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Sharing believable stories: A qualitative study exploring the relevance of case studies for influencing the creation of healthy environments

Source: Science direct 25.07.2021


In our study of the relevance of case studies for influencing decision-making we demonstrated the importance of telling believable stories. Case studies can go beyond being ‘practical examples’ and can have the power to influence decision-making, but they need to be similar and locally relevant, and the onus is on the storyteller to highlight these similarities. Organising and framing multiple pieces of evidence (studies or outcomes) into believable stories that make local contextual sense can help to convince decision-makers.

We found that believable stories could be used to increase accept-ability of environmental changes to support walking and cycling by local people and  decision-makers. Examples from England were generally preferred to those from abroad, particularly because of Eurosceptic attitudes which restricted emotional connections to international stories. Physical and socio-economic similarities could be necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for story settings to appear believable, whereas local party politics could affect acceptability of using examples from other local government areas. Clarity of purpose of individual examples was also important to  define the  plotline of  a  story.

The need for ‘watertight’ calculations in transport assessments made it difficult to design for high levels of active travel in new developments or to incorporate health and wellbeing metrics, as  these outcomes were less believable to some audiences. Greater availability of case study examples across contexts could help increase the library of stories available for storytellers to choose from. This could require greater monitoring and evaluation in different physical, socio-economic and political contexts, as  well as  demonstrating impacts on different types of people, such as older people and those living in  deprived areas. This could strengthen emotional engagement with believable stories for relevant audiences to facilitate investment in healthy environments.


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