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“The community screening is a space of mutual learning and personal commitment
to keep taking care of Mother Earth.” Rocío Achahui Quenti, Quechua PV facilitator in Peru.

As InsightShare release new guide ‘Community Screenings for Participatory Video’, our Indigenous partners coordinate screenings across 3 continents.

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by Nick Lunch

In the latest phase of Conversations with the Earth - Amplifying Indigenous Voices on Climate Change; each community media hub was invited to select one video from their back catalogue of participatory video projects to share with the other hubs and their wider communities. 7 videos were audio-dubbed into local languages Quechua, Ma, Baka, Ilochano, Gamo.

The highlight of my week was receiving a report from Rocío Achahui Quenti in Peru,  where she has been organising 4 community screenings in rural villages and to farmer groups in the Cusco region..

 “With communal authorities and the local government we organised video screenings around the consequences of climate change in our communities, with the goal that families may socialise and reflect on the causes that are behind climate change; as well as see the reality in other countries. We hoped to raise awareness and motivation among the families to take care of Mother Earth; to restore knowledge and ancestral wisdom related to climate change; to create an action plan at family and communal level related to taking care of our environment.”

I asked Rocio why she felt this work was important:

As we know, the Andean region, recognised for its biological, cultural and climatic diversity, today is faced with the threat of climate change. The immediate dangers are the retreating glaciers, water scarcity and deforestation. If we don’t stop pollution and take immediate measures to reduce global warming, we’ll face irreversible consequences, that will bring a crisis with human and economic loses. Those with a direct responsibility are the industries that generate toxic waste and gases creating the greenhouse effect that damages the environment.”

177 people attended the screenings, nearly half of which were women.

One of the audience commented on the power of witnessing the predicament of others:

Everyone should watch these videos made by our indigenous brothers and sisters -because they talk about what is happening in their land, in their community and they help us reflect on the things we should do to prevent that from happening to ourselves and others.”

Whilst another audience member reaffirmed an interest in local solutions:

“Our videos are very important to remind us of our customs -the knowledge, secrets and wisdom from our grandparents is good because it’s respectful -we should remember asking them as we still have some with us.”

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“the screening of videos from other countries was good to reflect and value the resources that we still have. Our own videos are very important to remind us of our customs” (audience comment)

Following each screening, Rocio facilitated discussion groups and recorded feedback. I was struck by this interesting reflection by another member of the audience:

“The religions have divided us; alcohol has created family violence and a bad example for the children, and religions have entered to convince people of leaving alcohol and take God’s word. This change has caused family divisions, we have stopped our rituals in agriculture, and the youth say that these customs are a waste of time. These changes made us lose mutual respect between the human community and nature.”

Rocio was particularly excited to see how the screenings became a catalyst for further action:

“Watching these videos motivated them to keep making more videos, so they have invited me to help document the medicinal plants and their uses with Saturnina Melo and her son on Holy Friday.” 

Finally I asked Rocio what were the next steps…

 We plan to suggest to the staff of Environmental offices in the local government to screen the videos in other neighbourhoods to mitigate the effects of climate change and raise awareness to take care of water.”

To download a free copy of the Screening Guide click here!

Read More

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At an workshop event at the Ecocentrix exhibition in London last week, Irma Poma Canchumani spoke some fascinating words about how she feels a direct link between the participatory video work she is involved in and her gourd carving, each literally informs the other..

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"This is my script. On these gourds I engrave my script - these gourds
tell stories about our traditional clothing, our farming practices,
the origins of our seeds, the way we honor our sacred mountains.
Through the gourd you can follow a visual narrative. Another way I’ve
found to do that is through the medium of video.

Technology can be something valuable: video has the capacity to
transmit knowledge -but often it is used for just entertainment, as a
means of consumption. When we work from the heart we use video to
transmit important ecological and cultural knowledge that is being
forgotten. Technology allows us to document what we value, to travel
with our videos, share how we have been neglecting our Mother Earth.
It can be used to transmit important things like our culture, and our
ecological relationship with Mother Earth (Pacha Mama). When we make
our videos we can transmit these messages from heart to hearts.

Our people are mistrustful of being filmed. They think the film maker
will profit personally from the film and the community will gain
nothing. That is why we use participatory video. It has no heirachy,
there is no “director”, no “editor” -we all work as one. A group of us
comes together to work on a project together.”


