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Setting up a Narrative Assessment

PICTO PARAMETERSAdvocates, managers, M&E Staff, consultants and/or others conducting the Narrative Assessment, and possibly other stakeholders (organizational staff, allies, and partners), define the parameters of the assessment. These parameters are:

1. For what and for whom?

Defining the purposes of the assessment. Specifying the purpose as clearly as possible will help get valuable stories, since those involved will have selected a specific direction together and, as a result, will know what to focus on. For example, the purpose could be to learn why certain parts of a program were much more successful than others in a certain year; or, what certain advocates did to contribute to a remarkable success; or, why the replication of a success in a new context yield expected results, and so forth.

2. What?

Picking the program or the part of to be covered. For example:

  • In contributing in-depth information about a program for an end-evaluation report, a team might select a certain advocacy trajectory that has taken place and belongs to the heart of a program; for example, in terms of centrality to objectives, exemplary nature of the work done, or challenges faced.
  • Because of unexpected outcomes (good or bad) using a novel strategy in a campaign in a country program, an organization wants to know if there are important lessons to learn for other countries.
  • Because of setbacks in a country program, the organization expects to unearth a story about the role of context change that it wishes to share internally or communicate externally.

3. Who?

Identifying the advocates who have carried responsibility for programs and whose inside information or role make their participation key to the assessment. Narrative Assessment commonly revolves around a collection of related stories (e.g., from different CSOs working together in a country program; from different advocates working together directly on a campaign; from different country teams working on a single theme in a program). Depending on the purpose of the Narrative Assessment, advocates can be selected for interviewing who may have the best insider information. In any case, only those who have relevant first-hand experience of what happened are relevant potential interviewees.

4. When?

Stories gathered right after important events to capture their unfolding will be different in scope from stories capturing a longer period that tell about a series of developments over time. They will be less detailed but can show the interconnections between larger developments. It will also be harder to conform stories told from a distance, but that greater distance may support deeper reflection. The ‘when’ question is thus not just a matter of planning; it may also shape stories’ qualities.