Understanding How People Provide For Family In Aden And Lahij – Yemen

In 2019, Narrate worked in partnership with UNDP Yemen on a ground-breaking project with micro-narrative research, using SenseMaker. The project had four  goals:

  1. to give real voice to the experiences of those living in the middle of a conflict zone
  2. to explore the possibilities of using a real-time narrative-based tool as a key part of working in a crisis
  3. to see whether it was feasible to monitor SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) impacts through non-outcome-based measures
  4. to build a participatory process for each stage of designing the research, gathering data, making sense of results and co-creating interventions and adjustments to programmes.

The final report below – based on 1105 micro-narratives collected in conditions of extreme stress – was published in 2020.

Since then, there have been two further completed projects in Yemen that proved helpful in COVID-19 planning (although they had been designed for other intended uses) and a bigger project is about to go into its final stage of gathering data 12 months after a baseline was established. We hope, with UNDP’s agreement, to share some of the lessons from these in due course.

“This report describes the results and opportunities from a pilot micro-narrative research project to understand the underlying social patterns, influencers, obstacles and opportunities in sustainable livelihood development. It illuminates these issues by giving voice to those at the forefront of the issues – community members themselves.

In addition, this report explores the possibility of using micro-narrative research to monitor the impact of programmes, projects and interventions by visualising the change in underlying beliefs, behaviours and attitudes. These can then be used to measure progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but from the citizen/community perspective. Micro-narrative research is a relatively recent development, set out in the next section. By gathering people’s experiences and giving them tools to indicate deeper meanings, it gathers community voice unfiltered and unmediated by intermediaries or experts. Using sophisticated software, the sense-making of beneficiaries can be visualised as seen in the analysis sections of this report.”


The project was a collaborative work – and we’d like to thank many people for their involvement, including

  • UNDP Yemen and their team for the opportunity to support them and the work they do – including Khulood Sheikh, Waleed Mohammed and Hari Kafle from the YSP UNDP Yemen team. Particular thanks go to Surayo Buzurukova for her leadership in bringing innovation to UNDP Yemen’s work and Arvind Kumar, UNDP Yemen project manager for ERRY II JP and Yemen Livelihoods and Human Security (YLHS) for his steadfast support and vision throughout this project. This was all done with the kind support of Auke Lootsma (Resident Representative) and Nahid Hussein (Deputy Resident Representative).
  • Implementing organisations across Yemen who, in addition to their existing workloads, helped us recruit a team of collectors to gather stories and narratives from people living across Yemen
  • The outstanding group of collectors Mustafa, Ahmed, Wid, Rania, Ruwaida, Salem, Adham, Ammar, Randa, and Reem who quickly developed the skills and confidence to gather data in ways that are still innovative and unfamiliar to students of existing research techniques
  • Our colleague, Ruba al-Bream, who recruited, trained and mentored the collectors remotely from Amman
  • The graphics team at www.kholassa.com who turned our report into a thing of clarity and beauty
  • Cognitive Edge and the technical team behind the SenseMaker tools that we used


But the biggest thank you goes out to the 1105 people who shared their stories, their joys and their pain of living in a situation beyond the imagination of many of us. Their dignity, their optimism and their honesty was an inspiration.



UPDATE: After this initial pilot project and two other small-scale projects in Yemen exploring how people access health support and facilities, Narrate and UNDP collaborated on a much bigger project looking at the impact of broader Supporting Resilient Livelihoods and Food Security in Yemen programmes. For this project, we gathered well over 6,000 micro-narratives – of which over 2,000 were from beneficiaries at both the start and the end of the programmes.

This allowed UNDP to be clear about the impacts and key behavioural and value shifts in those parts of Yemen where we gathered data over a 12-month period that also included the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While a full report was produced, lack of funding for UNDP’s Yemen ongoing work means that we don’t have a shareable version of this report. For those interested, we could share a draft of the content – contact us at info@narrate.co.uk



Helping Yemen

Yemen is facing a human catastrophe – massive humanitarian shortfalls in almost every area you can imagine. Alongside a near-destroyed healthcare system, broken economy and institutional collapse, severe malnutrition threatens the lives of 400,000 children under five years old and 80% of the population dependent on aid programmes for food. The need for aid and support has never been higher – at the precise moment that economic stresses have led many governments to reduce their aid budgets. In a recent event, the UN had requested $3.85billion for 2021 programmes and had received only 44% of that.

If you would like to help, the following are taking contributions to support Yemenis:

Save the Children https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/how-you-can-help/emergencies/yemen-crisis-donate

UNICEF https://www.unicef.org.uk/donate/yemen/

Red Cross https://donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/yemen-crisis-appeal

International Rescue Committee https://www.rescue.org/country/yemen

CRS https://support.crs.org/donate/yemen-crisis

CARE https://my.care.org/site/Donation2?df_id=29461&mfc_pref=T&29461.donation=form1&_ga=2.230587797.861807505.1615829850-112697425.1615115839