Thursday 20 October 2016

The nature of 'narrative' in international development.

Some interesting material on narrative on the website of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).  Eg, Simply telling a good story by Liz Carlile (2106), director of communications at IIED and What’s in a narrative? by Mike Shanahan (2012).

A couple of extracts from the latter:
A scholar called Emery Roe developed the concept of development policy narratives in 1991, ...

According to Roe, such narratives are strategic simplifications that help policymaking in the face of situations whose complexity can instil policy paralysis. They generate consensus around major policies and make political action possible.

As simplifications, narratives are fundamentally different from scientific theories. Science, like narratives, needs to spread to become accepted, but science operates within a formal system that validates its findings, through publication of evidence, peer-review and replication.

"Scientific facts are falsifiable," said Jeremy Swift. "Narratives are not. They escape the checks and balances of science."

Narratives need the support of scientific authority but at the same time need to avoid the complexity and conditional nature of scientific knowledge and this is why they exist. As Krätli pointed out: “scientific knowledge could never be as convincing as a good narrative.”

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