The highest standards of ethics are necessary for research and practice with creative storytelling methods. Ongoing examination of ethical processes should occur throughout the process.
As an ethical practitioner it is very important that you take this issue extremely seriously. It is particularly important now with the number of people with access to the internet and social media sites.
Storytellers must have the ability to make informed choices about workshop participation and the content, production, and use of their work. Consent forms can be designed so as the interviewer and the interviewee both have to sign it. It is also good practice to sign two copies, leaving one copy with the interviewee. Consent forms must be explicit, and must be thoroughly explained, as far as possible, in the first language of the participants.
It’s recommended that you give participants the consent form to consider at the beginning of the workshop, and then collect them on the last day of the workshop. You might also want to consider levels of consent (for instance, allowing participants to use a pseudonym, allowing participants to select whether or not they give consent for the stories to be put online). Participants should be given the opportunity to discuss, together, the possible outcomes of each of their stories ‘going public’.
Download DST release form: Example consent form for sharing digital stories
Sharing the stories
In terms of ethical practice it is critical that the storytellers have ownership of the stories that they produce. However, where stories are made public for advocacy and influencing activities from local to global levels the terms of how they are shared is important.
It is important that participants honestly, fully understand what the consequences of, for example, putting their story online might be. Amnesty are currently running a system of renewed consent – where they follow up with ex-participants periodically and check that they are happy to continue to allow their stories to be used. Where possible, this is a good way of keeping pace with social and individual changes. It should not however be promised to participants if you cannot guarantee this.
Mitigation of Harm
Revisiting the past may prove deeply emotional or distressing for participants. Researchers’ experiences of listening to these stories may also prove painful. The publication, reinterpretation and dissemination of participants’ stories may also be an upsetting experience. To address these issues, facilitators should consider what resources are available from local social workers, counsellors.
Right of Withdrawal
A participant may choose to end the storytelling process at any time and may ask that any recording of their story be destroyed. This right to discontinue should be discussed with participants before the start of the process and be included on the consent form.