Stories of change

Stories of change is a method of collecting narrative data to highlight what has been most valued by participants and focus on a change that has occurred as a result of a program or initiative. Stories of change provide a means for reflection and capture subjective information that illustrates the importance of PVAW or gender equity work.

Storytelling predates writing. Stories can therefore be told through oral narrative, visually, musically or written. For example, paintings, art, photographs, carvings, gestures or expression. Storytelling is an important oral tradition for many cultures. Every culture has its own stories, or narratives, which are shared as a means of entertainment, education or cultural preservation.

Storytelling, or sharing participant stories, has also been highlighted as an important method for communicating the drivers of violence against women (Women’s Health Victoria, 2018). Stories can be individual stories (single participant) or situational stories (describing a change that occurred in a community or group) (Davies & Dart, 2005). For situational stories, refer also to the Case study template.

This section discusses some tips and considerations on how to start collecting and telling stories about the difference PVAW and gender equity work is making in the lives of individuals in the community.

Benefits of stories of change

  • Stories are an important part of advocacy for systemic change in prevention of violence against women and gender equity.

  • Stories can generate a reflective or receptive mindset.

  • Stories bridge the gap between individual experience and sociological concepts such as gender inequality.

  • Stories illustrate how individuals resist or experience social or cultural patterns (for example, gender stereotypes or cultural norms).

  • Stories outline the gendered drivers of violence against women by making power visible or relatable.

  • Stories can inspire others to become champions for gender equality in their daily lives.

Ethical story collection

The key considerations listed below apply particularly to story collection and storytelling. For full outline of specific ethical considerations read the Ethical evaluations section. Make sure you undertake informed consent processes and ensure participants can withdraw consent at a later date if they no longer feel comfortable.

Below is an outline of some key considerations or risks:

  • There may be potential harms to individuals, their families or communities should be carefully thought through.

  • There is the potential that focusing on one individual story may serve to exclude other voices or perspectives

  • There is the potential risk of cultural appropriation or misappropriation. Avoid this by acknowledging any positions of privilege or power at individual or systems levels.

  • There may be risks of reinforcing social and cultural stereotyping.