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  • Writer's pictureBrett Davidson

Storytelling and evidence-based policy: lessons from the grey literature

A number of authors interested in how to translate evidence into policy identify the importance of policy narrative and argue that advocates of scientific evidence need to tell good stories to grab the attention and appeal to the emotions of policymakers. Yet, this general call for better narratives is incomplete without concrete examples and evidence of their effectiveness. This article shows how these processes are described in the “grey” literature—defined as literature which is produced by all levels of government, academics, business and industry, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers. This literature is often missed by scientists but more important to activists and advocates within social movements and the non-profit sector who frequently engage with or seek to influence policymakers. The article outlines some of the ways in which an understanding of policymaker psychology and factors such as group dynamics and political context are reflected in the grey literature, and the implications of this for understanding the role of storytelling in political advocacy. It highlights practical advice about storytelling that emerges from the literature, and presents four case studies illustrating aspects of storytelling in action. It concludes by identifying the implications for scientists and other advocates of “evidence informed policymaking”, practitioners and policymakers.

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