Narrative interviews are one of the key qualitative research methods used by i-strategies for implementing research and innovation projects.

In the context of the “Marche Food and Wine Memories” project, Gianluca Vagnarelli, i-strategies founder, conducted more than a hundred narrative interviews in the region’s south.

A narrative interview is a face-to-face interview in which an interviewee tells a personal life story to an interviewer. The story results from a maieutical exercise in which the interviewer can develop a deep and emotional dialogue with the interviewee, leading to an engaging life story.

«Instead of emphasizing a question-answer format, the purpose of narrative interviews is to provide an opportunity for the participant to narrate his/her life experience. This represents a shift in how roles are conceptualized: from the interviewer–interviewee into narrator–listener» [Allen, 2017].

More than accurate data, in the narrative interview is the experience of the subject that is relevant to the interviewer. What is essential to understand is not exactly when a fact happened but why that fact is important for the interviewee.

i-strategies developed a learning use of narrative interviews sharing with students an essential guide on narrative interview techniques that allow students to collect life interviews using their smartphones.

In other contexts, the life stories were collected using narrative video interviews (here below).

To conclude, the key element to underline is that, before being a qualitative research method, the narrative interview is mostly an extraordinary human experience:

«Sitting next to my father for three hours listening to his life story was a wonderful experience for both of us. Our relationship has never been based on sharing the most intimate feelings and thoughts. I have always known that he loved me, even though he rarely expressed his love to me through words or behaviour. What at first seemed a bit unpleasant experience for both of us turned into an extraordinary moment. It was as if we had left our respective worlds to find ourselves in that room. Of course, I would have liked to know more about how he had lived through various events in his life, but I know that day, he shared his feelings with me more than he ever did in my entire life. At the end of the three hours we spent together, we hugged. I told him I loved him and was happy that he was my father. He told me he loved me and was happy that I was his daughter. Our eyes filled with tears, and then that magical moment ended, even if the effects of those hours spent together would remain with us forever. The inner door that was closed violently when he was thirteen opened a thread, and I was able to peek inside and see my father from the inside, and I am deeply grateful to him for this».

Robert Atkinson, The Life Story Interview