Whose stories do we need to hear?

After you’ve identified the purpose of storytelling and how it will contribute to your consumer and community engagement strategy for the decision at hand, consider whether there any consumer perspectives you particularly need to hear using this method.

  • Whose voice is not heard through other channels?
  • Which consumers are expected to be affected by/benefit from the health decision?
  • What are the criteria for inclusion in your storytelling work? For example, do you need to hear from consumers in a certain age group, or who speak a certain language? Are you looking for stories from women, men or both? Is it important to only include people who have a particular health condition, or who have been diagnosed for a certain length of time? Are you seeking stories from any health consumer who lives in a particular region, or who works in a particular occupation?
  • It’s important to be clear about the inclusion (and any exclusion) criteria, because this will drive not just who you need to hear from, but how you invite and support them to take part.

What’s in it for them?

Then it’s important to think about why these consumers might be interested and committed to sharing their time and their story.  A story should be considered a generous gift made with a clear understanding of the purpose it will be used for and the potential benefit that will result.  Ask:

  • Why would these consumers be willing to share their story to help us? 

How many stories do we need? 

How many stories you need to collect depends on what you want to do with the information. 

Just one story may be sufficient.  A single story can provide you with very useful information: it can flag areas where you may want to investigate processes and practices further (through more interviews, by gathering different kinds of qualitative or quantitative data, or another method such as a staff conversation or internal process review). 

If you collect several stories, you can begin to identify common themes and experiences. The more stories you have, the more evidence you have to identify issues and possible action. A useful rule of thumb is that once you begin to hear similar information, or the same themes, in a number of interviews you have built up a good bank of stories to work with. When you find that there are few or no new themes or information emerging in each subsequent interview, you’re reaching ‘saturation’ point, and may well have gathered enough stories. 

Remember that how many stories you need to gather depends on your objective!