The power of storytelling

Using storytelling to give people access to public debates about issues that impact their lives

Language can include or exclude. Important public policy discussions are frequently conducted in highly academic, technocratic or bureaucratic specialist language – making them inaccessible to the very people they most need to engage.

This is often the case with the public debate around climate change and its environmental challenges – and the communities most likely to be impacted can become most excluded from important discussions.

Our practice-based research has used storytelling to make public conversations about environmental issues more universally accessible.

Our impact

Empowering individuals and communities

  • Growing knowledge and awareness of issues
  • Increased activism at community level
  • Effective use of digital storytelling as a tool for advocacy
  • Validation of personal and shared experiences

Organisational practice and policy

  • Growing use of storytelling as a tool for engagement and consultation
  • Adoption of storytelling as a tool for delivering policy and objectives

Dissemination and ongoing learning

The research

Applied storytelling for active citizenship, community resilience and environmental action

The underpinning research – comprising several Research Council funded projects in the UK and Kenya – dates back more than a decade with significant developments since 2014.

It is grounded in the concept that storytelling provides an alternative – and very powerful – way of accessing experiential and traditional knowledge, interrogating issues, expressing values and shaping behaviour.

The work to date has focused on the role of storytelling as a tool in developing public engagement and effective policy-making specifically in areas relating to environmental issues, including water management, sustainable transport and waste management.

Practice-based initiatives have been co-created with communities and local organisations, bringing new knowledge and previously unheard voices to public debates by combining traditional and digital narration to create new forms of hybrid storytelling.

Work continues to be funded and is ongoing.

We want to expand our digital storytelling activity around social and environmental issues in the whole country because this approach enables us to have impact at a larger scale.

Daniel Onyango Hope Raisers Initiative, Kenya

Research funders

Several Research Council funding streams, including

  • NERC Drought and Water Scarcity Programme
  • AHRC Connected Communities for Utopia Festival 2016
  • AHRC GCRF International Development in the Research Networking Scheme
  • Ongoing work is supported by AHRC, GCRF and Newton Fund programmes

Our work is also supported by

  • British Academy Follow-on Funding

Development partners

We work with a range of

Meet the experts

Photograph of Mike Wilson

Professor Michael Wilson

Professor of Drama – Creative Arts

Photograph of Antonia Liguori

Dr Antonia Liguori

Professor of Participatory Storytelling and Public Policy