Creating change from the bottom-up is the leading framework of the Video for Change approach, which usually focuses on the needs of the communities and movements the initiative seeks to support.
People may find new possibilities and identities for themselves and their communities and movements within a Video for Change initiative. They may also find spaces in which they can challenge views and ideologies; laws, institutions and practices; and other realities that limit their opportunities, options or ability to express themselves too.
But they can only do so if there are opportunities for them to meaningfully participate in decisions that affect them and in activities that build their capacities.
A Video for Change initiative can encourage positive empowerment if it:
- gives those most affected an opportunity to ask questions, give advice or exercise authority over decision-making
- has a core group of stakeholders who are conscious of building avenues for individual and community self-empowerment, and ensures that leadership and responsibilities are shared.
What Do We Mean By Participation?
Participation means involvement in a process. In the context of Video for Change, participatory methods increase contributions from affected communities and key stakeholders such as community organisations, local governments and private enterprises in decision-making and design processes.
However, participation requires more than just encouraging diversity. It is also important to commit to inclusive practices in both creative input and decision-making. This creates actual community buy-in to an initiative and will lead to better, more sustainable initiative outcomes.
An inclusive initiative:
- encourages shared learning and different forms of knowledge
- values co-creation
- builds capacity of a community over time
- understands barriers to participation in the context it operates, e.g. gender or race
- promotes long-term sustainability of the community.
Effective participation takes time, but limitations on your finances, time or other resources may restrict your ability to enable as much participation as you would wish.
As part of your planning process, consider how participatory methods will best contribute to the initiative’s goals. Think of resourcing creatively to increase levels of participation, such as using already available resources (for example video tools that are already in the hands of community participants), and investing time in community goodwill.
Working With Communities
Video for Change envisions people co-producing knowledge together, which can lead to taking action together.
Participatory methods are therefore an effective way to engage and develop ownership, engagement, and democratic practice for groups that are historically marginalised or excluded. These include indigenous groups, ethnic minorities, poor people, the disabled, women, the elderly, disadvantaged youth, or people from sexual and gender minorities.
Thoroughly understanding a community’s context is crucial before working with that community. This means reflecting on whether your activities increase inclusiveness for those people, groups or communities the Video for Change initiative seeks to support, or whether they are in fact exclusionary and may disempower them.
If done well, participatory activities foster trust and understanding, and support connections among people, across issues and over time. This impact story of a participatory video process with widows in Ghana illustrates this beautifully.
Participation favours the communication model that is relatively equal and horizontal, as opposed to top-down. When setting up a dialogue, opportunities for speaking and listening should be provided, and the flow of dialogue should be relatively free.
The role of a facilitator is important. The facilitator should:
- actively build a space for participation
- ensure that all voices are respected
- provide a space for quieter participants to speak more and to approach decision-makers
- ensure that all participants are invited and enabled to participate fully.
The video below, Work With Us: Community-driven research inspiring change, gave some of the most marginalised people the opportunity to communicate directly with decision-makers. The video offers insights and stories that can emerge from participatory research, and how this can contribute to the policy arena.
Working with Individuals
There are always risks and benefits for individuals participating in a initiative, and it is important for you to make people aware of potential risk. You may discuss, for example, how benefits of participation may outweigh the risks.
One way to ensure they are aware of the risks is to seek their consent for participation. This can only be meaningful, however, if the individuals understand the initiative’s processes and aims through the Impact Statement.
Here is a check-list of considerations to use during your planning.
Risk and Benefits:
- Is the individual aware of potential risks and benefits of participating in a video initiative, including the possibility of being identified?
- Has the participant been made aware that the video will be available for many years to come?
- Do the benefits of the video initiative outweigh the risks to participants? As one example, does s/he know that anyone, including their employer or worst enemy, may see the video?
See our section on Informed Consent in the Risk Management section to learn more.
- Has any pressure, direct or indirect, been applied by the video-maker or any other person or group related to the initiative to an individual to participate in the initiative?
- Is the individual free to leave the initiative at any time?
- Has the participant been given rewards, including monetary incentives to participate? If so, how has their coercive impact been minimised?
- Has the practitioner been honest about his/her intentions and methods?
- Has the practitioner or group representative given unrealistic promises to obtain participation?
- Has the practitioner promised that the footage/interview of the participant will be included in the final video when there may be a possibility that it will be edited out?
- Has the practitioner considered if the individual’s participation is acknowledged? For example, will the participant be appropriately credited in the video, if they choose to be so (or there is a joint decision to do so)?
- Is there an opportunity for a transfer of skills that could be useful for the participant?
- If initiative participation extends over meal times, will meals be provided?
- If there is potential for profits upon release, how will profits be distributed? Has this been discussed with the participant?
- Are there legal contracts in place to ensure that this financial distribution can/will be enacted?
For more information about risk see the Risk Management section.
This impact story from Kashmir Unheard illustrates some of the above considerations, both from the perspective of the subject of the video and the community journalist making the video.