Knowing your audience

Into the lens –video shines light on the many community perspectives of environmental justice

By 19 June 2015

How to support community-led research into local justice norms and perceptions of environmental change? What could be the added value of using Participatory Video? These were the crucial questions discussed in 2013 between InsightShare and the research team in the International Development Department of the University of East Anglia.

Participatory Video (PV) would need to support the exploration of the plurality of justice and local conceptions of justice -distributional, procedural and recognition- and help answer the research question: what justice principles are deployed within local communities? PV would be incorporated as a grounded approach to identify principles of justice as part of the inductive instruments used in an ethnographic study.

The ESRC-funded ‘Conservation, Markets and Justice’ research programme includes three case studies: Bolivia, China and Tanzania. In each case, two communities are studied to analyse variation within and between communities on their conceptions of justice in distribution, procedure and recognition.

After the training in PV, together with ongoing professional support that InsightShare provided, the researchers have successfully incorporated PV into their research. All the international and national researchers involved in each case study took part in a three-stage programme:

  1. Stage One: A six-day introduction to PV facilitation and design phase in the UK
  2. Stage Two: A thirteen-day research pilot in Tanzania to test and create the PV for research protocol based on experience
  3. Stage Three: Online mentoring support pre, during and post PV fieldwork

The model provided the right balance for researchers to acquire PV skills in a controlled environment; and through gaining crucial practice in the field in order to learn from experience and adjust the plans based on the pilot in Tanzania.

InsightShare has supported the use of PV in research for the past 15 years. Its projects have included using PV to set up a research agenda that is community-driven for an extensive EU funded programme across three countries in the Himalayan region; to train community representatives to incorporate PV in their community-led research in Mexico & Borneo; and facilitation of PV as part of research on desertification in Central Asia. In this case, InsightShare provided training and capacity building to researchers to facilitate, pilot and embed PV in their research strategy and mentor them along their journey. To achieve this, the three stages were designed.

Stage One aimed to create a safe space for researchers from Bolivia, Venezuela, Tanzania and the UK to come together in Norwich in June 2014, as part of their research preparations. They gained skills in PV facilitation and they started designing the learning question that PV was hoping to answer, as well as determine the fieldwork flow and participatory methods to be used alongside PV.

In Stage Two, we all travelled to Tanzania for two weeks to pilot the research methodology. PV was tested during the first week, which included fieldwork in Kisangi Kimbalambala, Kilwa District, followed by a review process and consolidation of PV protocol, and researchers analysed the added value of PV as part of the ethnographic study.

The videos developed by Kisangi villagers provided rich information about their perceptions of justice and the plurality of those local perceptions depending on the villagers’ status and power in the community structure. Nicole Gross-Camp, one of the Senior Researchers in UEA affirmed “the information that came out of the Participatory Video fieldwork has tremendous value for the ethnographic component in our research project”.

An example of the kind of information found was the different perceptions of each group: the one formed by village leaders and committee members considered unjust the lack of participation in decision-making related to projects brought by NGOs and the government, while the other group was made up of villagers who identified that the access to the open forest was not benefiting the community. Both groups felt that the participatory forest management plan was benefiting them all, providing a much-needed income for the community.

We organised a screening where participants, villagers and the research team came together, as well as the District Forest Officer representing the District authorities. It was an opportunity to share perspectives and celebrate the community participants’ hard work, as well as discuss broader dissemination. The participants wanted to share their films with the world! They asked Mpingo to share it with government officials as well as other stakeholders in Tanzania.

After Stage Two, the researchers were ready to take the learning into their country plans and role out PV in their fieldwork. Iokiñe Rodriguez, another Senior researcher at UEA, remarked on this: “I haven’t learnt so much in a formal training process in years. Your style and approach created the environment for real learning. I feel ready to facilitate Participatory Video in our research project.”

From July 2014 onwards the country preparations and fieldwork began. And so Stage Three unfolded providing pre, during and post fieldwork online mentoring. Fieldwork plans, facilitation challenges and dissemination plans were discussed, reviewed and carried out.

If you want to learn more about the results in each country and the future plans of each research team, please check out the full blog post here.

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