Dart, J.J. (1999) A Story Approach for monitoring change in an agricultural extension project”, proceedings of the Association for Qualitative Research (AQR), International Conference, Melbourne, AQR

In the field of program evaluation, recognition of problems associated with the use of quantitative performance indicators has set the stage for alternative or supplementary approaches. There have been strong murmurs of interest about the use of “performance stories” for monitoring social change programs. To date little research has been done in this area.

A Story Approach was implemented across a statewide dairy extension project in an attempt to overcome some of the difficulties associated with monitoring the project impact. This process was adapted from the ‘evolutionary approach to organisational learning’ (Davies 1998). The Story Approach is participatory, in that all the project stakeholders are involved in deciding the sorts of change to be recorded. Essentially the process involves the collection of stories of change, emanating from the field level, and the systematic selection of the most significant of these stories during regional and statewide committees meetings.

This approach goes beyond merely capturing and documenting client stories; each story is accompanied by the storyteller’s interpretation, and after review the stories are also accompanied by the reviewers’ interpretation. One of the ideas behind the process is that it promotes a slow but extensive dialog up and down the project hierarchy each month.

This paper describes the method of the Story Approach and highlights some experiences gained during the 12-month trial of the process with the Target 10 dairy extension project. It is argued that this approach can constitute an appropriate and credible process for monitoring change, can help to promote organisational learning, and can be a rewarding and enjoyable process for the participants. Read full article here.