Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Health Information Science


Health Information Science


Le Ber, Marlene


The goal of this study is to systematically investigate the mobilization of co-created (storyteller and story-gatherer) narratives for policy and social change. A case study format investigated the mobilization of narratives by a women’s health organization in London, Ontario. Semi-structured interviews resulted in transcripts from key actors. These transcripts were thematically coded and analyzed. All interview participants emphasized that from their perspective the organization did influence health policy or social change through their narrative use. Specific policy change examples were provided by participants, and social change was subjectively recognized as realized through the creation of awareness and affirmed through audience response. Limitations to change were recognized, such as systemic violence and an echo chamber affect. Ultimately, narrative use can create social and policy change, but is dependent on multiple factors specific to the organization, the storyteller, and the narrative itself.

Summary for Lay Audience

Stories, or narratives, are used daily by groups such as corporations, political figures, non-profit organizations, activist groups, etc., to connect to audience members in order to deliver an idea surrounding a specific issue. I studied the ways in which a local women’s health organization used stories to impact or influence health policy or social change by connecting to their audience members on an emotional level. The goal of this study was to see if the organization was able to create the intended change, and what limitations existed. It was found that targeted audience members, such as politicians and policymakers, were emotionally connected to the stories and these individuals went on to impact the intended policies. It was also found that the stories allowed those in the audience to understand and connect to the hardships that those within the stories described, creating social change. However, limitations were found, such that the audience members were usually those who were already interested in the topic, limiting the diversity of opinions and social values to be impacted or changed by the stories. Secondly, it was found that the political system and organization of this system inhibited real change from occurring, and this made it difficult for health policy to occur in a meaningful way, regardless of the story or who it impacted and inspired. Ultimately, this study highlights the challenges that a women’s health organization has when using storytelling to influence health policy or social change. It also describes the ways in which the organization is successful in using storytelling to create change, and this adds to the growing literature surrounding storytelling use by organizations. This study may be used by similar organizations to understand and influence the way they use storytelling in the future.