By Soledad Muñiz, Head of Innovation and Development, InsightShare
The CDAC Network recently published a new toolkit on how to address rumours in humanitarian responses which inspired me to share a bit of the work we do at InsightShare using Participatory Video as a way to highlight the need there is to counter rumours with engaging and creative content to devalue the original rumour. In particular, I'll share an example where community members participating in identifying issues and investigating accurate information can help allay rumours and misinformation.
The Participatory Video ‘cycle’
Participatory Video is an engaging format and the process is powerful to displace rumours, particularly because its information comes from community members themselves, which is the most compelling of sources for a community. As a way to introduce the process, I'll share how Participatory Video fits nicely in the three stages identified in the toolkit to address rumours: Listen, Verify and Engage.
We initially support groups to learn collaborative exploration and video production skills through a variety of simple games and exercises; developed to support participation by anyone regardless of their literacy level, physical ability, age or background. Each time an action is performed (i.e. something is recorded) the group immediately watches the result and reflects upon the achievement it represents and any challenges they faced. The group then determines how they will respond and re-act accordingly. This pattern of action-reflection-action is integral to our techniques and the overall learning process that participants experience. Listening to each other and others in the community is a crucial part of the action-reflection-action pattern.
The groups that join our Participatory Video workshops spend long periods of time identifying, prioritising and investigating the issues they wish to tackle. In other words: verifying the information. The group then works together to collectively devise, plan and produce their video(s). Participants film and (typically) edit everything themselves; controlling how they, and their views, are represented. They decide what to show, why, where, when and to whom. That's why the output is so genuine and strong.
In our projects, participants typically join the process as representatives of their wider community. This might be a geographic community (e.g. a rural village) or a community of experience/interest (e.g. urban gardeners). The participants can report back to their community through regular screenings - of rough footage and finished productions - providing opportunities for discussions and alterations to the direction and focus of the process. This ‘call and response’ process helps to build understanding and confidence in the activities by the wider community, and creates valuable opportunities for participants to ground their ideas and test their proposals. Screenings work as a platform to listen, verify information again and engage the community.
The videos produced through our projects belong to the participants. Depending on the intentions of the group, the videos may be used for a range of purposes: advocacy, awareness raising, knowledge sharing, evaluation, consultation, action research, etc. Groups typically grant us (the facilitators), and the project partners/funders, permission to share their videos; helping to ensure their voices are heard by the right people. The terms are determined by the participants, which usually allow and encourage free sharing by anyone for non-commercial purposes. This creates true ownership of the process and tends to guarantee utilisation outside the project remit of an NGO by community-members own initiative.
Our approach to Participatory Video incorporates a wide variety of complimentary techniques, including: Participatory Learning and Action, Visualisation In Participatory Processes, Non-Violent Communication, Design Thinking, Theatre of the Oppressed. All of these techniques reinforce the process of listening to each other, verifying the information portrayed in the video and engaging the wider community in dialogue and action.
Using Participatory Video to evaluate education and peace building: an example from Sierra Leone
A recent example of our work where we could see the value that Participatory Video added to engaging community members in addressing rumours is a process we supported UNICEF Sierra Leone to carry out in 2016. We collaborated in an end of programme evaluation of the ’Child Friendly Schools’ (CFS) initiative that aimed to explore the linkages between education and peace building, using Participatory Video and Most Significant Change.
A cluster of four small villages near a large river in the Pujehun district in Southern Sierra Leone was selected as the location for this case study evaluation. The ’Child Friendly Schools’ programme had played a key role in resolving a long standing and highly violent conflict between the four communities that had originated from a dispute over access to the most vital shared livelihood resources: the river (for fish) and the bush (for wood). To enable the community members to unpick their journey towards peace, the rumours that had circulated throughout the years and share their perspectives with a wide variety of stakeholders, we trained and supported a local evaluation team to use Participatory Video combined with the Most Significant Change technique.
The evaluation findings confirmed that children with UNICEF’s local partner support (DIP - Development Initiative Programme) had sown the seeds for the peace process through the ’Child Friendly Schools’ programme by identifying the resource conflict as the main barrier to children’s education and by demanding clear responses from all relevant stakeholders, including district level officials, teachers, parents, children and the wider communities. The findings also helped to further clarify how key drivers of conflict - such as limited natural resources, social relationships, cultural practices, community and district level politics and the Ebola epidemic - were linked to the education opportunities of children and the quality of their learning.
Beyond this, the Participatory Video process also had an effect into helping the communities listen to each other, review the versions each other had told about the same conflict and the rumours that had spread and come together to one understanding of the conflict and the peace process.
“Other people who were actually hurt in the conflict were still in doubt until the coming of InsightShare (…) There was that kind of true confession, like truth and reconciliation. They sat in that meeting and confessed their wrong doing to their neighbours and then the other one confessed or said something that was burning, that hurt her or hurt him, but at the bottom they always appreciated the peace that they finally reached.” A member of staff from DIP
During the Participatory Video process we brought together members of the four communities, many of whom had not seen each other for several years since the start of the bloody conflict that caused the deaths of several people. Through collectively planning, re-enacting, watching and discussing the most significant change stories — children, adults and young adults got an emotional and personal insight into each other’s perspectives. As our facilitator, Marlene Bovenmars, recalls: "re-enacting key moments of the conflict helped the participants to develop a collective, shared narrative, that explained how the conflict had started and about how it had come to escalated so far. The process of sharing, listening, reacting and viewing helped the participants to slowly zoom out from their personal perspective and start a much-needed process of forgiveness."
Finally, the large screening event at the end of the process helped to further engage community members and solidify the feelings of peace (that had still been very fragile at the start of the evaluation process) by stimulating the attendees to reaffirm trust in each other and to develop concrete collaborative action plans for how to strengthen and maintain the peace in future. This was possible once people could not only be empathetic to each other, but also when they had clarified rumours and versions of the conflict, listening to each other’s stories on video and agreeing on what had really happened.
One participant reflected about this during the screening sharing: "It makes me very happy to see all these people here today in this room, because I have not seen these people for some time. I now have confidence in this school and in the future of my children.”
If you are interested in learning more about InsightShare's Participatory Video - Most Significant Change methodology, there is an upcoming 3-day course in London between 25 and 27 October 2017. See http://insightshare.org/courses/
To learn more about working with rumours read our practitioner guide Rumour has it.