Participatory Video for Research

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Participatory Video gives people the opportunity to determine what is being studied in a research, collaborate on the different stages, acquire research skills, democratise the knowledge generation and the sharing of results.

InsightShare's gives a new dimension to existing participatory research approaches through Participatory Video. Accessible to all participants, irrespective of literacy or background, Participatory Video is a tool that has the power to mobilize a community whilst simultaneously documenting the dynamic process of community research, analysis and change. The Participatory Videos themselves provide a channel through which local knowledge and experience can be shared with other communities, as well as with scientists, decision and policy makers on a local, national and global level.

Video placed in the hands of the concerned population acts as a catalyst and a mirror, initiating a process of community–led analysis, reflection and change. Regular community screening of material opens up an exchange of ideas and opinions within the community and encourages more people to get involved. The video work fosters an open and trusting relation between facilitators/researchers and participants and gives a clear signal that they are in control and that their knowledge matters.

1. InsightShare trains researchers and/or local people recruited from target groups in the community to act as facilitators.

2. The team trains and supports groups to use the video to capture their views. Those who commission the research can decide on using standard questions for video interviews which match those written in questionnaires. Alternatively, or in addition, these can be left open for the groups to create themselves as they prepare to film.

3. Drafts edits of the video are produced at several stages and screened to the groups so that the facilitators get feedback to help them create a true picture of the diverse opinions in the final video.

4. Re–visiting the groups several times develops trust and confidence and enables people to learn about the statutory process and to keep abreast of the project as it evolves.

5. One meets local people face–to–face as the footage captures the feelings and rich personality of the community.

6. All footage is also transcribed, typed and added to the data collected from the wider research process so that the views captured on film are heard equally with views collected in questionnaires, as well as other quantitative or qualitative methods.

7. The video can be shown to decision makers and to community representatives to directly lead to action.

8. By playing back footage people are able to add to their ideas and share one another´s concerns. As a consensus–building process this develops understanding of other stakeholder perspectives.

9. Watching back and paper edits: It gives the chance to challenge the researcher perceptions and ideas of what is thought as important and of the participants thinking.  This process requires openness to learn from the participants, as every decision taken by the community is an insight into where they are coming from.

10. Ideally Participatory Video should be the tool used in participatory learning and action processes to build capacity and confidence and be used to promote engagement of disadvantaged people in communication, dialogue, negotiation, and production of knowledge.

11. Participatory Video is rewarding for researchers, as it helps them connect with the people and engage more, create genuine participation, fun and interest, stay connect to the people even when they leave the field. It brings the field to the office, avoiding abstraction while looking at footage, as it gives more detail and deeper thinking about the things that were said and how they were said, transcribed and translated.


Showing a video rather than giving a speech put local community representatives on a more equal footing with scientists, NGO participants and so on, who may have more experience of conferences and public speaking.

The videos shown at the workshop in Scotland changed partners’ and scientific participants’ thinking on participatory research. They realised the need to deliver projects that involved local knowledge and made a difference to local communities.

Translating the produced films into local languages has maximized the cross-border sharing and learning potential of these videos in the KHHK region. Further impact of this work will come with wider dissemination of the films among local and regional NGOs and Government institutions as well as among research and development organisations with an interest in the region/topics.

The filming of the Scotland workshop enabled villagers to see what impact their film made on the attending participants. It was important to complete this feedback loop and was empowering for those communities who took part.

The produced videos have already been shown widely to a range of audiences, most recently to researchers attending the Global Climate Change in Mountainous regions (GLOCHAMORE) conference in Perth, Scotland.

NORMA Partners
This project was carried out by InsightShare in partnership with Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen & ICIMOD, Nepal. Our local partners were: in China, the Upper Yangtze Organization and Plateau Perspectives (Zhiduo, Qinghai); in India, Women’s Alliance and ISEC (Ladakh); in Pakistan, Aga Khan Foundation (Gahkuch).

Desertification in Central Asia
Desertification and Regeneration: Modeling the Impact of Market Reforms on Central Asian Rangelands (DARCA)  
InsightShare worked alongside a multidisciplinary team of scientists studying the environmental impacts of current grazing practices on semi–arid Central Asian rangelands. Our Participatory Video methods complimented and enhanced other more traditional forms of data collection such as remote sensing, pasture analysis and herd monitoring.

Hearing from the real experts

Ecological study transects were selected in Turkmenistan and Kazakstan. Participatory Video was used to work with communities living in these zones enabling them to explore and communicate their perspectives on desertification and their ideas for improved rangeland management.

The semi nomadic herders in these regions were given a powerful voice and their views helped guide the wider scientific research. Local scientists were trained in InsightShare’s Participatory Video methods and witnessed the benefits of incorporating the views of local pastoralists into their research and dissemination activities.

