Human beings across the world have told stories as long as they have had language, and
storytelling remains a living tradition that continues to evolve and flourish today. Storytelling
is often considered to be a highly appropriate communication method for developing
communities because it is based upon the fundamental and familiar use of speaking and
listening. The content of the story itself will often convey experience, knowledge, wisdom and
values which are handed down through generations. Stories can easily be adapted or newly
devised to incorporate development issues.
Advantages of Story Telling
Stories can be devised to suit the local
situation, such as a particular problem
facing the community.
Stories can evoke immediate responses
and discussion from the listeners.
Storytelling is free; it requires no costly
resources and can take place in any
Stories can be told in the local language
(audience does not need literacy skills).
Storytellers can reach all community
members including those (such as girls
and women) who are often left out.
How to use Storytelling
Some organisations may offer ready written stories
Children listening to a story in Kajiado District,
which convey development lessons, but there is
Kenya. Practical Action East Africa
also scope for development staff to work with local
storytellers to devise stories to suit the local context. The story does not have to be factual,
but the development workers should ensure that the storyteller fully understands the issue
and represents it accurately in the devised story. The incorporation of local characters, places
and humour can be very effective.
The story should be engaging and hold the attention of the audience.
The story must be well and carefully told. Ensure that the crucial development
message in the story is not altered.
Visual aids can be used to help reinforce the message.
Opportunity should be given to the listeners to express their thoughts and opinions on
the issue raised in the story.
Stories can also be integrated into dance, music and theatre events.
Stories can be recorded on audio tape / disk or video for wider use.
Select an appropriate time and place for the storytelling.
Constraints of Storytelling
Storytelling relies heavily upon the individual ability of the storyteller.
It reaches only the immediate local audience.
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Real Life Story
Storytelling for Change
A high school storytelling group in South Africa has carried out groundbreaking work, using
comic stories as a tool to explore the dimensions of violence within adolescent dating
relationships. The use of an innovative methodology shows how it is possible to diffuse the
conflict between the need to reflect the realities of young people's lives and the need to
transform harmful behaviour.
Within the storytelling group, students
aged 16 to 20 from Acornhoek High
School in Mpumalanga Province were
asked to write a love story about a boy
and girl in a rural village. Reflecting
No! this problem is
caused by the boys.
their own experiences, the students
They cheat, so the
treated domestic violence, forced sex
girls also do it.
and having multiple partners within a
relationship as the norm. The students
devised scenes from their own stories
which they acted out, and they started
I believe the girls start
questioning and debating the
the cheating. They’re
not satisfied with what
legitimacy of the actions they had
given the characters. The students
explored previously undiscussed topics
Part of a cartoon illustrating the discussions
such as rights over one’s body, male
which were stimulated by the storytelling.
violence, sexual double standards,
teenage sexuality and traditional gender roles. Thus a new story, in comic form, emerged, with
an educational agenda, yet still retaining its popular status by remaining true to the social
conditions created by the students.
Real life story by kind permission of id21, Institute of Development Studies, University of
Sussex, UK. Website www.id21.org.uk and Dr. Patricia Shariff, University of the
Witwatersrand, South Africa.
Community/Street drama Practical Action Technical Brief
Exposure Visits Practical Action Technical Brief
Posters Practical Action Technical Brief
Information, Communication, Learning selection of Practical Action Technical Briefs
Using Existing Mass Media Practical Action Technical Brief
Podcasting: Recording and Using Local Voices for Knowledge Sharing Practical Action Brief
Newsletters and Booklets Practical Action Technical Brief
Wall Newspapers Practical Action Technical Brief
Public Gatherings Practical Action Technical Brief
The Schumacher Centre
Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9QZ
Tel: +44 (0)1926 634400
Fax: +44 (0)1926 634401
This document is based on the Micro Media Card Pack: A Tool Kit for Community Development
Workers produced by Practical Action in October 2003. Reproduced as a Technical Brief in September
Practical Action is a development charity with a difference. We know the simplest ideas can have the
most profound, life-changing effect on poor people across the world. For over 40 years, we have been
working closely with some of the world’s poorest people - using simple technology to fight poverty and
transform their lives for the better. We currently work in 15 countries in Africa, South Asia and Latin