Heather, great post! I am a bit biased in agreeing with you since we, at UNDP, have been experimenting with micro-narratives, a method that on hand allows us to collect thousands of snippets of stories from citizens and on the others provides a structured method of self-interpretation (citizens themselves interpret stories as opposed to the consultants, so through disintermediation the bias is non existent) and analysis that allows us to follow almost real time trends in relations to subtle changes in perceptions, behaviors, priorities, etc.
In my view as well it has never been one way or another (quantitative vs qualitative) but how to fill in the very obvious gaps and weaknesses of hard, quantitative data. we are still early in the exploration but initial results are promising- id be more than happy to share!
thanks for the post once again!