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Participate and Communicate – Part 2

Participatory video for development – or community video – is an excellent medium to connect with people. More than written literature or mute pictures, video creates an impact because we can relate to the subject and people in it. According to Nick and Chris Lunch, the co-founders of InsightShare:

“Participatory Video (PV) is a set of techniques to involve a group or community in shaping and creating their own film. The idea behind this is that making a video is easy and accessible, and is a great way of bringing people together to explore issues, voice concerns or simply to be creative and tell stories.” (“What Is Participatory Video?”)

In short, participatory video can provide a channel through which local knowledge and experience can be shared with other communities, as well as with scientists, decision and policy makers on a local, national and global level. Nick and Chris Lunch equally point out that:

“This process can be very empowering, enabling a group or community to take action to solve their own problems and also to communicate their needs and ideas to decision-makers and/or other groups and communities. As such, PV can be a highly effective tool to engage and mobilise marginalised people, and to help them implement their own forms of sustainable development based on local needs.” (“What Is Participatory Video?”)

The first experiments in participatory video were the work of Don Snowden, who applied his ideas in Fogo Island, Newfoundland, with a small fishing community in 1967. The techniques developed by Snowden became known as the “Fogo Process”. Snowden went on to apply the Fogo process all over the world until his death in India in 1984. [2]

In 2012, when I started working for a grassroots organisation in Hyderabad, I was still unaware of the full potential of community video. However, it wasn’t long before I plunged into community work with all my theoretical knowledge and determination to make a difference. The predominantly Muslim population of the old city of Hyderabad was both challenging and insightful. Here I experienced the power of camera, the awareness that it creates, and the power community media provides to its members. One of the media producers from the community told me, “Aap aur hum alag nahi hain. Aap bhi film banate hain aur hum log bhi.” (“There is no difference between us and you. Both of us make films.”) Although a seemingly innocent statement, it did connect with me on many levels. The empowerment that these girls from the community felt in the process of making a video, was something that was unmatched.

Adolescent girls behind the camera at Mahita Community video unit

Adolescent girls behind the camera at Mahita Community video unit.

There was a sense of responsibility in what they show, because with power to use a technology comes the power to abuse it. While I was well practiced in theory, these girls helped me understand on-ground practical lessons – and I can’t thank them enough. In my short stint of 12 months with the organization, I supervised the production of four community videos, which were on varied topics of child labor, child marriage, girl empowerment and impact of work of the organisation.

However, like all the things under the sun, participatory video also has its challenges. In my experience of working in this field, I observed that the technicalities behind production are often a reason for the underutilization of the model. Community video is a resource intensive model, lack of these resources or expertise to troubleshoot usually results in people losing interest. The different stages of production require a different set of equipment and expertise. Also, all the stages are linked to each other. If one fails, the output is majorly affected. Since this model is fairly new and still growing, we are yet to address these challenges in the best possible way.

As an AIF Clinton Fellow, I decided to pursue this at my host organisation, but certain issues with regard to resource availability meant I had to make the videos myself. Although these videos were useful for the organization, I believe that using methods of participatory media would better serve the purpose of empowering the communities. This would in turn produce communities that have the technological and narrative tools to tell their own stories!

I hope that this model garners the required attention and helps communities move ahead in time by using technology as a means of social change.


References: 

[1] “What Is Participatory Video?” InsightShare.org. PV in a Nutshell, n.d. http://www.insightshare.org/pv/pv-nutshell.html

[2] Crocker S. “Film-Making and the Politics of Remoteness: The Genesis of the Fogo Process on Fogo Island, Newfoundland’ Shima”. The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 2.1 (2008), pp 59-75.

 

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