Participatory Video for Advocacy

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Participatory Video has been used successfully by communities to make change through sustained and effective advocacy campaigns.

InsightShare’s Participatory Video process has been extremely successful at motivating communities to make changes for themselves. Planning, working and analysing together enables them to evolve local solutions and reflect on their values as a group and individually. This process boosts their confidence to address broader issues and secure change.

Our commitment to the communities we work with requires us to follow up any work we do with support for action. The products that emerge from our Participatory Video process can be designed by the community to support creative and targeted advocacy campaigns led from the bottom up. ‘Duty bearers’ are able to speak directly to ‘duty holders’ to inform and influence their decisions through film. Local screenings, television networks, conferences and the internet inform and challenge diverse audiences to recognize local perspectives, solutions and rights; and Participatory Video materials inject locally relevant information into larger advocacy campaigns.

We use Participatory Video with the rights based approach to strengthen communities and work with them to define their audiences, hold’ duty holders to account and establish evidence for rights violations. Our approach enables communities to direct decision makers with positive solutions for local entitlements and provides constructive feedback, evidence and criticism for monitoring and decision making bodies.

  • Exercises enable the participants to gain confidence through learning by doing and draw out human rights issues.
  • Community mapping can be used to locate experiences and define land and ownership
  • Oral histories and testimonies emerge from the ‘river of life’.
  • Role play enables people to discuss difficult issues.
  • Storyboards enables people to stucture their experiences.
  • Open discussion and PRA methods can help to prioritise and refine messages for advocacy films.
  • This process begins to establish the group decision making norms
  • The filming process will enable people to talk about and share their experience. Handing over the camera and direction is the beginning of the empowerment stage
  • The screening can be used to reflect on experiences in the community and draw out local rights issues and audience suggestions.
  • The repeat screenings and editing enable full informed consent to be reached through explanation and discussion.
  • The community devise action plans, deciding how they want to use the footage, who to target and what to focus on.
  • Stories and evidence are refined to reach specific target audiences and a campaign for change is set in motion.
  • The footage is used for local, national and international screenings and exhibitions through meetings, conferences, television broadcast, festivals and internet streaming as well as generating press releases and articles to fuel campaigns and support community perspectives.


“Now I know that I have the power within me to get things done and make changes…other community members come to me with their troubles as if I can solve them” Insight trainee who successfully led a campaign to provide clean water to his township, Durban, South Africa

“The films gave me the real evidence that we need to make change, real evidence from the people for our advocacy campaign”, Rose Mlay, Participatory Video trainee from the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Tanzania who successfully led a campaign to increase the budget for midwifery training in Tanzania

'All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.' Article 1  The international declaration for economic, social and cultural rights and the International Declaration for Civil and Political rights

'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’ Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 


Our Participatory Video process encourages the skills needed for campaigning through confidence building, reflection and creative targeted messages and media.

We use Participatory Video as a means of guiding a community to recognize and realize their rights through a homegrown rights based advocacy movement.

We help sustain campaigns to access outside assistance and networks  and champion local campaigns and perspectives through our broader networks.

Our approach enables marginalised communities to practise the right for self determination as outlined in article one of the Declaration of Human Rights.

Our Participatory Video approach acts as prevention as well as response to rights violations, particularly amongst marginal cultures, by supporting community solidarity, investing at the community level and valuing local knowledge.

Intellectual Property Rights

Working this closely with a powerful medium means that we have to have rigorous ethical principles and procedures to keep the control in the community. The protection of peoples knowledge and resources is central to Insights ‘code of ethics’. This also applies to informed consent. Consent from people in films has traditionally been needed to protect the film maker, however it is built into the Participatory Video process to ensure that a community understands the implications of being involved in a film. This usually takes place when first explaining a film project with a community and when watching the footage back and clearing the edits. This responsible approach to filming protects vulnerable members of a community and ensures that everyone involved in the filming understands how and where the footage will be used.

Sharing Networks

A crucial part of the facilitators role in an advocacy project is to share their unique access to other arenas with the community they are working with. When dealing with rights based issues facilitators have to expect to give something of themselves to the work, as a consequence we take on work in areas that are of genuine interest to our facilitators to ensure that they can champion a communities issues.

To provide more direct support, as well as handing over the filming and directing, we hand over the editing and reproduction facilities or skills. Through initiating local media hubs we are enabling communities to sustain participatory campaigns on the ground and build their own campaigns, while guiding them or acting as a guardian through our central hub.

Positive Change

We recognise that if any particular advocacy campaigns are set in motion through the Participatory Video process it is our responsibility to support them to make change. We also recognise that this is a sensitive area. We actively emphasise a solution based approach to advocacy. We can help to achieve local solutions within a community itself and create targeted strategies to reach broader decision makers that are constructive not destructive. Presenting advocacy material fuelled by blame, resentment and accusation is unlikely to create positive action. Decision makers are often very open to suggestion and we help communities to use their films to lead and equip busy and sometimes unimaginative decision makers with local ideas.

A Homegrown Rights Approach

Using rights to underpin advocacy can be exploited for specific agendas, felt to be irrelevant and conceived as agitating. The rights based approach invites facilitators and those they work with to engage with power inequalities and make steps towards securing previously unrecognised and possibly intentionally suppressed rights. Our facilitators draw attention to the possibility of repercussions and remittances and to ensure that using the rights based approach is constructive.

We use an approach that allows communities to decide what stories they need to tell, prioritise these and show how this knowledge relates to specific rights they have and can research themselves. With this approach they realise that they know and feel their rights without needing to be told them by outsiders. Outsiders and networks are useful for guiding and linking them to information about what specific rights they do hold by law and enabling them to reach specific decisions and decision making arenas. Due to our method of handing over control, continual community review and informed consent we do not encounter the broader safety issues associated with covert filming. Participatory Video is explicitly overt.