Irma Poma is an ambassador for the environment, a traditional healer, and a superb artist. A Quechua gourd carver and filmmaker from Junín province in Peru, she addresses climate change and the protection of traditional knowledge through her gourds and video. Irma got involved with the Conversations with the Earth project in 2009 and was trained in participatory video making by InsightShare.

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"Wow, what an incredible privilege! I met Aung Sang Suu Kyi today. She is interested in participatory video, wants to see more of it in Myanmar. She told me the youth here lack skills and opportunities and PV could help build their confidence and self-esteem. We discussed plans to initiate a pilot project in the next weeks!" (Chris Lunch, via email on 14/10/2013). 

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Back here in the Oxford office, we are all so proud. We thought Chris looked dashing in his traditional longi (with a spanking new haircut) and wondered what gift he had brought for “The Lady” on behalf of InsightShare. It turns out, some tasty french gruyere cheese & Belgian chocolate! 

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During a follow-up last Monday, the Daw Khin Kyi foundation requested proposals for future PV projects in the country. Today Chris already starts facilitating a PV taster workshop in Kolumu, Aung San Suu Kyi’s constituency! Follow further developments via Facebookour blog or Twitter.
 

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This month Sole, Sara and Marleen delivered the 22nd edition of our UK based training of facilitators. We had the pleasure of working with an inspiring group of development practitioners and community workers from across 4 continents. The trainees traveled from Canada, Australia, Brasil, Portugal, Colombia, Scotland and London to join us. 

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At a community center in Oxford the trainees practiced and deepened their facilitation skills while learning the basics pf participatory video. They experienced, explored and practiced a wide range of games and group exercises and learned and supported each other through experimental learning, sharing and reflection.

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The 6 days were, as always, long and intense - as the course aims to build the trainees’ capacity to deliver on all aspects of the participatory video process, incl. technical learning, group bonding, issue identification and prioritisation, story development, video planning and shooting, editing, screening facilitation and project planning and preparation.

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On the last day the trainees proudly presented how they plan to apply their learning during their projects around the world, working with communities in Madagascar and Cameroon, youth in Portugal, Nepal and Brasil, farmers in Colombia and Malawi, aboriginal people in Australia and refugees in London. 

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We are grateful for the great energy, valuable insights and experience, critical questions and tears of laughter they brought to the training. We had an amazing time and wish them all the best with integrating the PV learning into their work.

Some messages from the trainees:

"The course was incredibly inspiring and I’m so grateful for getting a place and sponging up all the experience from Marleen, Sara, Sole & Nick. I’ve never before learnt so much on a personal/professional level in such a short space of time. One…two…threee - CLAP to you guys!"

"So amazing working with all of you last week. Truly inspirational. I head to Cameroon on Friday and can’t wait to start putting the things we talked about into action."

"Yesterday I’ve worked on my projects proposal and remembered dearly all the learning and inspiring stuff you’ve shared with me - thank you all, was a great week."

"What a great time it was and again thanks for enveloping us all in the PV spirit! It’s still all very fresh in my mind and I try to calm all these new impressions down and turn them into concrete plans for my upcoming trip to Malawi."

"I was really pleased - the sharing, the building of a PV process, the participants view and the facilitator part - all was conveyed very well - better even than I expected."

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This 3-stage capacity building programme aims to pilot participatory video as a tool for community development in the Ayeyarwady Delta.

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Two trainees support their community members during the ‘disappearing game’


Stage 1

Last month our trainers Gareth and Sara delivered the first stage of the programme: a two-week intensive training with six village representatives and 3 Lutheran World Federation staff members. Through experiential learning and reflection, the trainees learnt basic video production skills as well as all the essential PV facilitator skills: how to facilitate PV games and exercises and PRA/PLA processes, how to set-up a community screening set-up and how to plan a PV process. During the second week of the training they all undertook their first short practise project in nearby villages, after which they returning to analyse and learn from their practical experiences. 

Click here to view the photo story of the Stage 1 Participatory Video Training.

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Community members in the process of planning their films


Stage 2 - Post Training Assignments

Over the past few weeks all trainees facilitated participatory video processes in their own communities. The trainees worked with a Women’s Committee, their Village Development Committee, partner households and youth and helped these groups to focus on issues such as the situation around river erosion and the lack of local livelihoods.

