Innovatory Methods in Policymaking: The Use of Verbatim Theatre

Project: Internally funded project

Project Details


The combined impact of recent developments – the global pandemic, gender violence, Black Lives Matter, and not least, the climate crisis – have accelerated recognition by policymakers that too often the policy cycle is failing to capture the needs, lived and user experience of the full array of citizens, especially those marginalised in society. Previously labelled as, for example, ‘hard to reach populations’, the policy system has started to realise that the problem lies within; that policy engagement methodologies as the basis of evidence gathering are themselves generating ‘marginalised groups’, ‘the seldom heard’ and creating barriers to access for citizens. Rather than overcoming market failures and thereby delivering equity and efficiency, policy solutions are often based on inadequate understanding and evidence which are doing little, or may even worsen, social inequalities such as those currently under discussion through the so-called Levelling Up agenda.

In response there has been a recent burgeoning of interest in new forms of data gathering for policy making. Examples might include citizen science, citizen summits, the use of computer simulations and VR, vox-pop booths, social media sentiment analysis and other channels, ‘walk and talk interviewing’, etc.

In a jointly supervised PhD in the Centre for Dance Research, Dr Charles Ingram used a highly innovative method – Verbatim Theatre – to assess the impact of Coventry City of Culture 2021 on citizens and their views of Coventry.

This doctoral research project – and its use of Verbatim Theatre – deliberately gives value to the voices of residents and places them at the forefront with regards to evidence and evaluation. Verbatim Theatre, in brief, is a theatre performance created solely from the words spoken by interview participants. Part of the growing interest in the use of arts methods in policy evaluation, Verbatim Theatre has the potential to transmit the lived experience of service users and policy beneficiaries in a highly nuanced, engaging, and insightful manner. It is in the exchange with the audience, both during the performance and in discussion afterwards, where the novelty and value of this method is most clear.

The effectiveness of this method was evident in late 2021, as part of Charles Ingram’s PhD examination, whereby Charles produced and filmed a piece of Verbatim Theatre in front of a live audience based upon resident interviews and voices. In a full auditorium, the Q&A session following the performance made clear the richness of this method for evidence delivery and evaluation. The written thesis is expected to provide a short reflection on ‘Verbatim Theatre as policy tool’.

Using the existing research on City of Culture 2021 evaluation, this research aimed to:

a. Created a professionally-designed Policy Briefing on Verbatim Theatre as a Policy Tool.
The Policy Briefing i) outlined what the method is and its perceived benefits ii) used embedded clips from the recent performance as part of a multi-media document iii) outlined the operational requirements and challenges of its use.

b. Using Professor Henry’s extensive local, regional and national policymaker connections invited selected participants to an on-line presentation and roundtable discussion of verbatim theatre as a Policy Tool and,

c. Documented how this method has been received by policymakers, and how effective the method might be in adding value to policymakers’ decision-making processes.
Short titleInnovatory Methods in Policymaking
Effective start/end date1/01/2131/03/21


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.