Participatory approaches: Community development
Bottom-up approaches and methods that include the community in the development of solutions has long evolved since its precursor, Paulo Freire, began putting his pedagogy into practice back in 1963. In one of his first projects, Freire capacitated marginalized communities of the rural side of Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil to develop a self-educating system to combat the high illiteracy rates found in the region.
Robert Chambers evolved this approach with his framework Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) that he describes as “a growing family of approaches and methods to enable local people to share, enhance and analyse their knowledge of life conditions, to plan and to act” (Chambers, 1994 p.1).
A report on IFAD’s ten years of activity by Lineberry has concluded that: “the rural people when given a chance, are eager to participate in projects designed to benefit them” (Lineberry, 1989). Furthermore, a process that involves the local people can help improve not only their material well-being but represent progress in their social and cultural life (Lineberry, 1989).
The participation concept has been extensively analysed by White who highlights the role of communications as a crucial tool of participation processes (White 1994). The common perception of participatory communication is that it “gives people a voice”.
Some of the most common formats used in the participatory message-making include; drama role-play that can be expressed in theatre or video, drawings, photographic series, posters and other forms of printed material as well as audio and video.
Long before being properly defined, participatory video originated from practice in the 1960’s, in the Fogo Experiment, supported by the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada that began in 1967 in the Fogo islands, a small fishing community off the eastern coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Donald Snowden, from Memorial University, Newfoundland Canada, lead and facilitated a process with community members to express their perspectives on local problems and ideas, translating them into films that were screened at other villages that faced similar problems. Since this first experience participatory video has been utilized internationally in many different sectors such as project monitoring and evaluation, natural resource management, education, communication, advocacy and emancipation of disadvantaged social groups (White, 2003) and by many civil society organizations such as Oxfam International and Action Aid.
In 2006 Lunch and Lunch defined participatory-video as “a set of techniques to involve a group or community in shaping and creating their own film as it enables a group or community to take action to solve their own problems and also to communicate their needs and ideas to decision-makers and/or other groups and communities” (Lunch and Lunch, 2006).
Participatory-video Technique Evaluation*
The results of ‘Farmers and filmmakers: An evaluation of participatory video as a communication tool for transferring community-based climate change adaptation practices in Rural Malawi’ (Baumhardt 2009) have shown that participatory video is a suitable tool for transferring community-based knowledge on successful adaptive measures on climate change between vulnerable communities. It also shows that villagers in developing countries can easily learn how to make films telling their own stories according to their local perspectives.
The complete article with the study’s result can be viewed here: ‘Farmers become filmmakers: climate change adaptation in Malawi’, IIED, PLA N 60° http://pubs.iied.org/G02820.html.
*Excerpt from: Baumhardt, F. (2009) Farmers and filmmakers: An evaluation of participatory video as a communication tool for transferring community-based climate change adaptation practices in Rural Malawi. Master’s thesis, Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, NL.
*Excerpt from: Baumhardt, F., Lasage, R., Suarez, P. and Chadza, C. (2009) Farmers become fillmmakers: climate change adaptation in Malawi. Participatory Learning and Action, 60, pp. 129-138