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Presentation to Australasian Evaluation Association Conference in Sydney, Australia, August 2011

Presentation to Australasian Evaluation Association Conference in Sydney, Australia, August 2011

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  • This is an opportunity to reflect on a practice in our workplace we have adopted to share the results of our research and evaluation. Though still in its infancy, we are using digital stories to report back projects with rich results. All the projects discussed here have been completed by groups and I hope I adequately represent them in this presentation.
  • I first became interested in using digital stories to tell the story of my thesis, a study of women and their cultural connections to food. I wanted to be able to convey the emotions that they had shared with me about the importance of keeping their cultures alive through cooking the foods of their homelands. I also saw how this could work with a number of the cross-cultural research and evaluation projects I had undertaken in both my study and workplace. I was lucky enough to do a workshop with Joe Lambert, one of the people who started up the concept of Digital Stories in 1993. Since doing the workshop and making a few more stories, I have been captured by the power of this medium in projects I have completed.
  • But firstly to the story part . . . . Many evaluation paradigms include elements of the narrative as part them, including narrative inquiry, most significant change and appreciative inquiry. Norman’s quote above illustrates the key points about how stories can encapsulate experiences in one compact package. Those in educational settings talk about how stories help with learning. For myself, I am attracted to the narrative element or stories because of their ability to transcend diverse settings: personal, organisational, cultural, familial, organisational and the fact that we all identify with them. And because we all have stories to tell.
  • Indeed, stories are part of the changing dialogue around the need for involvement of all stakeholders in research and evaluation. From my perspective, stories as a methodology help me as an evaluator to understand what is important about a service, or any aspect of government provision for someone in the context of their lives. For example, many of the former refugees I got to know shared stories of their lives prior to becoming refugees as well as after their resettlement. What emerged was the diversity of experience and how they did not want the term ‘refugee’ to be a defining one in their lives, they were parents, sisters, children, brothers, educated, skilled, religious and cultural people. Each experience was something that had added to who they were and none could be dismissed.
  • For me, a key value of stories is the fit I see with transformational methodologies such as kaupapa Māori paradigm which has developed through the oral tradition of Māori. For many of us working in government agencies, it is important for us to have an understanding of this methodology as people who use our services are Māori and it important to tell their stories about us. Using a methodology that allows the inclusion of story-based elements where I can engage with Māori meaningfully and validate the world view from which they come from. I consider this to be the concept of walking alongside them in a post-critical theory world.
  • Stories as a key part of research and evaluation practice and part of the new tools for the future. Evaluation has moved from a positivist paradigm to one in which people are part of the process. Constructivist and transformational paradigms allow us to explore the experiences of those our governments have impact on. One of the key aspects of these types of evaluations is about engaging with and hearing the stories of people’s involvement in programmes, policies, strategies. We are able to hear the diversity of experience that comes of the evaluation. Many of these people are from different communities – the use of stories as methodology allows for differences to be acknowledged and, in fact, explored. Moreover, by using stories and other narrative techniques, we are gathering rich data about the experiences of people who participate in our evaluations. This data can can be presented in innovative ways, such as digital storytelling, and this is what I am going to focus on next.
  • Digital stories are basically the use of a narrative structure interlaced with digital media to tell stories and make sense of our world. They are very much a collaborative enterprise often across cultures, gender and different points of views. They work extremely well in cross-cultural and bi-cultural settings and for some, are seen as an extension of oral traditions of many ethnic groups. They are used in many settings as a technique to give voice for many cultures, those who are often not part of the mainstream media – youth, refugees, women and children who experience violence, recent migrants, unemployed, those experiencing mental health issues i.e. those who we in government agencies target with our interventions.
  • One of the key aspects for the development of a digital story is about owning your insights and emotions. This is about finding and clarifying what the story is really about and what the data is telling your group. This means the story will relate to the wider context of its environment. Working with others is key to the development of a digital story. In digital story parlance, this is the story circle and is about people sitting around and sharing what they think the story is about and how it should be portrayed. Having an awareness of the contrasting and complex nature of a stories emotional context will not only help us get in touch with the core of the story’s meanings, the use of emotions will also help the audience understand the story. When we reflect on the emotions within our stories, we realise they can be complex and we discover the deeper layers of the story. The key is to tell the story, this is not the report or a powerpoint presentation. The documentation is there to sit beside the story. The story is just that, a story and you need a good storyteller or narrator. Only the key points should to be conveyed. Finally, the most important part – connecting to the audience. If all the above points are taken into account, this will happen
  • Refugee voices was a 2 year participatory action research with refugee communities. We employed and trained former refugees and migrants to help us tell the story of refugees resettling in New Zealand. We also had former refugees and NGOs representing refugees as part of our reference group. Making the digital story was key to sharing the results with a diverse range of stakeholders: Former refugees, for many of them, English is a second language Govenrment agencies and NGOs World refugee day Refugee forums Other researchers and evaluators
  • The aim of the digital story was to tell the whole refugee experience. We did not want it to focus not only on the barriers (as media reports highlighted i.e. unemployment) but also on the things that were working and keeping refugees strong and what was important to them and their communities. Working alongside the refugees we had employed allowed us to focus ourselves on the key themes and get feedback from them.
  • The next project looked at the role of Māori networks in the Department of Internal Affairs and had an accompanying report. We used narrative inquiry to look at the change that took place in the public sector from the perspective of our Māori staff members. This was the story of Māori forming networks and becoming stronger in the institutional setting of a government agency and some of the challenges that they faced. For me, this story was about how elements of te ao Māori could be incorporated into a government agency. Many of them talked about whakawhanaungatanga and kanohi-ki-te-kanohi and why these were important to them as Māori staff members. The project had an important corporate contribution as well, we used archival material, old photos and journals talked to many former staff members who had been around when things were changing in the public sector.
  • The story was broken down into two parts – and the use of whakatauki and waiata (both traditional and contemporary added to the richness of the story). For example, we started the story with a powhiri welcoming everyone to the story and then provided a whakatauki about the importance of reflecting back . . . Titiro whakamuri hei arahi i nga uaratanga kei te kimihia. Look to the past for guidance and seek out what is needed We were then able to use the images and songs of the 1970s and 1980s to speak to the changes that had taken place that led to an acceptance of a Māori world view in the government – the following chip shows this section.
  • So we come to the next story which, I admit is still in process. We think this is a story of partnership using a partnership approach to the project. The Research and Evaluation team have built a partnership with Te Atamira Taiwhenua and the Pou Ārahi team to recount the growth of Te Atamira and provide information (and concrete examples) about how they work alongside the Department. As part of this project, we will also report back on any issues that might help make the relationship stronger. We have used an Appreciative Inquiry framework, as it was important to have understanding of these kaumātua as being taonga for many of the Māori staff in the Department and of their importance in wider Māori society. Again, we are using digital stories as it allows us to bring in a range of media to represent the strong Māori element. An example is the karanga which is organised specifically with the project in mind, with a karakia to respond. The karanga will acknowledge Te Atamira members who have gone before and those who have served on the council but are still alive. We knew it was important to acknowledge all members of Te Atamira Taiwhenua in line with Māori tikanga (philosophy. In some way, the interchange which will take place ensures that the story is a partnership. The following excerpt illustrates some of the conversations about partnership . . . .
  • Along with a report, the digital story will be something that the kaumātua in Te Atamira will be able to take away with them, it includes images of them and former members, along with images from their marae so there is an element of providing a taonga for them to keep. It is also a taonga for the Department, we will have had the opportunity to hear their stories about the beginning and what does work well in the relationship. For me, this project has been an opportunity to work in partnership with Māori staff and Te Atamira which is respectful to both sides.
  • I want to thank you for sharing you valuable time with me, do you have any questions
  • Transcript