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Community members gathered for the video screening


Stage 3 - Peer Review 

This week, during the stage 3 Peer Review training workshop with Chris, the trainees will share their experiences from the field with each other and work hard to fill any gaps in the their capacity to carry out participatory video projects. Together they will also explore and plan how they could continue to use participatory video to enable horizontal information sharing, provide a forum for participatory decision-making as well as a communication tool for local advocacy.

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We are delighted to announce that this summer we welcomed three women to our team. Jemimah, Anabela and Keidy are now InsightShare associates.

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Maria Anabela Carlón Flores (Yaqui) Teacher and Community Leader

Anabela is an inspiring leader and teacher, who lives in Sonora, northern Mexico and who uses PV as an educational tool to revive traditional ecological knowledge. She describes PV as “a process that seems to be designed for indigenous people”. Anabela is an elder in her community and InsightShare will draw on her expertise in planning the CWE programme’s next steps.

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Jemimah Mashipei (Maasai) Community Worker
Jemimah runs PV workshops with the Maasai in Kenya to help them document the impacts of climate change in the country, and share perspectives on The Rights  of Mother Earth — granting all nature equal rights to humans. Despite tough challenges — the communities she works in are far apart, public transport is limited, and the Maasai are suspicious as they have been exploited and objectified in the media for decades — her work is having an important impact. “Maasai culture is in crisis and PV can support our efforts to pass on cultural knowledge between elders and the youth,” she says.

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Keidy Transfiguracion (Igorot) Youth Activist
An active member of Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN) in the Philippines, Keidy is responsible for youth education and community outreach, and has coordinated several international gatherings and activist training workshops on climate change. Keidy attended UN COP15 in Denmark, where she presented her community’s films about climate change and the environmental impacts of mining, which were shown to the public and screened at the National Museum of Denmark. Alongside other indigenous women, Keidy led the million-strong march in Copenhagen to protest for tougher commitments on carbon emission cuts.

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A scoping and partnership building visit 

by Nick Lunch, Director and Founder

“We need people from within to be trained in PV who will live among us”. -Molu Kulu, d’abeela, Gabbra Elder

Between 24th June and 1st July 2013 I made an 8-day overland journey into the rangelands of northern Kenya, just east of Lake Turkana. It was a scoping visit to several of Kivulini Trust’s local partners; small community organisations based in Isiolo and Marsabit counties. My travel companions were Mercy Gakii (Kivulini Trust Projects Manager), Kula Boru, the driver, and we were joined in the field by Denge Bonaya and Roba Iyesa.

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Above: Samburu morans, young warriors. Photographed by the Kivulini Trust

 

Kivulini Trust was founded by Dr Hussein Isack, a gentle and wise man known in Gabbra circles as Baba Simpirre –the Bird Man! We met at an exhibition launch in Washington nearly 3 years earlier and were drawn into a fascinating discussion where we explored the potential reach, impact and applications that participatory video (PV) could have in his native region. Now we are beginning to work together to manifest this most exciting programme. Conversations with the Earth (CWE) was launched as a 6 month multimedia exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute and no doubt Dr Hussein was impressed by the global reach of the amplified voices of indigenous peoples on climate change. But I think it was the social change aspect of the work going on at ground level: PV as a catalyst supporting community-led reflection, empowerment and self-affirmation. I think it was the visible strengthening of relationships and networks between indigenous cultures both locally and across continents, and the prevailing cultural themes of their videos (of documentation and affirmation) that won his full admiration.

The cultural origins of most of Kivulini’s staff is from the indigenous north; perhaps this accounts for the refreshing atmosphere that greeted me in their Nairobi office. The quiet dedication, and the clear organizational focus on culture. As their website states, “we draw on the wisdom inherent in our communities’ traditional cultural systems and practices, and believe in their power to shape their own destiny - in order to create sustainable livelihoods and inspire the protection and celebration of their rich cultural and natural heritage.” (www.kivulinitrust.org)

