Filed under: Development Development 2.0 Social innovation

Local man in the north of Montenegro, Durmitor mountains

Collecting stories from Montenegrins to help inform policies and services

The speed with which change happens in our society today is astounding. Whether you are a policy maker, entrepreneur, or a grass roots activist, irrespective of the sector you work in, coming to terms with that change is what will either make you relevant and competitive or redundant. ‘Real-time’ is increasingly becoming a standard catch phrase in our vocabulary.

When we say ‘coming to terms’ with the change we mean being able to detect early warning signs of an upcoming shift in behaviors attitudes, identify trends and patterns in attitudes, and quickly evaluate whether your response is appropriate and relevant to those changes.

At UNDP, one way that we are experimenting with in order to come to terms with fast pace changes in development is by using micro narratives. For us, people, it has always been about storytelling.

We are most honest when we tell stories to our friends over coffee, during family meals, or by water-coolers.

Imagine being able to aggregate millions of these stories into meaningful information that can be turned into a public service or a policy?

It is only recently that Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge developed a method to do just that- collect and aggregate thousands of micro narratives to gain insight into real-time issues and changes in a society.

Globally, UNDP has started testing this method in several different contexts to understand better how we can best integrate it into our work in an effort to provide real-time monitoring system for our work. Two of those initiatives are taking place in Montenegro. Here we would like to gain a better understanding of:

  • What factors play a role in citizen engagement in decision making on the local level? and
  • What characterizes relationships between citizens and management authorities in protected areas?

We are looking for organizations and individuals willing to volunteer and partner with us in micro narratives. Specifically, we are looking for partners who will help us come up with clever strategies for capturing thousands of stories in the mentioned areas, and who will get involved in the actual process of capturing them. What do they get in return?

  • Training on the methods for story-capture and analysis
  • Insight into the latest, cutting-edge methodology
  • Access to raw data and ability to use it for their own research and work

Interested, but still not sure? You can read through how our thinking on this topic has evolved, from the first encounter with complexity science and development, to brainstorming with global development hot shots such as Owen Barder, to analyzing the value added of narratives vs. opinion polls/survey/focus groups.

As a final hook, check out the experience of a few other global development players with narratives, specifically the fantastic work by Global Giving and Nominet Trust.

Hooked? Get in touch with us by 10 March ( or @ElaMi5)

This post was originally posted on UNDP’s website in Montenegro