    • 1. Using digital media to tell the stories of our research and evaluationRosalind Dibley, Department of Internal Affairs
    • 2. Department of Internal Affairs
    • 3. The story• ‘Stories are a marvellous means of summarising experiences, of capturing an event and the surrounding context that seems essential. Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate into one compact package, information, knowledge, context and emotion.’ (Norman, 1993)• ‘There is substantial evidence demonstrating the importance of stories as a tool for learning.’ (McLennan, 2006) Department of Internal Affairs
    • 4. Department of Internal Affairs
    • 5. Fit with Kaupapa Māori• Kaupapa Māori is the “conceptualisation of Māori knowledge” that has been developed through oral tradition. It is the process by which Māori mind receives, internalises, differentiates, and formulates ideas and knowledge exclusively through te reo Māori. Kaupapa Māori is esoteric and tuturu Māori. It is knowledge that validates a Māori world view and is not only Māori owned but also Māori controlled.• For detailed information: Department of Internal Affairs
    • 6. How stories fit within research andevaluation Department of Internal Affairs
    • 7. What are digital stories?• Digital storytelling is understood as a form of short narrative told in the first person and enhanced by visual text and symbolic imagery . . . Considered an extension of oral storytelling by Aboriginal peoples (Cherubini, 2008) Department of Internal Affairs
    • 8. Important stuff• Owning your emotions and insights• Working with others – the story circle• Using emotions• Telling a story• Connecting to the audience Department of Internal Affairs
    • 9. Telling the story ofrefugees throughParticipatory ActionResearch Department of Internal Affairs
    • 10. The diversity of experience of therefugee researchers Department of Internal Affairs
    • 11. Telling a story of change in public serviceFirst Māori staff hui at Maraeroa Marae, Waitangirua, 1988 Department of Internal Affairs
    • 12. “DIA was really taking an active role to promote the voice of young people, of disadvantaged people, or marginalised people, they were really at the cutting edge of a lot of the issues of the time. There was a lot of political support, then really trying to acknowledge that these are marginalised groups that really need to have a voice, need to be included, so that was very much the role of DIA.” Department of Internal Affairs
    • 13. Excerpt from story Department of Internal Affairs
    • 14. Telling the story of partnership“As far as we are concerned, we are the Treaty partner.” Te Atamira representative Department of Internal Affairs
    • 15. Excerpt from draft story Department of Internal Affairs
    • 16. “We came out of the meeting house and there was this bloody tent set up on the lawn and I thought, Christ, this is like the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and when I said this to Chris (CE at time), he had exactly the same bloody feeling, it was amazing.” Former Senior Māori Manager Department of Internal Affairs
    • 17. Questions? Department of Internal Affairs