Storying Sheffield

Stories of Change in public services

This post is by Shirin Teifouri.

Image by Gemma Thorpe

Stories of Change is a new collaborative project between Sheffield First Partnership’s Better Connected Programme, the University of Sheffield, local artists, and people of Sheffield; it is investigating how public services can be better connected to the actual needs of people who use them. By bringing together people from different communities and age groups, this project will help to frame an overall picture of how different kinds of crises might complicate the connection between people and public services.
Informed by the storytelling methodologies used in the Storying Sheffield initiative at the School of English (University of Sheffield), the Stories of Change project starts from an acknowledgement that real life stories are a powerful lens to capture hidden voices, and explore the gaps in our understanding. Storytelling perspectives provide essential tools (sensitivity, compassion, defamiliarization, imagination, etc) for a deeper engagement with the details of people’s stories which embody important (sometimes suppressed) elements of a collective image of justice and a better society. Public services cannot be distributed effectively without foregrounding such details, which help us gain perspective on both ‘public’ services, and authentic ‘personal’ accounts of using them.

Image by Kay Aitch
To address the possible missing discourses between public services and the reality of people’s lives, the Stories of Change project attempts to deconstruct narrative frameworks that remain at the level of abstraction for both authorities and public service users. Therefore the project involves local artists working collaboratively with participants to turn their stories into creative and meaningful short films and a digital booklet which will contain text, illustrations, and photographs that have been recorded during the project. Translating life stories into the transformative language of art helps to challenge unimaginative and pre-conceived notions about the shadowy stories of public service users and opens up minds to emphatic insights and alternative perspectives. The use of art as a mode of storytelling also offers a kind of forceful realization that generates dialogues and challenges indifferent moral attitudes – demonstrating the increasing gap between people’s actual well-being and needs and governmental decisions.
The short films will be screened by the Better Connected network at conferences and used to enter ‘public’ discourses and inform local and governmental decisions. They will also be shared as part of the Storying Sheffield project which means they will reach a wider audience who can learn about the kinds of (dis)connections experienced by individuals at times of crisis.
The Stories of Change team for Storying Sheffield
Brendan Stone
Gemma Thorpe
Kay Aitch
Shirin Teifouri
Matthew Colbeck
To find out more about the Stories of Change project, please email Matthew Colbeck ( or Shirin Teifouri (