Exploring the power of Participatory Video in Bolivia

Posted by & filed under Participation, Participatory Media, Participatory Methodologies.

Erika Lopez Franco

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“The work with Participatory Video allowed us to recognise and prioritise our experiences arising from our daily work and embark in things that before we didn’t allow ourselves (or we weren’t allowed to do)…”

One of the key activities of the Participate initiative is putting cameras in the hands of the poorest to make their own films that tell their own stories. The use of visual methods for conducting Participatory Action research has become increasingly popular due to increased access to ICTs; the expansion of social media; but more importantly, the growing need to put forward powerful messages that portray the realities of people in poverty.

The Participatory Video workshop “SUMANDO VOCES” (Adding up Voices) gathered 12 NGO members and 3 community activists from Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala and Mexico in the city of La Paz. Participate was there to support the development of this training of trainers; however, this time we would like to give this space to share Alfredo Aguirre’s* reflections around the process:

Alfredo Aguirre explores the camera’s different features with his now good friend (i.e. hermano) Juan Carlos Baltazar

With the enthusiasm of learning the Participatory Video methodology, we gathered from the 7th to the 13th of April in La Paz, Bolivia. Right from the beginning, the group dynamic was fraternal; I personally believe that this synergy was generated from the fact that our daily activities are guided by our concern for the poorest and with few chances for communicating their needs. The development of the workshop methodology was interesting in itself; we were “thrown straight into the field” in order to see what topics would arise that could be developed through video. In each of the smaller groups formed, individual experiences came together to build a narrative. The stories were truly strengthened with the combination of different cultures, which although different, were closely linked in their social needs. The discussion was then taken to the bigger group, which improved the ideas presented when the topic was portrayed as part of a real-life representation. We also got to discuss with the rest of the group collective ways of giving a solution to the problem (personally, I saw this as something new, but highly effective).

Once we had understood the underlying theory needed for reflecting upon social problems, we set off to do fieldwork. Against all odds, we all came together to overcome them with creativity; this allowed for greater group cohesion. Operating a camera, trying to do this in the most professional way, controlling the illumination, as well as filming a good quality image and sound represented a spectacular experience for me.

Alfredo supports the domestic worker's filming process in the periurban area of El Alto, Bolivia

Alfredo supports the domestic worker’s filming process in the periurban area of El Alto, Bolivia

The work with Participatory Video allowed us to recognise and prioritise our experiences arising from our daily work and embark in things that before we didn’t allow ourselves (or we weren’t allowed to do). Also, through this methodology, we discovered new skills that seemed to be dormant; but, I must say that for me and many of the participants this experience was just a start. I feel inside me the will to learn more; to participate more. We were able to make sense of the variety of possibilities open to us through Participatory Video in order to implement them throughout our organisations. Constructive criticism and collective reflection were key factors in the group dynamic which was strengthened by the international criteria of all our colleagues (i.e. hermanos), as well as the energetic and clever facilitation style of Dr. Carlos Cortez Ruiz.

I believe that the objectives were achieved; although there might still be areas to develop more. The end of this week-long workshop culminated in long hugs, lots of kisses (in the Latin American warm style) and a promise to come together sooner or later somewhere in this planet.

 

*Alfredo Aguirre is director of the Integral Institute Choir and Orchestra Urubichá. Initially, this organization was created with the objective of bringing to the new generations the musical legacy of the Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries established in the region from the 17th until the early 20th century. Nearly 20 years ago, with the constant participation of 60 children and youths, this traditional music and the craftsmanship of local music instruments were reborn. Recently, Alfredo has started to open up spaces of dialogue for these young people where the artistic activities can be complemented with discussions around other transversal topics such as collective social action, ecology, leadership, gender and capacity-building.

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