Impacts of Participation
Making a video is an engaging process that requires people to work together, listen to each other, experiment and be creative. People can be attracted to the filmmaking process — either by the chance to be in front or behind the camera, or to observe the process of making a video.
More importantly, the filmmaking process can attract those who are disengaged from the structures of decision-making. Those who are unlikely to attend other kinds of community meetings or to participate in consultations may be more likely to attend a screening where they can see footage of their local area, their friends or family, or hear people speaking about issues that affect them.
Participation, Co-Creation and Collaboration
If your filmmaking process is participatory, members of your team can work together with community members to collectively devise, plan and produce videos. This process allows groups to spend time identifying, prioritising and investigating issues they wish to address.
This impact story from InsightShare on rural communities in northeast India using participatory video to recall and revive traditional knowledge about local food and agriculture illustrates what participation, co-creation and collaboration can lead to.
Impact Story: Local Food of Nongtraw Village
Indigenous communities in northeast India are using participatory video to document and revive traditional knowledge about local food and agriculture.
Title: Local Food of Nongtraw Village
Location: Northeast India
Issue: Agriculture, Food, Reviving Old Traditions
Aim/purpose of the video: To document and revive traditional knowledge around food and agriculture
Organisation: Indigenous partnership for agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty and InsightShare
Featured methodologies: Participatory Video, Archive Video,
Video length: 12 mins.
Indigenous communities in northeast India are using participatory video to document and revive traditional knowledge about local food and agriculture. Community participation by all generations during the filmmaking and film screenings has led to vital community discussions and the uptake of traditional practices, including a massive surge in millet growing among communities in the Khasi Hills, Meghalaya.
In 2012, an InsightShare pilot participatory video project in Meghalaya met with an enthusiastic response from the involved communities. It has since led the organisation to train community filmmakers from nine indigenous communities in northeast India. (The Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty invited and funded these filmmakers).
These local filmmakers have engaged wider groups of community members in the area to explore their own diverse cultures, food and agricultural systems. The result is a unique collection of videos — locally referred to as “an archive of our land, life, resources and culture”— covering subjects as diverse as seed keeping, shifting cultivation, folk songs, local legends, traditional foods, weaving techniques, the future of agriculture and more.
These award-winning films have been screened throughout the region, sharing vital knowledge and inspiration. They have also been screened at numerous prestigious events across the region, including the Indigenous Terre Madre.
“Our mode of transmitting knowledge, skills, practices, histories, the way of life is through oral tradition. When there is no written documentation, these disappear with the passing away of the knowledge holder. Participatory video is contributing towards filling that gap,” says Seno Tsuhah, North East Network (NEN)
Local Food of Nongtraw Village — short version of a film made during the pilot project:
Showreel — the groups and subjects covered by the collective, with clips from the filmmaking processes.
The pilot video project took place over eight days in Nongtraw village, East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. Twenty community members, young and old, worked together to choose topics for their films, learn basic video-making skills, and decide the film styles that would reach local audiences.
The result was three short films to demonstrate and explore different practices they wished to document and revive: growing millet, collecting a root for medicinal tea, and beekeeping. To do this, they used the dramatic device of a father teaching his children the practices.
The knowledgeable elders directed the storyboarding and acting, while the younger generations learned about the steps of each practice while they were acting. For many of the young people, this was the first time they had experienced these practices.
In the evening after each day of filming, the core team gathered in houses or the school building to watch and edit the footage shot earlier that day. This enabled people from the wider community to come and learn about the project, watch the footage, ask questions about the practices, and get involved in the following day’s filming.
By the end of the week, almost the entire community, as well as the neighbouring community, attended the final screening. The core team facilitated a joyful celebration, which encouraged people to learn about the practices and to serve the produce they had harvested or made from the local products. The films continue to be screened in the village on a regular basis.
The filmmaking process itself was instrumental in creating impact locally. When the core team went out to make films in their communities, it created a buzz, inspired people to get involved, and provoked reflection and discussion around agricultural practices.
The presence of a camera also brought people together to learn the agricultural practices so they could perform them for the film. This enactment provided crucial access to knowledge and skills that could support their resilience in times when the climate, environment and market are changing.
As a result, the film participants experienced a resurgence of pride in their local customs and agricultural practices, recognising the precious opportunity to learn them. Meanwhile, participants from the older generation were happy to pass on their knowledge and see the practices and customs revived.
The community screenings led to vital community discussions and the uptake of traditional practices, including a massive surge in millet growing among communities in the Khasi Hills. Millet is a highly nutritious crop that can be stored for up to 10 years to provide an important emergency food source.
At the time of the pilot project, the 285-strong village only had a few individuals who knew how to grow millet. Nine months later, the number of families growing millet in the area rose from two to 15.
Villagers supporting families and those more likely to stay in the village long-term were grateful for knowledge that enabled them to live sustainably from local resources, instead of being driven to earn money through destructive cash-crops in order to buy food at the local markets.
Young people have also experienced an increase of pride in local cultural identity and have been inspired to learn filmmaking skills.
“The participatory video project has been really helpful because we have recalled the past. I would be very sad if this hadn’t happened, because all the young people would forget,” says Bah Richard, Teacher, Village Development Committee, Nongtraw Village. “Last night at the screening we asked the audience, ‘How many of you have heard of shiah krot (local root to make tea)?’, and less than 10 people raised their hands. Moreover, they have to be prepared, as in the future disaster can come at any time, so they have to know the resources that are available locally,”
Reflection and Action
The process of collecting location footage and on-site interviews can help participants reflect on the issues that are affecting them. Footage can act like a mirror for individuals and communities to see themselves, and to shed light on issues that are being ignored.
The filmmaking process can also draw people into conversation around important issues, sharing stories and listening to others, promoting mutual understanding and empathy. Video (and other forms of visual storytelling, such as interactive or immersive content) has the power to create an emotional connection. All of this can lay the groundwork for taking collective action to make change happen.
When the filmmaking process is truly participatory, co-creative or collaborative, it gives groups ownership over how they and their views are represented. They decide what to show, why, where, when and to whom.
This means the resulting video will:
- represent the reality of a group, amplifying unheard voices and undervalued perspectives
- be realistically targeted to achieve change
- have more chance of being seen and supported locally or by a wider community.