Right at the end of my visit I spent a pleasant day in Nairobi with Jemimah Mashipei Kerenge and her cousin Tom. Followers of Insightshare’s work may remember Jemimah is a young Maasai woman who became involved in the CWE programme in 2009 as a participant in a video project in Kenya, and has stuck with us since, training as a PV facilitator and recently joining our team as an Associate. Jemimah, Tom and I were testing out our new audio dubbing technique which worked pretty well and they will now audio dub a selection of 8 videos chosen by each of the CWE hubs into Maa (the language of the Maasai) and organize local screenings. It was so good to see Jemimah again to reinforce our commitment to her as a local PV facilitator, and to replace much of her dusty, worn equipment. I was able to share with her the enthusiasm of the groups I met in the north when I screened some of the PV films she had facilitated with Maasai and Ilchamus women. If we secure funding for this programme, Jemimah will provide core support on the ground. Our dream, to provide local PV expertise rather than flying in teams from UK, looks like it is gradually becoming a reality.

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Above: Turkana traditional dances -filming what is valuable

 

Back to the core purpose of the trip -it actually felt pretty luxurious going on a scoping visit. I’ve never done that before! And I’m really grateful to The Christensen Fund (TCF) and Kivulini Trust for seeing the value and investing time and resources to make it happen.

Imagine getting the chance to spend quality time with a potential partner, getting to know each other, on their home turf! Imagine getting access to your target groups, being able to really explain what you offer, to ask people face to face if they would like to take part in the programme, to listen to what they want and how it should be done. Imagine doing this BEFORE designing the programme or writing the funding proposal….well hang on, that’s really how it ought to be every time!

If only that were always possible!

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Above: Discussions with Aada Jabesa Women Group

I’m celebrating that we can now design the programme as equal partners with the Kivulini team, whilst taking into consideration the groups’ needs and local context, as well as the socio-political and environmental factors.

I’m increasingly recognizing some of those factors, with some trepidation for the indigenous peoples living in the region. Many of these forces are familiar, and the consequences are known. For example the latest oil exploration efforts around Lake Turkana and the massive irrigation schemes in southern Ethiopia (sugar plantations), which will further drain the Oromo river flowing south into the Kenyan rangelands. I have seen recent reports that warn the depth of Lake Turkana may drain by some 20 meters! Affecting thousands of traditional fisher folk and pastoralists dependent on the lake. This week I read an article on the latest water capturing scheme planned by the Kenyan government near Isiolo: another dam project to provide irrigation for growing crops in the desert, and to pump water to the town. No doubt meaning communities will be displaced. The new tarmac roads funded by EU, part of a massive “transport corridor” called LAPPSET, to link Ethiopia with the ports of Kenya, will cut through the rangelands and no doubt bring both joy and sorrow to local communities. Combine these external forces (“development”) with the threat of climate change and tendency for extended droughts in the region, and considering the depleting underground water reserves, the rise in tribal conflicts among pastoralists over depleted resources, and the looming spectre of land-grabs along the transport corridor, I can predict this little known region will start to feature in international news bulletins of the near future!

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Above: Charcoal making. Bad for the environment, tough work, necessary income for survival.

As my photos show (see link below), I was able to meet community groups across the region and spend time talking, listening, sharing some of the basic PV exercises, screening community films from other places, and discussing local needs and global themes. Ultimately I was there to explore the value of PV to these groups. Back in the UK I am convinced of the value PV can have as a tool to affirm cultural identity, strengthen resilience and to use for advocacy and exchange. Our challenge is to build capacity and a sustainable legacy in the region.

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Above: Mary is a natural facilitator We will be seeking people like her for our training programme.

We covered thousands of kilometres on this mammoth overland trip. We often drove 5 or more hours each day on rough desert tracks to reach the next community. But time in the land cruiser was far from boring! We saw hare, fox, ostrich, gazelle, stork, cobra, baboons and more. The landscapes were epic, gigantic, and ancient. The heat and dust at times were intense. Our driver is a legend. If anyone out there has got connections to the Paris-Dakar race let me know because Kula could be a champion! And through Kula I discovered a desert blues tradition I’d never heard of before: the Kono and Borana tribal blues guitarists from both sides of the border. Names like Somosafar, Bonaya, Dulacha and Jirma: mournful, gritty voices sounding like ground up lumps of lava rock that scatter the desert floor.

