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Participatory video is a form of participatory media in which a group or community creates their own film. The idea behind this is that making a video is easy and accessible, and is a great way of bringing people together to explore issues, voice concerns or simply to be creative and tell stories. It is therefore primarily about process, though high quality and accessible films (products) can be created using these methods if that is a desired outcome. This process can be very empowering, enabling a group or community to take their own action to solve their own problems, and also to communicate their needs and ideas to decision-makers and/or other groups and communities. As such, PV can be a highly effective tool to engage and mobilise marginalised people, and to help them to implement their own forms of sustainable development based on local needs.
How does participatory video differ from documentary filmmaking?
Whilst there are forms of documentary filmmaking that are able to sensitively represent the realities of their subjects' lives and even to voice their concerns, documentary films very much remain the authored products of a documentary filmmaker. As such, the subjects of documentaries rarely have any say (or sometimes have some limited say) in how they will ultimately be represented. By contrast, in PV the subjects make their own film in which they can shape issues according to their own sense of what is important, and they can also control how they will be represented. Additionally, documentary films are often expected to meet stringent aesthetic standards and are usually made with a large audience in mind. The PV process, on the other hand, is less concerned with appearance than with content, and the films are usually made with particular audiences and objectives in mind.
What are the origins of participatory video?
The first experiments in PV were the work of Don Snowden, a Canadian who pioneered the idea of using media to enable a people-centered community development approach. Then Director of the Extension Department at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Snowden worked with filmmaker Colin Low and the National Film Board of Canada's Challenge for Change program to apply his ideas in Fogo Island, Newfoundland, a small fishing community. By watching each other’s films, the different villagers on the island came to realise that they shared many of the same problems and that by working together they could solve some of them. the films were also shown to politicians who lived too far away and were too busy to actually visit the island. As a result of this dialogue, government policies and actions were changed. The techniques developed by Snowden became known as the Fogo process. Snowden went on to apply the Fogo process all over the world until his death in India in 1984.
The first community-made video in Canada was the 1969 Challenge for Change video VTR St-Jacques, filmed in a poor Montreal neighbourhood. In order to make VTR St-Jacques, directors Dorothy Henault and Bonnie Sherr Klein trained community members in video to represent their struggle for affordable and accessible medical care. VTR St-Jacques was shown across Canada and the U.S., inspiring other projects.
There has been no uniform movement to promote and practise PV but different individuals and groups have set up pockets of PV work, usually molding it to their particular needs and situations. PV has also grown with the increasing accessibility of home video equipment.
An early and significant book on participatory video was published in the UK in 1997 by Clive Robertson and Jackie Shaw, Directors of Real Time Video, and has informed many subsequent books and articles, including the book this article has drawn from. Real Time are an educational charity that pioneered many of the techniques and methodologies still used today, and have been working in the participatory video field since 1984.
How widespread are participatory video methods?
PV is used all over the world and has been applied in many different situations, from advocacy and enabling greater participation in development projects to providing a therapeutic and communicative environment for the mentally ill or disempowered. Methods vary from practitioner to practitioner, some choosing to keep the process more open, and others preferring to guide the subjects more, or even to wield the camera themselves. There is no fixed way in which PV has to be done, other than that it involves the authorship of the group itself and that it be carried out in a truly participative and democratic way. This quality of flexibility enables PV to be applied to many different situations.
Why use participatory video?
PV carried out in this way becomes a powerful means of documenting local people’s experiences, needs and hopes from their own perspectives. It initiates a process of analysis and change that celebrates local knowledge and practice, whilst stimulating creativity both within and beyond the community. PV gives a voice and a face to those who are normally not heard or seen, even in participatory programmes.
Applications of participatory video
In combination with other methodologies such as Participatory Learning in Action (PLA) techniques, Participatory Rural Appraisal and others. PV has been successfully applied to projects focussing on; community development; promoting local innovation and endogenous development; therapeutic work; a voice for marginalised groups; a catalyst for community-led action; a tool for communicating with policy makers; a means of involving users in their own research for example action research, participatory research, user-led research; also for programme monitoring and evaluation or Social impact assessment...new possible applications are being continually developed.
- Catcher Media 
- Children As Media Producers (CAMP) 
- China Villager Documentary Project, www.ccdworkstation.com
- Deccan Development Society 
- InsightShare Participatory Video 
- Participatory Documentary Center of the IFCHINA Original Studio, www.ifchinastudio.org, www.artisimple.com
- Video Volunteers 
- zaLab - video partecipativo e documentari www.zalab.org
- YouTube channel linking to videos made by children and youth throughout the world 
Other articles and books about Participatory Video
Braden, S. Participation – A Promise unfulfilled? Building Alliance between people and government: Action Research for Participatory Representation. Download: 
Braden, S. (1998) Video for Development. A casebook for Vietnam (Oxfam)
Elliot, D. (2006) "Everyone's a teacher everyones a student" ICT Update 
Johansson, L. (1999) ‘Participatory Video and PRA: Acknowledging the politics of Empowerment’, in Forests, Trees and People, Newsletter No. 40/41, December 1999, pp. 21–23.
Johansson, L. (1999) Participatory Video and PRA in development planning. Download: 
Lunch, C. (2007) The Most Significant Change: using participatory video for monitoring and evaluation. In: Participatory Learning and Action 56, London: IIED. Download(pay per view or free to subscribers: Lunch, N & C. (2006) Insight's into Participatory Video: a handbook for the field. Download: 
Lunch, C (2006) Participatory Video for monitoring and evaluation: Capacity.org 
Lunch, C (2004) 'PV - Rural People Document their Knowledge and Innovations': IK Notes. 
Milne, E-J. Mitchell, C. and de Lange, N. Eds. (2012) The Handbook of Participatory Video (AltaMira Press) https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780759121133
Nathanials, N.Q (2006) Implementation of Cocoa IPM in West Africa. Participatory Video. A guide to getting started (CABI) Download: 
Olmos, G. (2005) Participant Authored Audiovisual Stories (PAAS): Giving the Camera Away or giving the camera a way?” Download 
Robertson, C. and Shaw, J. (1997) Participatory Video: A Practical Approach to Using Video Creatively in Group Developmental Work (Routledge)
Sateesh, P.V. (1999) ‘An alternative to literacy?’ in Forests, Trees and People Newsletter No. 40/41, December 1999, pp. 9–13
Satheesh, P. V (?) Participation and Beyond: Handing Over the Camera (Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad, India). Contact: 
Setchell, C (2006) Insight's new partnership with the United Nations : Sharing Circle. (see pages 2, 6 and 7). White, S. (2003) (ed.) Participatory Video: Images that transform and Empower (London, Sage)
- Schugurensky, Daniel (2005). "Challenge for Change launched, a participatory media approach to citizenship education". History of Education. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- Quarry, Wendy. The Fogo Process: An Experiment in Participatory Communication. 1994: Thesis, University of Guelph.
- "VTR Saint Jacques". Collection. National Film Board of Canada. 1969. Retrieved 2009-10-16.