BLOG | Walking the talk: CARIAA experiments with stories of change together with research partners

By Georgina Kemp and Logan Cochrane, CARIAA program team

At the very centre of CARIAA is the intention to have an impact on policy and practice. We want to enable key stakeholders, including the most vulnerable communities, to make evidence-based choices for coping with climate change. But how will we know if we achieve this?

Program monitoring systems tend to focus on measurable outcomes and outputs, like papers and policy briefs, but they may not tell us enough about the impact we are having. Capturing these impacts can be a daunting task: how do we claim that a policy or practice change is the direct result of our work? Usually we cannot. But we can understand how we have contributed toward such change. Stories of change are one way in which we are experimenting with understanding the impacts that we are having.

We are working with stories of change as narratives, supported by evidence, that illustrate a change that can be linked, in full or in part, to our programme's intervention.

To build the capacity of our partners to develop these stories, we recently brought more than 30 consortia members together for three days in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Here, we harnessed the collective expertise of our partners to share insights on evidence gathering and story telling, as well as participated in a tailored training on stories of change.

But this isn’t just about supporting our partners to reflect on how they are doing. As a program team, we have placed ourselves in this learning process too. One of the big challenges in CARIAA has been to find ways to better support our partners to work in new collaborative ways, well beyond what some partners anticipated at the beginning of the program. We used the meeting in Addis Ababa to reflect for ourselves on changes that have occurred within our program as a result of efforts we have made to support collaboration on such a large scale as CARIAA.

Coming out of the workshop, we have a new appreciation for the importance of spaces for engagement such as working groups and annual meetings, for support in the form of training and resource people, and for the patience required in collaborative projects. Time is a key ingredient when the foundations of collaboration are relationships and trust between individuals.

We are not alone in exploring the possibilities of stories of change. The Overseas Development Institute, a CARIAA partner, is planning to expand its engagement with stories of change and Oxfam recently held a workshop in support of its work in this area. In addition to more organizations using stories of change, there are more diverse approaches to telling stories, such as Skoll Foundation supporting film and photo-based stories, such as collections on the Arab Spring and Dadaab refugee camp. As CARIAA develops its stories, we will contribute to the broader conversation about methodologies, approaches and uses of stories of change.

Stories of Change workshop. Credit: L.S. Ehode