For those with a sense for geography, the first group we visited was based just north of Isiolo and the last group was located in North Horr quite near the Ethiopian border. Can you imagine a more fascinating cultural journey? Moving gradually northwards through the traditional rangelands of the Turkana people; passing by the Samburu and Rendile communities; entering the lands of the Borana cattle herders near the forested hills of Marsabit; cutting back up the rift valley through salt flats and desert dunes to meet the Gabbra people who are traditional camel herders. Finally, in North Horr we met the Waata hunter-gatherers. On the way I checked out some amazing rock art. Vivid petroglyphs of hunting scenes, several thousand years old, adorning the rocks of a secret gorge. I swam in a water hole in sight of Zebras and Oryx, learned to dance a Turkana “waltz”, and dropped into a Gabbra wedding for the day. Lake Turkana and her sacred mountain Kulal lay ever in the distance to the West. The magical Hurri Hills to the East –enticing me to return and reminding me there are many unknowns ahead, and the journey has just begun.

I wonder –will the tarmac road be complete by my next visit? How will the communities be affected by the changes to come? Is there another drought on the horizon? The situation is harsh and complex. My intention is that we will form a steering committee of local leaders/elders to guide the way of the programme, ensure it is locally relevant, and to act as mentors for the trainee facilitators.

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Above: Cinema under the stars, Shuka and Mike Molu’s hut in Kalacha. I recommend the camel’s milk.

Our next steps will be to define our goals and co-design a programme with our partners at Kivulini Trust to have the most beneficial impact for the communities. We will be seeking funding for what I hope will be an impactful and exciting 2-year capacity building programme. Please send suggestions if you know donors who might be interested! I’ll update you on our progress.

What is already agreed is that trainees will be recruited through the 6 cultural groups we visited. The programme will support them to become PV facilitators. We also plan to include pastoralists from southern Ethiopia and to harness cross-border connections. The trainees will introduce their communities to the PV process, working especially with marginalized groups, such as women and youth, and amplifying their concerns, enabling them to document what they value most. “Culture is number One” I was told several times when I asked about local issues…”“our culture is being eroded by western influences and by the dominant religions”.

Now, allow me to introduce you to the groups I met. There are captions to go with the images. From these photos, I hope you get a feel for the power, enthusiasm, dignity and resilient spirit I encountered everywhere. For them, and for Kivulini Trust, Culture is number one.

Link to photo album:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.266583093484499.1073741825.104447419698068&type=1&l=53096de998

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by Ward Karssemeijer, intern September 2012 - March 2013

Ward: Hi Chris. I just checked out you bio and it says that you studied anthropology and started working as a researcher. How did you end up doing Participatory Video with your brother Nick. 

Chris: True, it’s actually a really important part in the genesis of InsightShare. I studied anthropology in Oxford. Afterwards I became a research assistant in a multi-disciplinary team doing research on shepherds in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan after the collapse of the Soviet-Union. As an anthropologist I had many conversations with these shepherds and I had to ask them a lot of questions that I really felt uncomfortable with. Asking a shepherd, for example, how many animals he owns is like asking you how much money you have on your bank account. Also the fact that I was in charge of translating their experiences with my pen into a report that eventually may or may not be used to influence policy did not feel good. At the same time, these shepherds were having real difficulties adapting to the new circumstances. They were struggling to get enough food on the table and to buy clothes for their children.          

“It’s a bit like going up to someone who has been knocked over by a bus and asking them how things are going down there, what it feels like etc…but without being able to actually help them.”

I felt deeply troubled and uncomfortable with that experience. I was even not sleeping well. Weren’t they the ones that should do this analysis and communication? After all, they are the experts. I just found it very hard to justify the research that had no immediate direct benefit for the communities involved. At least the community should be involved in the research collection, its analysis, the reflection, and the results should be communicated in a format that makes sense to them as well. This for me is the minimum requirement…     

Ward: So you felt uncomfortable as a researcher, but how did participatory video get involved then? 

Chris: Meanwhile my brother Nick was already doing participatory video with young people in Oxford. I managed to persuade my research supervisor and head of programme to support our efforts to get funding for a participatory video project with Nick in Turkmenistan. We put together a proposal that got funded by the British embassy. This is how we realised our first participatory video project in the field of international development and research. Not much later I got offered a long-term research job that I turned down in the end to take a much more uncertain path which aimed to build on the potential we had witnessed in Turkmenistan.

