The Theory and Practice of Evidence Based Storytelling: A Partnership Exchange Workshop in South Africa

The partnership exchange workshop between SACE, Wester Cape Government, eBASE Africa and the North west regional Assembly turned out to be pregnant with so much insight and home-grown solutions in bridging the evidence-to-practice gap. This four days’ workshop was facilitated by Penka Bogne Marthe and Patrick Okwen from eBASE Africa. 

The theory of Evidence based storytelling carried on the concept of storytelling as an old cultural practice of the African people; while relying on popular quotes from original African writers to reaffirm this fact “Stories are the infinite seeds that we have brought with us through the millennia of walking the dust of the earth” Ben Okri.  Further emphasis was laid on the challenge of research- implementation gap where an ever-growing body of evidence exist with limited uptake into practice due to the complexity of research evidence terminology, language barrier and limited access to research evidence especially by people living in resource constraint areas. 

Still under the theory of evidence based storytelling the definition of the African traditional storytelling approach was elucidated as a mechanism to pass on traditions, codes of behavior, beliefs, to educate, transmit values, worldviews, expectations, cultures, myth, entertain, empower, motivate, maintaining social order and to keep information alive from one generation to the other. The importance and value of storytelling in bridging the evidence to practice gap  was linked to the ability of storytelling to communicate in a non-confrontational way; the causality (cause and effect ) nature of storytelling; the relevance of storytelling to all background irrespective of age, intellectual background and  geographical location; the ability of storytelling to apply to emotions while communicating facts; the ability of stories to be communicated in simple and memorable form. The value of storytelling in bridging the evidence to practice gap was spiced with some quotes; “People forget facts but they remember stories” from Joseph Campbell; “Facts don't persuade, feelings do. And stories are the best way to get at those feelings” from Tom Asacker

The theory of Evidence based storytelling was concluded with its most vital component described as the systematic approach of storytelling for science dissemination. this systematic approach made of 7 steps involved; the identification of the problem; the diagnosis of the community; the search of the scientific evidence; the development of evidence statement; storyteller and researchers’ collaboration for the development of the stories; organization of the storytelling event; and the evaluation of intended outcome of the stories on the identified community. The principles underpinning this storytelling approach included: collaboration, respect, inclusiveness, replicability, trustworthiness and relevance. Things to consider while organizing a storytelling mentioned were; time, participants, context and cost. Emphasis was also laid on the element of a good story which are; character, plot, setting, message, conflict, resolution, and craft.

eBASE Africa’s evidence-based storytelling journey kicked off from the prototype which was auto financed, to the pilot phase with funding from the French Embassy, Grant Challenges Canada right now eBASE Africa is exploring options for trial and scaling out of this intervention.


The theory of evidence-based storytelling was followed by a practical session with the government of Western Cape town on using storytelling to address the urbanization challenges of Cape Town.