Working with women

Many agencies working in Central Asia complain about difficulties of working with women in these Muslim countries. InsightShare’s experience has been completely different, this must be largely due to the engaging Participatory Video methods we employ. Whilst women are not always able to take part in community meetings, Participatory Video work with groups of women, enables them to have their opinions heard and be fully involved in highlighting issues of importance to them.

Video as a Powerful Dissemination Tool

Two Participatory Videos were produced each made up of 5–6 short films. The film made by shepherds in Kazakstan was shown on Kazak TV to millions of rural viewers and won a prize at the 2002 Grenoble film festival "Pastoralisme et Grands Espaces" Both films have been shown widely on the local and national level. They have also been circulated globally among International NGOs, donor agencies and scientists and screened at a number of international conferences.
This was an EU Funded project under the Copernicus programme, coordinated by Dr Roy Behnke from Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Aberdeen.

  • Participatory Video in research makes explicitly all the process issues which are so often hidden in conventional research; such as: Who makes sense? Who chooses what to research? Who edits the information? Who presents the information? Participatory Video offers the opportunity for research with rather than on people.
  • A PRA research tool that bridges worlds, unlocks doors and involves the beneficiaries in each phase of the research project.
  • Participatory Video for research shifts extractive research projects into inclusive spaces where the community can set agenda, document the process, acquire research skills, value the local knowledge and open up the sharing of results.
  • Being participant-led, the process is key to generate participation, accountability and social transformation. The product upholds the voice of the beneficiaries, helps to do analysis, shares social learning and encourages action.
  • Participatory video can cut across four types of research: academic, policy, practical and local. It brings a new opportunity to do respectful and better research.

Research timing, engagement from research institutions, adequate funding and the requirement for researchers to spend potentially extended period with communities of interest are the main challenges.

Quality in facilitation is crucial but can be variable depending on the context. Professionalism and ethics are key to solve this challenge.

The ability to co-design research with others should be contemplated. Linking participatory video practitioners with researchers to work as a team and complement each other is important to overcome barriers.

It can present methodological problems to process data, which can bring disagreement in formal academy funding and expectations. Research needs to re-evaluate its indicators of success.

Himalayan Video Messages
Natural Resource Management in the Mountain Regions of Asia (NORMA)
This European-Commission-funded project aimed to identify the key research requirements for natural resource management to support existing policies for sustainable integrated mountain development in the Karakoram-Hindu Kush-Himalayan (KHKH) region. InsightShare used Participatory Video techniques to enable the local communities, NGO’s and grassroots organisations to communicate their views and ideas themselves, directly to scientists, senior policy-makers and donors.

What was done/the story:

There were two stages to this project: During the first phase community groups and local NGOs in three countries (India, Pakistan and China) took part in Participatory Video workshops. The second phase consisted of a multi-stakeholder workshop held in Scotland attended by representatives of national research organisations and universities, government departments, development organisations, NGOs and local representatives  from the communities we had worked with. Edited versions of the community-made videos were presented at the workshop by these local representatives. 

How was it done?

In each country we trained 2 local facilitators, a man and a woman. Working with the right partners is essential. In this case they were local NGOs –who shared our grassroots and participative ethos, and who had strong links with the community and the local government.

At the workshop in Scotland local representatives showed their communities’ videos. We then worked in small groups using participatory methods to enable an equitable exchange of views between all the key stakeholders, irrespective of their level of formal education. The aims were to identify the major research needs, strategise how they could be achieved and then predict the likelihood of success. The workshop was documented on film.

“We don't have system of keeping record of our culture; practices and history -this will be our history and convey our heartiest thanks to the researchers for helping us record our history.”
Gahkuch villagers, Northern Pakistan after watching their completed film

“They were urging me that I should invite these researchers again. They said that they are Barakaat (blessings) for us”.
Ataullah Baig, Aga Khan Foundation, local partner in Pakistan.

Extracts from Scotland workshop evaluation:

"The dynamic structure of this workshop really got things going and people involved"

"People's ideas and ways of thinking have shifted as the workshop progressed. In some cases dramatically."

"I learnt the power of visuals -videos from the locals”

“I was impressed by the ease and clarity with which illiterate nomads and farmers expressed their concerns related to environmental change. Such videos carry messages that go far beyond language.”

"Participatory Video is a useful tool for our research. The shepherds’ films can be shown to the wider rural population as well as to farm managers & higher authorities. This will contribute to improving methods of pasture use & fodder production in Kazakstan, helping livestock development here in general."
Dr Illya I. Alimaev, Scientific Director, Research Centre for Vetinary Diseases & Animal Production, Kazakstan

"Participatory Video works where other methods fail and progress is made remarkably quickly. I was especially impressed at how Insight’s Participatory Video methods encouraged women to get involved.”
Jamal Orazvalieva, NGO officer and InsightShare Participatory Video trainee, Turkmenistan

“Participatory Video methods compliment and enhance other more traditional forms of data collection”
Dr Roy Behnke MLURI, DARCA programme coordinator