Ward: What exactly made you decide to quit your job as a researcher, wouldn’t it be possible to (structurally) involve Participatory Video in your work as a researcher?      

Chris: We did continue to do some good projects together but I kept getting frustrated. I needed to see action linked directly to the research otherwise it felt like a kind of extraction. Also I started wondering if there was something about research institutes that made them closed to innovation. Maybe a fear of taking risks and seeing results that they are not used to see? There felt like some fundamental things just didn’t click, for example, our (InsightShare’s) work is about making mistakes, ‘Mistakes are Great’. In the academic world you don’t make mistakes. You are not allowed to make mistakes. From school upwards it’s about zero mistakes and getting 20 out of 20! Things needed to be so well mapped out and defined for the decision makers in these research institutions to take the risk & invest in innovative approaches…but for us PV is almost the opposite, its a lot about losing this control and opening to the unknown. But I feel like the research environment is really shifting, with new media, the belief in the value of crowd sourcing solutions etc innovative participatory approaches are now being embraced much more readily.

Ward: I think I see what you mean with the ‘fear of taking risks’. During my master thesis I failed to convince my supervisors about using participatory video as a proper research method. With them mainly questioning the way I would translate and analyse the Participatory Video data.

Chris: I think that question in itself is part of the problem. A massive paradigm shift needs to happen. It’s about the way research takes place: you write your piece of research, you prove it, you publish it in a way that it is peer reviewed etc..  You should question who the customers of research are. Academic institution and policy makers? Shouldn’t it be in the first place the communities where the research is conducted? Its a deep … deep change that needs to happen and is part of democratising knowledge production. I wish you could have made it clear to your supervisors that target groups can be involved in reflection. Even if it is subjective, or in fact because it is subjective, it provides valuable knowledge.

Ward: But what would have been the added value of using participatory research in this case? Why is it well suited to doing research?

Chris: At the end of the day research is a very natural process. We have made it terribly complicated. Humans have always done their own research. We all know how to do research and we are all experts in our own reality. Participatory video is a very natural way of doing research. Together we collect information and then watch it back. We discuss it and add or change something. The information is validated and then again shared with a wider audience a kind of “peer review” and “triangulation”. That’s where people say: “hey, that’s not how I see it at all. I think this is the problem … “. In the end a final film, which incorporates this peer reviewing, can be presented.

Ward: What type of research fits well with participatory video?

Chris: I think you can say that participatory video and research fit most seamlessly within an action research approach. We are also able to work with more traditional research if there is an interest in meaningful participation and opening up the process of knowledge production and allowing a humble approach where you go and see. It’s about really giving the community the chance to frame some of the questions in the research that allows you to get a new perspective of the problem. Furthermore, the research should be in line with our core charter.

Ward: What is the best way of using participatory video in research?  

Chris: Often the framing of the research question still comes from the ‘northerners’. The research question is posed from the NGO or researcher’s perspective. Within that question the communities are able to give their opinions. But still, asking the first question involves some kind of power dynamic. The best way would be to go to the communities with a more open agenda. We do manage to do that sometimes. When we ask them (the communities) to identify the issues themselves there are usually many surprises. When you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you ask questions? Much of what is crucial in a piece of research will be beyond the horizon of our world view and our theoretical models, methods like PV can help to build into the research approach the expectation that you are going to be surprised!

Ideally it would be about what kind of interventions the communities themselves feel are needed and what kind of research knowledge would best support them. Ideally the question would come from a clearly identified need which is deeply thought through on a community level. The communities are the ones that are asking the questions and it’s that way around. That’s what I would like to see more of.

What we would love is for research disciplines and areas of expertise to be almost offered to communities as a kind of menu card they could choose from!

I really think PV has so much to offer in terms of making power relations and the nature of research more transparent. PV offers the opportunity for research with rather than on people and the researcher to be in service to the community, rather than the “researched” being in the service of the researcher.

Ward: For the people that really became interested in research and participatory video, what would you advise them to have a look at?

