A case study tells the story of a particular person in detail and is a great way to showcase your project and how the European Social Fund is delivering on its promise to change lives.
Use case studies as stand-alone stories, or as part of a broader story. They can feature across a range of ESF and other communication channels used by your organisation (and your ESF partners), including websites, e-newsletters, booklets, leaflets and reports.
Journalists particularly like local case studies because they bring a strong human angle – people want to read about people!
- Planning the story and its use – Top tips
- How to write your case study
- Drafting a case study – Top tips
- Sharing your case study
- Related topics
Planning the story and its use – Top tips
- As well as individuals’ stories, consider case studies at group or community level, or to demonstrate good practice. These are at the level of the ‘project’ where activities, achievements and impact are often highlighted. For example:
- 25 workers under threat of redundancy have gained new skills and are finding new employment; or
- lone parents in a particular community are gaining new skills and qualifications and progressing to employment/further education through a community centre based project.
- Personal quotes supporting the story from the individuals (or people) featured can add real value – if they are clear and support the storyline.
- Use case studies to integrate the activities and achievements of your ESF project(s) into your organisation wide communications. As a minimum please ensure the European Social Fund is written in full and that the ESF logo is used.
- Your case study might make a good candidate for a radio or TV interview, especially if they have a clear, confident voice.
- A journalist may want to speak to the case study themselves – so make sure the individual/people are aware of this and available at the time the story is submitted.
Tips from the newsroom:
"Case studies have to be relevant for the local audience and be about things that are going on locally. I think a lack of jargon and being uncomplicated is really important too. Having examples to pick and choose from is helpful and being able to speak directly to those involved is paramount." Zena Hawley, Education Reporter for the Derby Telegraph
"Having local contacts and a local angle is really important. The case studies must be willing to talk to us so we can get as much detail as possible to turn it into a newsworthy story." Ed Palmer, Editor for Nottingham and Trent Valley Journal
How to write your case study
Personal information and consent
Before you can use a story, seek written consent from each person who is featured in the case study. This is to confirm that they are content for their story (and where agreed, their photo) to be released.
Provide the journalist with as much information about the person in the case study as possible, including personal details:
- Where are they from (just the area, not the street name)?
- Are they married or do they have a partner?
- How many children do they have?
- How old are they?
- How exactly the person’s life has changed through ESF support?
- What were they doing before?
- What are they doing now?
These personal details help bring the case study to life and help to keep the reader’s attention. Be careful not to cram all the information in too soon though – ‘drip’ the details in as you write.
Case study examples
Many providers running ESF projects feature case studies in written communications and on their websites.
The national ESF website has a large case study section featuring a range of ESF participant stories from across the country. If you are new to producing case studies, reading through the stories may help you get started.
The structure and format of the case studies varies depending on the source, but all tell the story of how people’s lives have had positive changes as a result of the ESF funded support they have received. Most are written by people administering the programme, but a number are from individual participants themselves. These very personal stories often have considerable impact.
Your organisation or ESF partners may also have case study sections on websites or use them within publications.
Use a good quality photograph of the person (or people) featured in the case study to help the audience engage with the story. If the person is being used as part of a feature, a head shot might suffice, but if it is the whole story, then use a more detailed, professional looking photo.
Drafting a case study – Top tips
Remember to consider the following:
- What are the most interesting elements of this person’s experience – what makes it a good news story? How does it stand out?
- How did the individual find out about ESF and why did they join the project?
- What were the individual’s barriers, what obstacles have they overcome?
- Clearly describe the individual’s journey/customer experience.
- Focus on how the individual turned negatives into positives.
- What were the outcomes – achievements/qualifications/employment/further study?
- How would the individual summarise their time on the project? How has it changed their life? Include quotes from them and from their tutor/case worker.
Sharing your case study
Remember to seek out opportunities to share your case study with others.
For example, your ESF project partners and your CFO or other ESF funder may be able to help publicise it and cascade it across their networks.
The ESF Managing Authority is always looking out for case studies to link to and/or incorporate on its ESF website, in its bi-monthly ‘European Social Fund at work’ e-zine and in publications or press releases.
Please do what you can to share your case study with others. As well as promoting the ESF story, it will help raise the profile of your organisation.