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The added value of Narrative Assessment

Realistic and contextualized sensemaking

Facilitated storytelling strengthens advocates’ sense-making which helps them reflect on their strategizing and usage of their knowledge and skills. Through a Narrative Assessment, advocates may experience that for the first time, their actual work and ways of going about their work are put into words and can finally be shared with others. This can strengthen advocates and the programs in which they work.

For example, Narrative Assessment stories support advocates to reflect on and address questions of strategy, gaps in strategic thinking, and assumptions about the capacities of those involved. The stories make explicit advocates’ strategic considerations and the assumptions underlying these. This enables the revisiting of starting points and claims about the effectiveness of strategies. A subsequent collective inquiry into and sense-making around these considerations, assumptions, starting points and claims, and how they relate to advocacy results, puts them to the test. This can drive learning and reflection. Narrative assessment, thus, links advocacy results with advocates' frustrations, joys, dilemmas, disappointments, and challenges. It seeks to explain the connections and attach meaning to them. It can thereby support more realistic collective reflection on assumptions, strategies used, and contextual developments. The stories improve the ability of teams to analyze what works in a context, supports knowledge sharing, building of mutual understandings, and acknowledgment of diversities.

Team building, connecting levels, (South-South) sharing

Narrative Assessment stories inspire other advocates within and across teams by making visible how, for example, they created or jumped on opportunities, or dealt with challenges under similarly difficult circumstances. It can also help to build team cohesion and solidarity, as stories from colleagues working in similar circumstances show they are not alone. Sharing and talking about richly developed stories together leads to the development of understandings between advocates working in international, regional, national, and sub-national arenas, thus strengthening the connection and respect? between levels, which strengthens strategizing.

Local ownership and amplification of voices

Narrative Assessment is consistent with the narrative forms of knowledge and learning found in many local knowledge systems. Narrative Assessment recognizes local knowledges and makes these visible, thereby supporting local ownership. Narrative Assessment stories also provide accounts of advocates that are told on their terms and embedded in their context. The stories produced by Narrative Assessment, therefore, amplify local voices.

Engagement and support

[Reporting advocacy results can easily render advocacy meaningless for publics beyond a very small set of insiders. Lack of impact on constituencies can easily be mistaken for lack of significance if this significance is not articulated. An adjustment to a policy document may be a result of great, long-term effort by advocates. However, making clear what such changes may mean to constituencies or society requires special attention. This is not just because policy processes are technical. Advocacy results are often interim in nature, and require further policy influencing in order to attain clear evidence of change for the ultimate beneficiaries such as improved access to clean water, or a living wage. Advocacy achievements are often small, intermediate steps that have real meaning only in the light of a larger future outcome. Narrative Assessment can contribute to making internal as well as external communication more realistic and appreciative by bringing out the meaning of these intermediate advocacy results.