Just read a fascinating blog on a project that used choice and stories to build an evaluation of the impact of an aid program in Bangladesh. Here's an excerpt:
Assessing hard facts alone is insufficient in helping stakeholders appreciate the impact of a program designed to change behaviours. Qualitative perspectives are essential. . . .Rick needed to engage the stakeholders, primarily the region's decision-makers and the ultimate project funders, in a process that would help them see (and maybe even feel) the change. His solution was to get groups of people at different levels of the project's hierarchy to select the stories which they thought was most significant and explain why they made that selection.
You'll find the rest of the blog at http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2006/04/evaluating_the.html.
The point is twofold. First, stories are the way we make sense of complex webs of information. Second, in thinking about the stories we hear, we make choices. Those choices complete the communication loops and allow the stories to have impact. Telling our stories is not a "soft" approach: it is absolutely "hard" - if you don't believe me, try telling the story of a significant change in your life in a way that satisfies you and communicates with someone else. How many complex evaluations and choices do you have to make to get it right?