the power of story

Storytelling is essential to evaluation. Storytelling serves many purposes: it can build relationships, ground evaluation work, describe the context, convey data, impose meaning, share lessons learned, and identify challenges left to address. Evaluation can tell stories; sometimes story fuels evaluation instead. Evaluation 2023 will reflect on how storytelling contributes to and shapes the narrative of evaluations, and dive deeper into storytelling’s usage, benefits, and impacts on our practices.

Evaluation Fuels Story 

Narrative is a strategy for making sense of the world used in both evaluation practices and day-to-day in individuals’ lives. Stories can bring life and context to findings, offer evidence, or transcend a desire to specify each piece of data. Evaluation processes and data are non-linear and finding key themes helps evaluators relate their work in a more tangible way, so that they may be more effective in their work.

Story Fuels Evaluation 

Story can shape evaluation methods and support relationality. Understanding the cultural knowledge of a community or demographic can impact evaluation approaches, processes, and the reporting of findings. Of course, this is not new; Indigenous storytelling traditions laid the groundwork for today’s methods and we continue to seek ways to bring them to the forefront.

The Evaluation 2023 theme, The Power of Story in Evaluation, will guide programming for the AEA annual conference and can help you shape your session proposals. We ask you to reflect on the role story has played in your practices. Consider the stories of your data and how your background, relationships, and experiences come into play through your work.

Keep these questions in mind when submitting your proposal: 

  • How have you used a story in your evaluations, or evaluations in your stories?
  • How did you come to tell the story of your data?
  • When have the stories you heard affected your evaluation choices?

We look forward to sharing each other's stories and moving the narrative of evaluation forward, together.


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