Storytelling by video as a tool for building bridges

Collecting personal stories can provide some interesting insights on what is going on in a project or a community.  In june 2013, I worked for two weeks with  This organization, based in Salon de Provence – France, aims to strengthen organisations and structures of social work in applying participatory video for building social cohesion amongst people or communities. trains social workers, teachers, trainers who work with groups or communities. Their work is mainly based in France, but also participates in projects in Africa and Canada. Video productions are disseminated through their webtv channel at

Storytelling  by local entrepreneurs
Marseille – Provence has been designated in 2013 as cultural capital of Europe. Under the name MP13 various cultural activities are organized in Marseille and neighboring cities (Aix en Provence, Arlon, Salon de Provence) to promote the region in France and to other European countries. In the context of these festivities, we (I and  decided to create a serie of 8 video productions with the theme ‘Votre Mètier’ =  ‘Your Profession’.  Main aims were:
  1. To demonstrate examples of entrepreneurs in Salon de Provence showing their history, passion and why they decided to be based in Salon de Provence;
  2. To get a deeper insight in the entrepreneurs in the community to enable to build bridges in understanding;
  3. To practice with creating video productions.
One of my personal aims was to practice my French. 

For two weeks I worked with an intern. We decided to select ‘Storytelling’ as a tool for collecting the video stories. The video ‘Lessons from a Tailor’ was one of our inspirational videos, that helped us to develop the scenario.  Watch the video at:
In order to accomplish our aims, we asked the entrepreneurs the following guiding questions;
  • ·         What duties are you performing for your profession?
  • ·         What are you passionate about in your profession?
  • ·         How has your profession evolved?
  • ·         Share an anecdote or a special story marking the history of your business?
  • ·         What have you learned over the years?
  • ·         Why did you decide to have your business in Salon de Provence?
We had interviews with  a Hotelkeeper, a Pastry Chef, a Masseuse, a Greengrocer, a Hardware Dealer,  a Shoemaker, an Independent Trader in Interior and a Bookseller. During the production process we received feedback and suggestions from colleagues from by sharing our impressions and visuals.  A compilation of all video stories can be watched at the youtube channel  of Simon Koolwijk.   Watch one of the videos --- The Hotelkeeper:

The process helped to build bridges with the entrepreneurs and gave more insight in their passions and beliefs. The project also provided an opportunity to demonstrate the diversity of entrepreneurship in the City of Salon de Provence. Each entrepreneur having a different story, but all having the City as residential place in common.  The project provided us to practice and experiment with the tool of storytelling.

Participatory video projects
One of the participatory video projects from, that created high impact and caught my attention is about the ‘Beliefs from men and women’.   Watch the serie at ‘Croises d’hommes et de femmes’.  In this project women interview the men on how they perceive their role in the family and the society. This project was aimed at building bridges and improve understanding between men and women in various urban areas in France.
This project was started by social workers in sub-urban areas in France. They took about one year to build up relationships with families having relational problems. After building up peer-to-peer groups, after one year the women decided they wanted to make a participatory video where they wanted to interview the men on how they perceive their role. After that some of the productions were shared in groups discussions and local television debates. In France this is called ‘Plateau Participative’.   One video that was applied is called ‘Temoignages del Rio’.  The project generated a lot of discussions and supported the process of having better understanding between men and women.

Storytelling as a tool for evaluation
Video stories can have a powerful impact during an evaluation.  An important condition is that the stories are embedded under a common structure, with clear goals and are applied for in-depth discussions between different stakeholders in the evaluation process.  While comparing the various video stories,  the videos having more different interviewees show more perspectives and catch more attention while discussing sensitive issues.  Stories with one key actor show an impression and a feeling. These stories can be a reference point for discussions between different stakeholders.  Video stories are excellent evidence for evaluation methods such as the ‘Most Significant Change’ or ‘Anecdotical Evidence method’   or ‘Outcome Harvesting’ (Zaitun’s Story).    These are qualitative methods which support quantitative data collection techniques and generate new perspectives and deeper understanding for  discussion during participative evaluation processes.


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