Collecting stories are a powerful way to understand how people experience their lives, as well as their opinions and attitudes on topics. Personal stories provide qualitative information that isn’t easily calculated or analyzed, but they provide insights into program processes (learning what works and doesn’t for people), as well as the value and impact programs can have in people’s lives.
By capturing a person’s story, you allow them to make sense of and explain their own experiences. This also allows you, the evaluator, to capture the context and how its perceived, the meaning people assign to different things, and people’s perceptions about what’s happening.
When we use the term qualitative information, generally we mean text, voice recordings, videos or photos (instead of numerical data) that are collected in a systematic way, and later analyzed by identifying themes. The word systematic here is important. Often stories are disregarded because they are cherry-picked to prove a point - in which case they play the role of advocacy, not evidence. But when stories are carefully recorded and collected, and later rigorously and thoughtfully analyzed, then can be an important way for nonprofits to build evidence of their program’s ability to contribute to meaningful change.
If you want to learn more now about qualitative research methods, this is a thorough guide.
Stories can be collected in many ways, which i’ll cover next Monday, so stay tuned!