From note-taking to writing up: a brief for workshop note-takers

Why note-taking?

By acting as a prompt and a memory-jogger, notes taken by an ‘objective’ participant during the session can increase the chances of the story-teller writing up their story afterwards. They can then provide a valuable resource for doing this, especially if (as is often the case) a busy practitioners may not get round to the writing up until days or perhaps weeks later.

What to note

As outlined in Story-telling and its facilitation, the process of the small group sessions is at the heart of the workshops and has three main stages:

Invitations to members of the group to give ‘headline’ outlines (2-3 sentences) of an example of them practising as youth workers or experiencing youth work as a young person

One of these stories will be chosen (by vote if necessary) for full description and discussion.

The facilitator may flip chart each of the outlines against the name of the person offering the story to use at the next stage.

However a note-taker’s (perhaps fuller) version of the outlines can be very useful afterwards.

Full description of the chosen story by the person who has offered it

The facilitator may flip chart some of the key points of this as it is described.

However a note-taker is likely to get a much fuller record of the story as it is narrated.

The analysis of the story-teller by facilitator and group members to add detail to and ‘unpick’ the story in order to identify how it is youth work (or not) – for example if and how it ‘fits’ the IDYW ‘cornerstones’ of youth work

Again, the facilitator may flip chart some of the key points. However, though it clearly won’t be possible to capture everything, it is helpful if notes can be taken on for example:

– the main questions asked of the story-teller and the answers given

– the main comments made on the practice and especially its process – especially on if and how it is (or is not) youth work

– any links made to the IDYW ‘cornerstones’.

Writing up a story

A story-teller might want to write up their story after the workshop:

    • for self-reflective use in developing their own future practice;
    • to share with colleagues and within their agency – for example for a future supervision session or as a prompt for wider critical discussion and debate about practice;
    • for possible publication in some form

The first step is for the story-teller to take responsibility for turning the notes from a session into a first full draft of their story and then seek comment and suggestions on this, preferably from someone outside their practice situation. This could be from the note-taker or from someone else who took part in the group interrogation.

Responses to the draft might then ask:

  • Is the actual narrative clear enough – for example on who was involved, what actually happened and when?
  • Have the details of crucial parts of the process been sufficiently ‘unpacked’, especially where key elements of it may have been taken-for-granted or not fully articulated by the worker – for example in relation to how key actors interacted; their reactions to each other and to the worker and her/his interventions?
  • Have the worker’s motives and intentions (at the time and/or in retrospect) been made clear?
  • What was the worker’s reading at the time of key those moments in the action/process?
  • Were there obstacles, dilemmas, struggles, etc. which had to be negotiated and if so to what extent was this achieved, how by whom, and with what consequences?
  • Were any relevant external factors or pressures impinging on the practice described?
  • What had been judged ‘successful’ and what hadn’t, with what ‘impacts’, especially for the young people – immediately and (if detectable) in the longer-term?

If the story could in any way end up in the public arena, the worker may also need to be prompted to consider issues of confidentiality and whether and how it should be anonymised.

To fully articulate and explore the key insights and messages embedded in a story, the process of drafting, feedback and redrafting may need to be repeated, sometimes more than once.

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