Baseline-midline-endline: a hands-on PVMSC experience

For many months I have been looking  into workshop evaluations and whether participating in PV workshops have an effect on the people in them. This might be the most problematic issue in my Doctoral research. 

Now, after a three-day London-based course with InsightShare on Participatory Video and Most Significant Change (PV MSC (it took us three days not only to learn the method but to pronounce those letters in the right order)), I know there is a way to monitor and evaluate such programs and I have a tool in my hand that I can apply to my research.

Participatory media, preserving knowledge, horizontal sharing, stories of change – just a few of my favourite expressions learnt in those three days. The course opened more doors than “just” learning about PVMSC. The course made me think on all the above topics and how I could integrate them into my research, and even in my life. 

This is what I learnt:

Day 1 or what is PV MSC?

As much as I love holding workshops, playing and using the PV methodology with the kids who take part in my workshops, I like participating and getting to know new people, games and techniques just as much. In this respect, the course on PV MSC met my expectations. I loved that we all came from such different backgrounds, but that each of us worked in similar ways or used the same methodology. As an InsightShare PV course alumni and a documentary filmmaker, I knew about the PV method before and I was eager to understand the approach of PV MSC. I was glad that, in spite of the fact that we only had three days, we still started with some getting-to-know-each-other games. Next we were given an account of the PV MSC method, some case studies, and had general discussions about monitoring and evaluation. Although we were all dazed by the intensity of the course, we were passionate about finding out more.

Day 2 or the participation itself

This was the “technical” day. We recreated the space of a real life situation and had the hands-on experience of the story circle, choosing the most significant story, filming it and giving consent. We imagined that we had taken part in a year-long project and reflected on what the most significant change was for each of us. Everyone shared their story and then, using the PV MSC methodology, we chose the most significant one – the one most of us could agree with.

My essential question was to find out when the right moment was to start a PV MSC process in a workshop space. For a ‘real result’ do we maybe also need a baseline assessment or is it enough to enter towards the end of the process with PV MSC?  Or can we use PV MSC from the very beginning? So, I was really glad when this issue came up, because this is what I struggle most with in my Doctoral course. It was reassuring to discuss this with the group and to understand that with PV MSC you don’t necessarily need a baseline assessment. My most reviewed topic, ‘whether we can say “measuring impact”’, also came up and created some discussions in the room. It’s a dangerous expression to use, especially for me, who is not a sociologist or someone working directly with science and numbers, but an artistic practitioner. I was glad to find out that it is not only problematic for me. We all agreed that maybe the word ‘assessing’ covers more of what we understand when we want to talk about measuring impact. 

I think that one of the main points of PV MSC is that it is a qualitative method, based on the experience of human beings. And because of that, it is not primarily assessed by numbers (although we can get these through participatory analysis) but instead by what the participants of each program/workshop went through. This might be difficult to accept for some people who only want to see results in numbers and charts, but don’t worry: PV MSC is equally suitable for charts and lists if this is what you need in your report (especially if you use the participatory analysis technique). Only behind those ‘numbers’ there will be real human stories, experiences and feelings. Which at least in my view speaks much more of the usefulness of a workshop process than anything else.

Day 3 or the planning day

In a crack we arrived at day 3, which was mainly about consent, questions and planning our own projects. So we discussed our own projects and plans for the future.  Consent is a very sensitive issue that many people don’t take seriously enough, so I am very happy that it is such an important topic to the InsightShare team. To protect the participants and to always give them the right to say no is something we have to deal with constantly. 

We discussed the role of the facilitator and the local evaluation team extensively. This helped to clarify those roles. By this time I had questions piled up in my notepad. With different techniques we discussed most of them and I got most of the answers I was looking for. The ones that I haven’t are best left unknown so I can discover them myself, through experience and the mistakes I will make during my own workshops.

I have a project starting in January 2020, where I will work with teenagers from the countryside and also from the city. With Participatory Video I will help them communicate and connect. The project is designed to reduce stereotyping among youngsters. Using PV MSC will give me clarity on my results and help to assess the impacts of the workshop on the kids who take part. Right now I am working out a method for integrating PV MSC into my work process from the very beginning. The course at InsightShare gave me a lot of knowledge and experience as well as challenges I need to solve. I would recommend it to anyone who needs to carry out an evaluation or is working with rural communities or even for documentary filmmakers who want to understand more about working in rural areas.



Written by Sári Haragonics

Sári Haragonics has graduated at the University of Theatre and Film Arts, Budapest with an MA in documentary film directing. Her graduation film, COMING FACE TO FACE won the ZOOM-IN competition at the Verzio International Documentary Festival in 2015. She is now co-directing her first feature – length documentary It’s story and has started developing her personal documentary, Don’t worry, Sári!

She has recently started her Doctoral studies researching how participatory video can effect our social relations – focusing on underprivileged children and youngsters.

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