Pairing Process

Before the Workshop

Following the selection of participants, the possible pairing of storytellers and respondents was considered.

A photobook was created with each participant’s name, photograph, nationality, language(s), brief background, and a seven-word autobiography. After receiving a copy of the photobook each participant was encouraged to select someone they would particularly like to work with and the project team then endeavoured to place them in the same group or introduce them at the first workshop.

The project team began the pairing process by selecting participants to work in groups during various exercises at the first workshop. The project team made every effort to ensure individuals who had requested to be paired from the photobook worked together or met over the course of the two day workshop, and also selected pairs based on the policy theme of the story and the experience of the respondent.


During the Workshop

The first workshop consisted of two days, the first day was a public conference that invited experts to discuss legal capacity. The second day was a closed workshop for participants in the project.


Public Day

The public day of the first workshop was a conference style event which included presentations on each of the papers in the theoretical framework, an introduction to the project and a demonstration of the different formats of storytelling, such as story and response, conversational style and performative approaches. This session provided storytellers and respondents with the opportunity to consider the manner in which they would like to present their story and response, and to implement that style into their presentation and chapter. In keeping with the overall format of the project the theoretical framework was presented alongside stories by individuals illustrating the concepts of agency, consent and state intervention.

Private Day

On the private day of the first workshop all of the storytellers and respondents were introduced, and participants were placed in different pairs throughout the day. These pairings were based on previously indicated preferences from the photobook and pairs the project team thought would work well together based on their stories, background and experiences.

The day started with a “Meet and Greet,” session, where every storyteller was introduced to every possible respondent for a short period. Participants were asked to tell each other their name, where they are from and how they came to join the project. Participants were asked not to discuss in detail their story or experience due to the time constraints of this session, though some did. This was an opportunity for storytellers and respondents to be introduced initially before working together and getting to know each other in other sessions.

Throughout the day the group was divided over parallel sessions to participate in a case studies workshop and a creative writing workshop. While all participants participated in every element of the day parallel sessions were used for logistical reasons. For the case studies session the project team drafted four cases – one for each of the sub-themes in the project and participants were placed in small groups of three or four people to discuss. The case studies were designed to provide participants with insight into each other’s opinions and views on key issues in the area of legal capacity.

A facilitator and creative writing expert was used for some other elements of the workshop. She   organised icebreakers which gave participants the opportunity to learn more about each other, and introduced writing and collaboration exercises which were independent of the final contribution or the topic. The creative writing facilitator also prepared the storytellers and respondents to start writing their chapters, and all of the storytellers and respondents were asked to write about something personal that was not a part of the story to be shared in the project.

While there were many formal processes for participants to meet each other and decide who they may like to work with during the workshop, the participants also got to know each other informally during events like the a dinner organised by the project. In fact some participants decided who they would like to work with during these informal events.

Ground Rules

The ground rules were printed out in easy-to-read format and attached to the wall during the first private day of the first workshop. As mentioned above participants would have read the ground rules when completing their application form. However, to ensure participants were comfortable with the content of the ground rules they were discussed at the beginning of the first day of the workshop with participants having the option of amending them or adding to them if necessary. Participants were invited to sign additional sheets of paper around the ground rules on the wall by way of consent.


After the workshop

At the end of the first workshop each participant was asked to give their top three preferences of which storyteller or respondent they would like to work with during the project. The project team tried to pair all of the storytellers and respondents with their first preference. The project’s policy was that in weighing up the pairing preferences of participants, the storyteller’s preference was given priority.

In most cases, participants were paired with a partner from a different country. The project prioritised the preferences of participants, regardless of the potential difficulties such as distance and contrasting time zones. The pairing of participants from different jurisdictions also allowed for a global perspective and enhanced understanding of deprivation of legal capacity and supporting people to exercise their legal capacity, through explaining and analysing different laws and cultures.

When the pairing process was completed the project team contacted participants to inform them who they were being paired with. Most of the participants were assigned a partner they had requested. When a participant was unable to be paired with one of their preferences, the project team contacted the individual and discussed other possible partners they could choose and ensured that each participant was content with the partner they were assigned. Once the pairs were formed, the project team ensured that as far as practicable, pairs were always contacted together.



The VOICES project tried to ensure that all aspects of the project were accessible. The project tried to have environments and materials that were accessible for everyone at all stages throughout the project, and to anticipate any support that may be requested so that it could be made available. The project team talked to and encouraged participants to tell them if any aspect of the project was inaccessible so that it could be adapted as necessary.

Participants could bring a support person to the VOICES conferences and workshops. Doctoral students and staff from the Centre for Disability Law and Policy were also recruited as volunteer supporters for the workshops and events. The volunteer supporters were briefed regarding the values of the project prior to the workshops.

The ground rules and the pairing guidelines were made available in easy-to-read, and the photobook was written in plain language. The project requested plain language abstracts from the external speakers invited to the public sessions of workshops and encouraged them to outline theoretical concepts in an accessible way when presenting.

Top Tips

•       Case studies were useful to provide insight into participants’ opinions and to ensure that participants could select someone to work with that shared their views.

•       When designing project events and research tasks be mindful of the past experiences of participants and of potential triggers for participants.

Lessons Learned

·      Participants were selected two months prior to the first workshop, which was supposed to be attended by all participants. However, this did not leave much time to organise participants’ travel to the workshop particularly for participants requiring visas .

·      The case study and icebreakers provided an opportunity for participants to get to know each other and decide who they would like to be paired with. However, the question asked in the “Meet and Greet” session was too broad for the limited time given in the exercise. Feedback from the participants regarding the “Meet and Greet” session also considered the exercise to be too rushed. One participant also found that exercise “intimidating.”

·      Participants who will later tell their story at one of the thematic workshops should not take part in the first workshop to demonstrate the different types of storytelling.

·      The first workshop could incorporate a session which enables participants to discuss some aspects of their story, as some participants found it difficult not to tell their stories at this workshop.

·      Informal aspects of the first workshop, such as the dinner, proved to be an important opportunity for the participants to learn more about each other and to choose who they would like to work with.