Chris: We did a project called NORMA. The aim of the project was to identify key research requirements for natural resource management to support existing policies for sustainable integrated mountain development in the Karakoram-Hindu Kush-Himalayan (KHKH) region. We worked with communities in three different countries (India, Pakistan and China). These communities created their own films with recommendations for research. The communities were asked to select two representatives that would present the films during a multi-stakeholder workshop in Scotland. We then worked in small groups using participatory methods to enable an equitable exchange of views between all the key stakeholders, irrespective of their level of formal education. The aims were to identify the major research needs, strategize how they could be achieved and then predict the likelihood of success. We used the films as the starting point for the whole workshop. It became a reference all the way through the workshop.

We have just finished another initiative called Video Girls for Change, in which we trained adolescent girls to use Participatory Video & Most Significant Change. This approach has a lot in common with participatory research. The girls collected the data, in this case stories of change from other girls, we then helped them to use drama and visual techniques to group and analyse the data collected, verifying their interpretations through regular screenings and participatory exercises involving different stakeholders. Finally they put together a video report to share their learning, analysis and recommendation. One of our country partners, Angel Del Valle said:

"we are de-colonising research as girls are doing each step of the process, including analysis."

This is an excellent example of community led research. Now those girls are giving conferences and  presenting their findings and films and addressing development practitioners and researchers in webinars as equals, as “local experts”. They have grown through the process and have gained new insights about themselves, their peers, their communities and about girl programming and they have shared these locally and globally. People that are interested in finding out more can always get in touch with us.  

Ward: Thanks again Chris, for me this interview was really helpful to get a better insight into how research and participatory video can work together.        

Photo Set

by Ward Karssemeijer, intern September 2012 - March 2013

These pictures are taken during the Conversations with the Earth (CWE) project. Launched in April 2009. Conversations with the Earth is a collective opportunity to build a global movement for an indigenous-controlled community media network. CWE works with a growing network of indigenous groups and communities living in critical ecosystems around the world, from the Atlantic Rainforest to Central Asia, from the Philippines to the Andes, from the Arctic to Ethiopia. Through CWE, these indigenous communities are able to share their story of climate change. Through the creation of sustainable autonomous indigenous media hubs in these regions, CWE fosters a long-term relationship with these communities, based on principles of local control and supporting indigenous media capacity.

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An interview with Nick Lunch

by Ward Karssemeijer, intern September 2012 - March 2013

If you have a look at the InsightShare website or YouTube channel you will probably notice that quite a few Participatory Video (PV) projects involve indigenous people. From the Baka people in Cameroon to the Quechua Indians in Peru. A good starting point for an interview with one of the founders and directors of InsightShare, Nick Lunch.

Basically, my first question for Nick was to explain the roots of working with indigenous people. We went back to 1990. The year that Nick decided to work one year as a teacher in Nepal in between high school and University. In retrospect a year that changed his life. Living in the village Sermathang with the Yolmo people made him realise that these people have a way of life that is very abundant, unique, and different from ours. A way of life that is very much in harmony with nature and environment. Five years later, Nick and his girlfriend went back to live in the village where they experimented for the first time with PV. After coming back to the UK, Nick set up a local charity in Oxford doing PV with young people. An exchange project was set up where local youth in Nepal and the UK communicated with each other using video messages. Initially to break down negative stereotypes about the development world as poor and in need for help. And although the exchange idea was a success, it wasn’t the strongest and most transformative part of the PV projects. As Nick explained: “The exchange idea was a nice idea … but increasingly our work with PV was not so much about exchange but more about focussing on the community issues and putting up a mirror to reflect and enabling people to think about their issues …”.

From here, it is only a small step to the first PV project Nick and (his brother) Chris did together in 1999 in Turkmenistan. The project was with pastoralists in a small village Garegul, located in the middle of the Karakorum dessert. The three family clans living in the village had been in conflict since … (who knows). For one reason or another they would not engage with each other, even though it was a tiny village in the absolute middle of nowhere where you kind of need each other to survive. The Participatory Video process has been set up to discuss an ecological issue the people in Garegul were dealing with. During the process it became clear that: “the participatory video process itself unlocked something”. “Within ten days people were working together and coming in to each other’s houses to watch the video’s” they had been making, followed by organising collective action.

