This involves participants making a video themselves, focusing on
 an issue that is relevant to them at that time.

Why?  Video is a powerful means of communication, and can be a very effective way of presenting the voices of the marginalized directly to people with influence.  With good planning, video can present complex issues with dramatic effect.  However, close attention must be paid to the power dynamics involved in the planning, filming and editing processes.

When? Participatory video can be used to take a relevant local issue to wider audiences, including policy makers, or to explore power issues involved in putting together films. However, it requires considerable investment and time, not least in equipment and training.  If the group intend their video to be used as a campaigning tool it is also likely that they will need access to editing facilities.

How? There are many stages to the process of putting together a video, as highlighted below.  Where the necessary equipment and training is available, Reflect participants can do everything themselves, but where this is not possible strong editorial control should be negotiated and retained within the group.

... identify resources: In many countries there are organisations that support participatory video and a first step might be to invite them to link up with Reflect groups. In other cases organisations using Reflect may have basic equipment themselves.

... train:  Technical training of one or two weeks should be held either with  selected participants from across different Reflect circles or intensively within one circle, before they are given control over the equipment.

... decide a theme and audience:  The theme or objective of, and audience for, the video are likely to arise organically from wider discussions taking place in the circle.  However, they will need to be explicitly stated early on, to give clear focus and direction to the group.

... preparation: Before actually shooting, it is important to develop a basic structure using a simple visual storyboard showing the different parts of the story in sequence.  This can be a good collaborative activity and helps to ensure a strong, clear narrative structure. In some cases if may be inappropriate to pre-determine what will be said and instead the video-makers  should remain open-minded about the outcomes of interviews and explorations.

... filming:  Once the structure and tone have been decided, the scenes need to be put on film.  Since video is primarily a visual tool, things need to be shown, not only talked about, with plenty of practical examples shown.  Language should not be too abstract: short, direct messages work best on video.

... editing: Any video will need editing and it may not be possible for this process to be as collaborative as the design and filming. It is important to recognise and compensate for the power that lies with the editors.  Many decisions are made at the editing desk about the tone and substance of the message - so it is important that participants are represented in the editing team to ensure that the overall meaning of a video is not changed. 

Even such things as the choice of background music can have a big impact. 

... local screening: Before a wider public screening or targeted use of the video with decision makers, the video should be shown to the group or local community where it was made.  This local screening should be followed by critical discussion and suggestions for changes or improvements (whether for immediate changes, if this is viable, or as recommendations for the future).

Video can become an alternative media - as it did for MOMUPO, the urban women's movement in Chile:

"When official TV arrives in our communities we are simple adornments of the propaganda of the mayor. When foreign TV arrives it only shows the misery or the poverty. But we want to show the beauty as well - the beauty of our lives"


Examples from practice: In Bangladesh, ActionAid and Worldview coordinated a participatory video project with excellent results.  28 people from four communities were trained on participatory video production, and returned to their communities to make a video on a subject of their own choosing, with a television and video unit set up in a rickshaw.  One group chose to document the crisis in local schools.  They secretly filmed the local teacher arriving late day after day while the children sat around waiting aimlessly. Finally they confronted the teacher on camera, forcing him to change his behaviour.  Word spread to neighbouring villages and soon all local teachers were arriving on time, worried that they would be caught on camera and lose their jobs.  Another group filmed the unhygienic practices of the butcher in the local market and showed the tape on their mobile television unit in the market square, prompting action to force the butcher to improve hygiene. Several of the videos produced in Bangladesh were also shown nationally, contributing to existing national campaigns.    

In Peru, Reflect groups have produced video slots for broadcast on local TV while in Tanzania a video was produced to campaign against illegal fishing: people rushed to give testimonies, keen for the opportunity to talk directly and unmediated to decision-makers.

... advocacy: The video might be used to relay messages and the voices of the poor and marginalised directly to decision makers.  In this case, it can be very powerful to video any follow-up discussion and screen it back to the community.

If you have an interesting or innovative experience of working with this tool please add your comments here.