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Blog: Creative approaches to telling our story

Ruth Johnston, ESS Workshops and Events Administrator continues on her creative journey in this blog talking about using film for story telling

In 2014 I attended Evaluation Support Scotland's workshop: Using Creative Approaches to evaluate your project. The experience inspired me to write ‘Creative Approaches for Life!’ a blog about developing an evaluation tool with fellow workshop participants. Now I find myself reflecting on that blog. This is timely because one of the features of our 10th birthday conference in May was looking back at what we have achieved and how far we’ve come. 

My first blog explored the idea of Creative Approaches being a useful way to evaluate organisations’ projects and also a great way of thinking about personal development. The Creative Approaches workshop was also an opportunity to collaborate, and to explore how effective this can be when producing an evaluation tool. Our tool was created by a collage of magazine scraps, for an imagined audience with an imagined story. It was essentially a creative exercise in empathy.

So, a year on where am I, creatively? Well, in February I project-managed the filming of ESS: Making the Difference, or ESS: The Movie, as it’s fondly referred to in the office. ESS decided to tell its own story, in the words of the staff, the third sector organisations we work with and funders. 

The film’s narrative was simple and the questions it posed clear: what do we do and what is the difference we make? Over the course of a month in collaboration with Screen Education Edinburgh (our film-maker was Yutsil Van Martinez, pictured right) we produced our short film. After the pressures and compromises of the film-editing suite, we were rewarded. Making the Difference not only promotes our work but also tells our story in a new and dynamic way. Perhaps for some, it even humanises and demystifies evaluation.  

The film opened up possibilities for creative ways of telling stories, hopefully reaching new audiences in the process.

On a personal level the opportunity to manage a complex project from inception to completion was hugely rewarding. The film has contributed to my professional development. It contextualises the administration I have provided for ESS in a creative, visual and memorable way. The film is part of ESS’ legacy and I am proud to have helped capture a unique time in our history.

And the story continues. As ESS’ Director says towards the end of the film, “the future [of ESS] is evolution”. Using audio-visual media and social media are new ways for ESS to share learning, ideas, and to create dialogues. This is important because stories can and need be told in a variety of ways: from the cutting and pasting of magazine scraps onto paper and the anecdotes and laughter this inspired, to the interviews, negotiations, and dialogues of filmmaking.  

“Working alongside ESS has helped us improve the evidence that we collect from the organisations that we fund and we then gather that together, feed that through to policy makers and we certainly feel that the evidence we collect is more robust and more notice is taken of that by the policy makers and hopefully that will have a longer term difference.” Christine Scullion, Head of Development, The Robertson Trust

Our next 'Using Creative approaches to evaluate your project' workshop is on 18 February 2016 in Glasgow. You can book here.

Check out our other workshops here.

Share your experiences of attending ESS workshops – send us an email!

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