Result oriented reflection: Notes on the recent Stories of Change workshop for the Inclusion Project

Ruben De Winne Methodology

Oxfam Novib’s World Citizens Panel team recently held a workshop to analyze Stories of Change, a qualitative research method which aims to help practitioners understand how a particular change happens. Ruben De Winne, a Qualitative Researcher at Oxfam Novib, talks us through how they organised the workshop and the outcomes the participants walked away with. 

Last April, the World Citizens Panel team facilitated a Stories of Change reflection workshop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Stories of Change is a qualitative research method that allows those who apply it – program designers and implementers – to learn how and why a particular change happens. They carry out the research themselves increasing the likelihood that the research is relevant to their work. During a reflection workshop they are all asked to reconsider the change mechanisms underpinning their interventions, with the objective to achieve change more efficiently & effectively. But how to practically organize this in a 3-day workshop?

Organizing the first workshop objective: how to reconsider change mechanisms
At the reflection workshop in Phnom Penh in April, a critical analysis was nurtured by the following components:

1. Use of a generic analytical framework

For many workshop participants, it was their first time to make a more abstract analysis of the change processes. In order to support them in this first analytical exercise and because many research questions related to a change in behaviour, it was suggested to participants to use a behavioural change framework for the preliminary analysis of their stories. This framework consists of four main categories of factors that can influence a change process: motivation, ability, psychological capital and supportive environment. In all four categories, factors can both be barriers to change (e.g. lack of motivation) and enabling factors (e.g. being intrinsically motivated to change). Using this framework as a starting point, participants could dissect their stories, and identify and categorize change factors which were mentioned in their stories and identify any gaps.

For many workshop participants, it was their first time to make a more abstract analysis of the change processes

2. Additional literature review

To fill these gaps, participants noted new questions for future Story of Change interviews and immediately carried out additional literature review. The workshop facilitator had provided a list of suggested reading material, but participants also added other relevant papers.

3. Interactive reflection

Throughout the workshop, the participants interacted by reading each other’s stories, giving feedback to initial analyses in group discussions and commenting on final presentations in plenary sessions. Workshop facilitators in Phnom Penh and researchers in The Hague also provided instant feedback and hands-on support.

These three components helped participants to take a critical look at their change mechanisms, but a fourth element was needed in more ample measure in order to add more richness to the analysis: time.

Organizing the second workshop objective: how to adapt interventions
The ultimate objective of a Stories of Change reflection workshop is to draw lessons that can help to bring about change more efficiently & effectively. But a common challenge for such learning processes is to assure the actual implementation of the lessons learned. In the workshop in April, two solutions were tested:

1. Participants developed their own info-graphic

The first goal was to make participants develop their own knowledge product, assuming that such an active engagement with their research topic would lead to internalization of the lessons learned. The second goal was to allow participants to go back to their organizations with a presentable product of their reflections during the workshop.

But what kind of tangible and usable knowledge product can be fabricated in the span of a 3-day workshop? Given our previous positive experiences in terms of ease of development & actual use, we decided to make participants develop info-graphics using the tool Piktochart, which can easily be shared, used for external communication and for program adjustments or designs.

2. Participants developed their own learning strategy

In order to offer participants an extra lever to make use of their info-graphic, they were asked to develop a learning strategy. In this strategy, the participants had to include answers to the following questions:

  • Who (in my organization) can benefit from the knowledge generated through the Stories of Change research (i.e. “intended users”)?
  • At which moments can they use this knowledge?
  • How can I engage with these intended users?
  • How can I follow up with the intended users to facilitate and enhance use?

The learning strategy was developed via the online survey tool FluidSurveys. The rationale was again to ensure that the participants could take a tangible product back to their organizations, ready for immediate use.

It remains to be followed up to see to which extent the info-graphics developed during the Stories of Change reflection workshop in April will actually be used by the workshop participants and their organizations to adapt their interventions. Promising signs so far are several participants’ efforts to fine-tune the draft versions in the weeks after the workshop. And to give the final word to one of the participants: “I have just finished the sharing event with my colleagues. They felt really interested in the tool and the info-graphics.” It’s a first step towards result-oriented learning, but it’s a step in the right direction on a long and winding road.


Tamara Goth