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Our narrative workshop methodology

A narrative workshop in Edmonton Alberta, as part of the Alberta Narratives Project
Photo credit: Climate Outreach

Identifying the most appropriate language for different audiences is an important aspect of building an effective response to climate change. The narrative workshop methodology we developed is a form of qualitative research that explores language and narrative around climate change and its solutions, and forms the basis of much of our research work.

There are two aspects to the methodology that distinguish narrative workshops from other forms of focus group research:

  • Use of a structure and format which promotes peer-to-peer dialogue
  • Grounding the dialogue in participants’ values and identity, which are the sources of their attitudes

This approach is designed to allow participants to engage in conversations about climate change and respond to the narratives provided in their own terms, with reference to the things that matter to them, rather than seek to generate a debate on the basis of complex and abstract science. Hence the process begins by exploring participants’ own values, concerns and aspirations rather than a particular policy proposal or technological response. 

The narrative workshops begins with a discussion around identity, as well as attitudes to change and to the future. The facilitator then moves to questions around attitudes towards climate change. In the final section, short prepared narratives about climate change are handed out to participants along with red and green highlighter pens. Participants highlight any words or passages they feel strongly positive about in green, and any they feel strongly negative about in red. The group then discusses what they highlighted and why. In the later evaluation workshop, the marked narratives are analysed alongside transcripts from the discussions and other research in order to generate recommendations on what messaging to use and what messaging to avoid with that particular audience.

Our narrative workshop methodology was outlined in more detail in a peer-reviewed publication.

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