Why video is so powerful to evaluate!?

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure - Colin Powell

This quote triggered my interest while reading 'Making documentary films and videos - a practical guide to planning, filming and editing documentaries' -  author Barry Hampe.  The publication is a practical handbook giving some useful hints and tips on how to make a video production.  Practise, practise, practise, ask for feedback, reflect and practise again. Applying video is a process of hard work and learning.

Video versus a report
As a facilitator and evaluator of organisations, projects and multi-stakeholder processes, I am triggered by the fact that  video can express much more in a shorter time space than a report.
A video is about visual evidence.  It shows behavior, people expressing emotions and attitudes. It also shows results and physical accomplishments.  A video interview not only communicates the content, but also people's behavior towards the process and the results they achieved in a project.  Video is also an excellent tool to be applied for organisational and institutional (multi-stakeholder) learning. The process of video making stimulates people to meet and get acquainted with other people. This helps to build linkages which might not be built through other means of communication. Video is also an excellent medium to disseminate information and experiences to a broad public. A video dissiminated by youtube will not only reach the donor or the project management, but will also reach beneficiairies and other relevant stakeholders.
One of the pitfals of video is that people are careful expressing their critisism. Video is an excellent tool for appreciative learning.  Therefore video can go hand in hand with reporting, while doing organisational assessments or project evaluations.

Do you also feel video is a powerful tool for evaluation? please let me know in the comments page of this blog?  If you disagree, please also respond in the comments page.

A field experience
In March 2010 I interviewed one of the youth leaders of a Youth Club in a youth development program in Moldova.  Through my participation in a training, informal talks during the coffee breaks and discussions at lunch, I was able to prepare my story. During one of the in-between sessions I conducted an interview with the youth leader of the club.  Before and after the interview I was enabled to make video shots of the youth group, the physical meeting place and the youth leader communicating with their peer members.   This video expressed how far the youth group and their leader had grown in their development.  Watch video:  Youth leader in the Center:

Steps and hints for making an interesting video story
Barry Hampe gives in his book some useful hints on how to develop and make an interesting 'life story video' in each phase of the process.

Based on Barry Hampe's publication and my own experience in videomaking,  hereby some useful hints and tips in each stage of the videomaking process while doing an evaluation:

Prepare your story.  Discover who you want to interview.  Interesting people are interesting!  So, identify them!  Find out what keeps them engaged. What is important for them? Try to develop a good contact.  Building contact is key for bringing your interviewee at ease. Check in advance if people are sure they want to be filmed. Inform them about your goals and how you are planning to disseminate. So ask for people's  permission.  If you are doing an evaluation, make sure you have permission from the key stakeholders involved.
Make sure you have the right equipment (read more at:  Storyboard as a key for videomaking) and inspect the locations where you would like to do the videotaping.  

Story boarding:
Develop your story. Formulate your goals, what is it you want to communicate?  What is the relation of your story with the evaluation you are conducting?  Who will be the audience watching the video after it will be completed? Who are you going to interview? Where would you like to interview these people? Which questions are you going to ask?  The Most Significant Change Technique might be a helpful tool to do your interviews. Keep the number of questions limited. Which other video shots do you want to take?  How many minutes will you video take?  The ratio for taping and the final product is 10:1 average.  Serendipity happens. So plan time for flexibility.

Be focused during the filming.  Have a tripod available to ensure your camera doesn't shake. Commit yourself to your story board plan, but leave time for flexibility.  Take time after each interview  to have your interviewee to check the video.  Sometimes retaping might be necessary. Carry an extra camera battery in case the filming takes a whole day.

Now it is time to order your video shots. Develop your story.  The most common software used for video editing is Adobe Premiera Elements or Final Cut Pro. Make sure you have laptop that has a fast processor. In most cases you need an external hard disk for storing your videoshots.  Make sure that you keep the video shots in the same file and NEVER move this file again!
Feedback is key for developing your story.  So organize  a group of people who can give you feedback. If you are conducting an evaluation involve a team from your stakeholders or if appropriate your interviewees. Most of the feedback can be collected online by sharing your first draft at broadcasting channel (Vimeo or Youtube).
The opening is one of the most important parts of your production. It should catch and trigger people's attention.  Mostly you select the opening, when you almost finalized the first draft.  Your best video tapes might not fit in the story. So accept you have to kill your darlings if they do not fit in the story.
After the first draft, challenge yourself to make the video 10 - 25 % shorter. And after the second draft, again another 10 - 25 %. Short video's can have a powerful impact on your audience.
The final part of your editing is to add the titles and the music. Ensure that the names are correct and that the music carries your story instead of taking away your focus and attention.  Feedback from your peergroup will be of added value in this process.

The video is completed. Now it is time to disseminate. Key question is 'How will it be disseminated?'  Who will be the audience?   And where and when will it be broadcasted?  Will it be shown at a key event?  or will it be broadcasted at a broadcasting channel (Vimeo or Youtube)? And afterwards be promoted through social media such as Facebook, Yammer or Linkedin? Or will it be used for organisational learning?  and will it only be available for network learning partners?   Or will it only be communicated to the contractholder of the evaluation?  Make sure, before you even start to do the filming, that the dissemination strategy is clear. Incorporate this dissemination strategy in the Terms of Reference or Contract before doing the evaluation.  

Video meets the future demands of stakeholders
Video as a tool for evaluation is powerful, but is a process that the contractholder and the stakeholders involved, have to feel comfortable with. Sofar, not many projects or organisations use video for evaluations. However, times and demands from stakeholders are changing. In a global world were stakeholders (both beneficiaries, investors and related parties)  ask for more transparency and accountability,  video can be a building bridge in meeting these demands. So there is still a new world to be conquered if it is about video and evaluation.  For me a challenge to be part of  the group of frontrunners in promoting video as a tool for project- and programme evaluations.


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