:

Irene Guijt leads Oxfam GB’s Research Team, which uses evidence to influence economic, environmental, and social justice. Prior to joining Oxfam GB in 2016, Irene worked for 25 years in rural development, natural resource management, collective action and social justice. She is a keen advocate for making the less heard voices more audible and influential. Recent work includes pioneering the SenseMaker® in international development. Irene has been active in global evaluation capacity building through BetterEvaluation (recently on inspiring more participatory work in evaluation) and working on theory of change for transformational development with Hivos. She has pushed debates on the politics of evidence as co-convenor of the Big Push Forward, including co-editing the book The Politics of Evidence and Results. More about Irene here.

Tom Van den Steen is Planning, Learning and Accountability Manager at VECO, an international NGO that enables and supports smallholder farmers worldwide to take up their role in rural poverty alleviation and to contribute to feeding a growing world population in a sustainable way. A systems thinker, Tom uses fun and innovative methodologies to facilitate change processes and build bridges across cultures and knowledge. Prior to joining VECO, he has worked with other NGOs and multilateral organisations in the international development and human rights sector in Belgium, Peru, Ecuador and Burundi, focusing on local development, multi-level and multi-actor governance processes, and innovative partnerships. More about Tom here.

Molly den Heyer is a Senior Program Analyst with the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University and Research Fellow with the Centre for the Study of Security and Development at Dalhousie University. She holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Dalhousie University and a M.Sc. in Rural Planning and Development from the University of Guelph. Through-out her career, Molly has blended development practice and research. Her focus areas include critical approaches to aid administration, planning, monitoring and evaluation, policy, research methods, participation, and development theory. Most recently, Molly co-edited the volume ‘Re-thinking Canadian Aid.’ More about Molly here.


Story-Triggered Methodologies – FMager MDenHeyer TVandenSteen