Stories Shared via Participatory Video

Think back to the videos of the Millennia that changed the way you see the world. The polar bear stranded on a melting ice cap; Jacob’s smile in Kony 2012, and Charlie’s chuckle in Charlie bit my finger – again! Videos like these have impacted the way we communicate with people, and can have the added benefit of transforming the lives of the people who made them.

In class this week we discussed Participatory Video (PV), a popular development technique organizations are using to share information and empower participants in the developing world. What initially drew me to PV is its usefulness to attract donor funding since I plan to participate in the NGO world. But after I learned about InsightShare, I now see how technology can enable marginalized people to tell their own stories in their own words, and create lasting partnerships between organizations and the  people they aim to help.

Over the last 10 years, InsightShare has developed a 3-stage capacity building model that trains local facilitators on the process of mentoring and filmmaking with the participants they aim to help. With relatively simple recording equipment provided by InsightShare, participants learn all the filmmaking techniques ranging from storyboard-making to sound checks to editing. In all the years that outsiders have come to film them, this is the first time that local people have been behind the camera. They tell the stories that they want to show.

I watched a technical video of a Ghanaian farmer who shared his innovative pig-rearing technique, that allows him to increase his yields more efficiently. I watched another where indigenous Peruvian villagers shared the importance of respecting Mother Earth. The audience of these videos can range from national governments to their children and neighbors. Because the technological skills remain in the community even after InsightShare leaves, bringing video-making to the developing world can taper the digital divide by passing down knowledge to grow the information society. The factors that might inhibit this growth in an indigenous community are insufficient funding to purchase additional equipment that would enhance the filmmaking experience, lack of support for technology malfunctions, and the looming problem of focusing on technology when hunger and illiteracy are still rampant. My opinion is that InsightShares has probably thought of this, and would say that you can’t solve everything,  but you can  improve the dignity of the people you’re trying to help. And by transforming a shepherd into a film director, you are increasing the human capacity of the person behind the camera, and preserving, or amplifying their life stories, depending on what they want to do.

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