At the community (internal) level the PV process became a tool to solve the problems between the different clans living in the village by enabling everyone to feel heard. The PV process also had its impact on an external level, influencing the decision makers in the region. The Regional Governor was very much impressed by the film. Having no idea that (his) people were so intelligent and had so much knowledge (about the ecological problems in the region). The film has also been shown in the capital, Ashgabat, mainly to people from (I)NGO’s and foreign embassies, that were having difficulties working constructively with communities in a participatory manner. For them it was very fascinating to see how a PV process could contribute to breaking down all kind of barriers, leading to a collaborative and participatory process. The result of this meeting has been that staff at the Embassies were moved to start a fund that supported the community-led initiative that emerged from the participatory video project to set up a collective flock of sheep as a way to strengthen the resilience of pastoralists in the desert. The offspring lambs were traded for solar panels!

Somewhere in the middle of our conversations I realised that we have been talking about Participatory Video with Indigenous groups, but I still hadn’t really figured out what was so particular about working with indigenous groups. So, why exactly does Participatory Video work so well with indigenous groups? One of the reasons is that PV fits very well with storytelling and the oral tradition that is dominant in most indigenous communities. Of course, this isn’t exclusively the case with indigenous groups. More important is the experimental way of working that is characteristic for indigenous people. Their knowledge about (local) food, plants and medicines comes from continuous learning by experience. This experimental way of learning is very much in line with the different steps that are taken in a Participatory Video process. The synthesis between a PV process and the indigenous learning by experiences is probably best expresses by Maria Flores, a Yaqui elder. After completing an InsightShare training in Northern Mexico she has only one thing to say: “PV is a process that seems to be designed for indigenous people”.

We have seen so far that the origins of InsightShare are strongly intertwined with PV projects involving indigenous groups. This has been so in the beginning and it continues to be the case. A recent and very large scale programme with indigenous groups is ‘Conversations with the Earth’, a programme focused on the voices of indigenous people on climate change all around the world. You can find a lot of beautiful stories, photos and videos on the website and in thebrochure, or even check if there is an exhibition not too far from you. Before finishing this blog I would like to elaborate a bit on a story that really touches me.

It is a story from one of the ‘Conversations with the Earth’ projects in Cambridge Bay, Canada. The indigenous group, the Inuit, live in this part of Arctic Canada. It is not easy growing up as an Inuit youngster in Arctic Canada these days. Although they haven’t faced the discrimination against indigenous people as their parents and grandparents did, still a lot of them feel kind of lost between the more traditional way of living of their elders on the one hand and the more westernized (consumerist) lifestyle of their (non-Inuit) peers on the other hand. The split they are in and their feeling of ‘lostness’ is something these Inuit youngsters have to deal with every day. Shocking to see is that the Canadian Inuit have a suicide rate that is among the highest in the world (and ten times that for the rest of Canada). Research says that the effects of (past) government intervention dramatically affected kin relations, roles, and responsibilities, and romantic relationships. Suicide is embedded in these relationships. A PV process can work as a mirror and help Inuit youth to explore and celebrate their identity. It’s a collective and reinforcing way; to find out where they come from; to discover how rich their culture actually is; and to learn to show this to other people and be proud of it. The PV process with local youth in Cambridge bay resulted in the film Growing up in Cambridge Bay. During the process you see the Inuit youth reflecting on who they are and where they come from. They deliberately choose to discover their roots by focussing on things as: traditional fishing, hunting, Arctic sports, local legends and their indigenous language. In the next film they made, Building A Qajaq To The Future, you see how Inuit elders and youth work together on building a traditional sealskin kayak using traditional tools.

In contrast to Canada there are still other countries where discrimination against indigenous people continues. In Peru, for example, the Quechua Indians still face strong discrimination resulting in (e.g.) very low self-esteem. Without trying to be too pretentious PV proves to be a method that can help indigenous groups a bit to stay true to their own identity and way of living. Irma Canchumani, a Quechua Indian living in the Peruvian Highlands and worked with InsightShare as a facilitator in 2009 explains very well what the value of video can be: “we turn the gaze of the camera towards those things we value the most; for us participatory video is ‘seeing beauty’ ”. Check out Irma’s first andsecond film. The dream for the five next years is to establish a network of sustainable, autonomous, community-owned media hubs. The establishment of these media hubs is closely related to ‘the right to self-determination for indigenous people’. As part of that InsightShare will continue supporting indigenous facilitators to carry out PV projects within their communities, neighbouring communities and beyond.a