Participatory video (PV) is one of the key, visual methods used by Participate partners to structure their participatory research processes with people living in poverty. PV involves a range of video production and screening activities, which drive an iteratively evolving process of exploration and dialogue on shared issues. It can be empowering because it provides an accessible way for a group to take action on their own concerns, through deepening their understanding, engaging and motivating their wider community, and also shaping and creating their own films, in order to communicate their messages and perspectives to decision-makers and the public.
How is PV different to conventional film-making?
Participatory video is an interactive group process, generally facilitated by a practitioner, which aims to build participants social influence. Group members record themselves and the world around them, and communicate their own stories creatively, but it involves more than collaborative video-making.
Practitioners use videoing and playback activities to mediate group discussion inclusively, establish collaborative relationships and catalyse group action. Video production provides a powerful way for participants to explore their situation, and reflect on experiences together, in order to deepen understanding about reality and forge ways forward based on the knowledge that emerges.
Stages of a PV process
Real Time has been a key partner in the Participate initiative as convenors of the visual methods programme. Real Time is a media organisation specialising in using participatory video and other visual methods to structure collaborative action-research processes towards social change. PV processes with the Participatory Research Group (PRG) network were guided by Real Time’s staged approach. An initial group-building phase uses video exercises to increase people’s confidence, self-expression and establishes a shared purpose. An internally focused learning stage involves cycles of filming action and playback, as a way of exploring community reality and group concerns. This provides time for group reflection on the issues in confidence before communicating externally. Group members move into a phase of production, and video material is then used to stimulate horizontal dialogue with peers or vertical dialogue with policy makers locally or nationally.
Real Time’s PV process starts by opening up spaces for the group to engage in a ‘safe’ environment, followed by group building exercises and video work to establish a shared purpose and collaboration amongst the group. This internal process provides time for group exploration and reflection on the issues in confidence, before communicating to external audiences. Next, groups produce video material to stimulate dialogue with peers, outside of the immediate group. When there is sufficient time, participatory video processes can unfold through further cycles of production and playback action in a variety of social and political forums.
PRG research initiatives that used participatory video
With support from RealTime:
In Middle East: Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND),
In the Balkans: Oneworld- Platform for South EastEurope Foundation (OWPSEE), LGBTIQA Activism in the Western Balkans
In Kenya: Spatial Collective,