Seven hours, three researchers, ten stories returned.

Yvonne’s hair had gone from pale blue-ish green to deep red. Whereas last time I saw her, she was in anguish over her son’s refusal to let her spend time with her four-year old grandson, now she was shovelling the walk into a mini-snow hill which the same grandson slid down with glee.

Yvonne in thought after receiving back the profile card we wrote about her story

I passed Yvonne a card with a short profile that attempted to capture her experience and I explained how we had used it in three presentations over the past two days. Yvonne read through the short story carefully, smiling, making noises of agreement, and laughter. She flipped to the other side and saw my assessment of the kind of outcomes she valued most, the stressors, barriers and enablers in her context, and opportunity ideas her story had helped us generate.

Focusing on one insight, around the misalignment between adventurous people and services that seek to settle and stabilize, she began nodding her head: “Yeah, the nomad in me! Home is where I..this is home!” She says this referring to the place she has been house sitting for many months, a level of permanence that suits her just fine.

The house Yvonne is house sitting at the moment

“…I don’t mind being homeless or semi-homeless, or the invisible homeless because I’m really quite comfortable.”


“I do think about ‘where am I going to go after this’ – and I do think about that ahead of time…I don’t wait for it to happen. And even though I’m a gambler, I don’t wait for not to have anything.” Gesturing to her grandson – “when I find out he’s coming I make sure I have what he needs.” In the instant receiving this data snapshot – about the challenges in her life but also about her internal resources – Yvonne is launched into a reflection on what matters to her and her agency to move towards it. Feedback is powerful.

She moves on to another part of her profile. “This is interesting how you saw this,” she says, referring to an opportunity the profile raises for Yvonne to play a mentorship role for struggling families. She explains how just the other day teachers at her grandson’s school had invited her to play an Elder role doing some of her arts and crafts with Aboriginal students and mentoring them. She thinks aloud in front of me: “I don’t really ever think about myself as an elder…but yeah I wouldn’t mind doing that and some of the stuff that happened as a child and how I overcame some of that…And some of that is really sensitive stuff so we’d have to think about how.”

“I don’t really ever think about myself as an elder…but yeah I wouldn’t mind doing that”


She is clearly in the midst of considering this new opportunity – judging whether she feels capable and acknowledging her desire to do so. She reflects on things she has done in the past that may have prepared her for this role, a story she wrote and that she thinks she should probably publish, “because these things are starting to come up and and I should be doing stuff.” Yvonne’s resolve seems to grow right there in the kitchen as she sees herself through another’s eyes. To see what this small act of reciprocity brings about in Yvonne is exhilarating.

And really, how many things do we get back in this world? Witnessing Yvonne’s consumption of her own story makes me wonder about a future in which every person who gives up data to a service had it returned to them in a usable form.


Natalie Napier

Natalie Napier is Research & Storytelling Lead. She holds a BA in International …

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