What is Participatory Video?

| No responses | Posted by: Jana Tauschinski | Theme: Blog, Research

Participatory Video with Four London Charities
with support from the People’s Postcode Trust

“Participatory Video leaves people with a greater sense of who they are and how they can interact with the rest of the world. It is a very powerful medium because getting people to tell their own stories is more powerful than having others telling them on their behalf.” – Jo Rowlands, Poverty Programme, Oxfam, UK

The Young Foundation’s work largely focuses on amplifying the voices of people and communities, especially those who often struggle to find a platform for their views and concerns. What better medium to do so than film? Easy to make, accessible, and arguably one of the most powerful ways to engage large groups. Participatory video in particular, takes advantage of this by empowering people from unheard communities to create movies to tell their stores.

What is participatory video?
The beginnings of participatory video can be traced back to the 1960’s in the Fogo Islands of  Canada, where Don Snowden made the first steps towards this people-centred community development method[1]. He supported local fishing communities to create a video highlighting the key challenges they were facing. As a direct result, politicians seeing these films, changed government policy to help tackle the issues voiced by the island communities.

Since then, participatory video has been developed and is now widely used as a research tool, helping to empower people to tell their own stories as representatives of a particular community[2]. The idea is that this method allows real insights into the concerns and priorities of a given group. From identifying and exploring issues important to them, to preparing shots; from collecting footage, to editing the final cut, participants take the lead on all aspects of film production.

External facilitators (in this case, The Young Foundation!) offer support throughout the process, but take a step back on all tasks that shape the film’s narrative. As such, the final movie doesn’t tell the story through the eyes of an external observer or filmmaker, but rather, from the perspective of the people taking part– with the aim of true self-representation.

Within a team, roles are rotated: the director becomes the camera operator; the actor becomes the interviewer. This gives all of the participants equal opportunities to drive the direction of the film and to experience the different sides of the production process.

Participatory video at The Young Foundation

We began using participatory video during our Amplify Leeds project in 2015, with the support of InsightShare. We worked with asylum seekers, social activists and artists to explore different topics such as ‘finding your feel’ in a new town and ‘the experiences of women in the city’. Check out these films here.

More recently, in 2018, we worked with 52 participants to share their stories as part of the
B-MINCOME project – a trial of a minimum income for 1,000 families in Barcelona. Participatory video helped us identify ways in which B-MINCOME created opportunities for people living in these communities, whilst allowing those taking part an opportunity to share their stories of change, struggle and resilience. You can see some of the short films made by the participants here. In both Barcelona and Leeds, we found that the process of story sharing and film making was as powerful as the video outputs themselves. This summer, we’re excited to be offering a series of free participatory video training workshops, with support from The People’s Postcode Trust, for people closer to home in London. We will be working with participants from four London charities/community groups over the course of several weeks to help them share their stories and experiences through film.

We are specifically supporting individuals from typically underrepresented communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, refugees and migrants, people with disabilities, people with mental health problems, BAME young people and other marginalised groups.

These workshops will help participants to share and explore their experiences of belonging and discrimination, of feeling connected and disconnected in London. Training, support and equipment will also be provided, enabling these groups to produce films of their stories and experiences.

Of course, the voices of unheard communities can only then be effectively amplified when the resulting films are shared with a wider audience. That’s why we will be holding public screenings of the films at the end of the summer. An exciting opportunity for participants to share their work with one another, with local London media, with Postcode Lottery players…. and, you? We will also be sharing the films across social media with those charities taking part so that they too can use the films to showcase their work.

In the next few weeks and months we will be sharing updates from the participants and charity support workers themselves, so stay tuned!

If you are a member of a charity/community group that could benefit from this opportunity – or you know of one that might be interested in taking part – click here for more information.

If you have any questions, please do get in touch at jana.tauschinski@youngfoundation.org .


[1] Involve – Participatory Video, Available at: https://www.involve.org.uk/resources/methods/participatory-video (Accessed: 5/07/19).

[2]  Nick & Chris Lunch (2006) Insights into Participatory Video. [Online]. Available at: https://insightshare.org/resources/ (Accessed: 5/07/19).

Photo by Vanilla Bear Films on Unsplash


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