Participatory Video at a critical juncture: Motivations behind the Better PV Practice Webinar Series

Participatory video (PV) is a collaborative approach to work with a group or a community in shaping and creating their own film for positive change and transformation. PV as a social practice has expanded slowly since the early 1970s when video technology first allowed its use at the community level.  The last decade has seen a flowering of interest and enterprise around PV as well as dramatic growth of scholarship about it. It has gained increasing prominence in recent times as a chosen methodology for participatory and engaged research and practice.

This growth, however, has also flagged some concerns and highlighted some risks – will this growing popularity of PV, with more actors and funding made available, side-line the very participatory values that paved the way for its success? We believe that consistent examination of methodology, focus on better practice and training based on a deeper understanding of existing experience can address some of these concerns. The Better PV Practice webinar series is, therefore, a timely process that will underpin a series of initiatives to improve PV practice in the future.

There has not been, to date, any initiative in this field that draws together PV related practice and research at the global level. Our effort is designed to unlock the expertise, networks and intellectual property of each of the contributors. The online workshops will develop models of webinars that facilitate online “many to many” engagement of PV enthusiasts, practitioners and researchers that enrich the existing “one to many” or “some to many” styles that have been in use so far in these events. We hope this in itself will inform future training initiatives.

While InsightShare and the Open University are the co-convenors of the series, Web Gathering will provide the technical platform and Open Cinema will join as an established OU partner working with socially excluded individuals and communities in the UK. As part of the two leading institutions of this process, Nick Lunch of InsightShare and Chris High of the Open University have been at the forefront of putting this series together. We sent them a few questions regarding the webinars and their significance to better practice in PV.

Nick sent us this video!

And the following is what Chris said in response to our questions.

Q: What is the webinar series about and why did you feel the need for this project? 

A: The PV movement, if we can call it that, is at a critical juncture.  As PV has become more well-known and there’s more awareness of it’s potential and trust in it’s effects, so there are more people and more money involved.  Without some attention to quality as well as quantity, we’re in danger of losing some of the focus on solidarity, on challenging injustice and on good participatory ethics which led to the success of the field in the first place.  The webinar series is the best way we could think of to get everyone who cares about PV together to get these issues out in the open and work out how to maintain the quality of PV practice.

Q: How did it all start? How did you identify the needs for this initiative and what did you envision (in terms of a process to facilitate better PV)?

A: It started from a set of conversations. I think many of us were seeing the same issues coming up and thinking about how to respond well.  The concrete opportunity was spotting a funding opportunity that could turn those thoughts into a plan.  Nick and I had the luxury of a good development phase to get things as we wanted and then gradually drew in others as we needed.  The vision is to get the global community of practitioners together. It’s been an ambition before, but the logistics involved were just too hard.  Now the technology is here to let us attempt it.

Q: How do you see this webinar series contributing the better PV practice globally? In addition to organising these events, what roles do you see your respective institutions playing in this process of exploring/facilitating better PV practice? 

A: I think I already answered some of the first part of this question.  On top of that I’m really excited to be able to bring the OU in to this important area.  I think universities have a responsibility to use their resources and talents in public service and getting institutional support for the initiative reaffirmed for me that projects like the ones we will look at together are close to OU values.

Q: What do you see this initiative adding to your respective institutions, your visions and your future work in the field of PV? 

A: This is a great opportunity to do something that is both practical and visionary.  If it works out the way we’d like it will lay down a marker on standards of practice and build a community of practitioners behind that, which will be enormously beneficial to the development of PV.  On top of that the initiative will create the opportunity to follow up with a set of training projects, which put those values into practice and help to spread the use of PV even further.

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