Our Story: Addressing Challenges In Development Contexts For Sustainable Participatory Video
Our Story is a digitally mediated workflow for Participatory Video developed by Open Lab in collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC). The process allows communities in International Development contexts to create their own video stories and provide feedback about IFRC projects.
The stories collected in the project were planned, collected, directed and edited by men, women, elderly and young people on a water sanitation and hygiene promotion project (WASH) in Tumbit Melayu, Indonesia and a HIV/AIDS Orphan and Vulnerable Children’s project in Otjozondjupa region, Namibia.
Our Story allows the IFRC to use participatory video for monitoring and evaluation in a sustainable and resource-efficient way.
Participatory video is a method previously which has been used by the IFRC, however there a number constraints such as using specialist expensive equipment and questions around the degree of participation afforded by traditional approaches.
Often the topic and narrative of videos are decided by the facilitators, rather than the community themselves. Our Story allowed for the community to choose not only what they film, but how they put the stories together.
Our Story was based on a former Open Lab app, Bootlegger, which helped people overcome the skill barriers to producing professional quality videos.
How it works
Facilitators work with the community to help them plan and ideate their videos, they then use the mobile app to capture footage for their story.
The community members review the video, and edit it via the app. The final cuts are screened for the community to see and given to them on a USB stick, which helps to build trust between them and the IFRC.
By leveraging consumer technology and reducing the skills barrier for facilitating video production, we show how Our Story meets the challenges of participatory video in these international development contexts, enabling resource constrained NGOs and marginalised communities to utilise participatory video more frequently in M&E processes.
REDUCING COSTS FOR NGOS
Participatory video can be a useful tool, but the specialised skills and equipment can raise questions about it’s viability for resource-constrained NGOs.
The total cost of delivering a week long monitoring exercise using Our Story is approximately £5,000 (£1,000 one-of equipment investment), although given technology trends we speculate that this will reduce over time. This is in contrast to the market rate for typical PV consultancies which, according to our collaborators, charge around £40,000 per deployment.
OVERCOMING LOW-CONNECTIVITY ISSUES
Due to regional connectivity issues in the first deployment in Indonesia, the team could not support the server synchronization needed to support the editing process. Therefore the app was redesigned to make the Bootlegger architecture operate totally independently of the wider internet.
The result was an installable desktop application that an IFRC staff member can install on their field laptop, which when connected to a portable WiFi router provides the same functionality as the cloud based Our Story server application. This meant videos could be higher quality, and uploaded faster.
ENGAGING COMMUNITIES DIRECTLY
In the Our Story process, NGO staff facilitate directly with the community allowing them to create the videos and develop skills. We feel that the growing ubiquity of these skills and the notion of ’specialist knowledge’ is increasingly overstated: although most of the participants we worked with hadn’t made film before, they demonstrated high existing levels of media literacy, reducing the burden of operating equipment.
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