What initiated change? Participatory videos provide a rich part of the story!

‘Citizens are not afraid anymore to demand for their entitlements! Health service providers do listen better to the demands of their patients. The quality of the health care has significantly improved last year. The treatments have improved, people started to talk positively about the service in the clinic, service providers keep their time schedules, the ambulance service is 24 hours available, hygiene practices have improved and the clinic is clean.’

This is one of the change stories, which was shared by citizens, service providers and government officials who participated in a participatory video intervention facilitated by Redeem The Generation (RTG), a local civil society organization who supports social accountability processes in various municipalities in Ethiopia.  For the whole story consult video:   Behavioral change and service improvements on health care in Matehare, Ethiopia.

Social Accountability

Social Accountability is a process where citizens have the right to hold the service providers accountable for the services they provide and together they explore where service deficiencies need to be improved. It is a structured process where citizens take the opportunity to provide feedback to the service providers. The role of the government is to provide the conditions and part of the additional resources to enable the implementation of the changes. The process is initiated in 223 municipalities in Ethiopia, facilitated by the Ethiopian Social Accountability Program Phase 2 managed and implemented by the Vereniging Nederlandse Gemeenten International (VNG-I) in partnership with 49 grantees and 110  local civil society organizations.  The SA process supports the dialogue between service providers and service users in the domains of 1) Health; 2) Education; 3) Agriculture; 4) Water and Sanitation and 5) Rural Roads.

Participatory video

Th participatory video of RTG was one of the thirty participatory video stories, that were submitted by local civil society organizations, who participate in the Ethiopian Social Accountability Program. Representatives from 35 grantees  were trained between December 2013 and March 2015 in videomaking and facilitating participatory dialogues. Participatory video is part of the monitoring & evaluation & learning strategy of the ESAP2 program. The most appealing videos are used for capacity building and communication purposes to further raise awareness about the concept of social accountability.

Enabling factors for change and  for stakeholder capacity
All 30 participatory video interventions that were conducted between June and September, 2015 showed interesting behavioral changes and service improvements that came about as a result of the SA process. Read more about these behavioral changes and service improvements in a research paper written by a team of experts led by  Pieternella Pieterse;  ESAP2 Research Papers

The process of participatory video making created a feeling of empowerment with the stakeholders.  After watching the videos, most stakeholders felt empowered because they had reached major changes in a short time span.   Especially the feeling of partnership and cooperation was appreciated.  The application of participatory video during the phase of reflection, provided an added value, because during the implementation of the Joint Action Plan stakeholders had not realized how far they had come.  In one community, after watching and discussing the videos, the government decided to expand the social accountability process and to provide additional financial support to other schools in their municipality.  

Monitoring – learning from participatory video
Based on the videos, the CSOs analyzed the factors that had contributed to the behavioral and the service delivery changes these changes.  Some major favorable factors that contributed towards these changes  were;
  • Citizens felt empowered by asking for their entitlements, not feeling afraid anymore;
  • The service providers experienced the push from service users providers as a motivation;
  • The SA process is complementary to governmental reforms in the areas of gender, inclusion of minorities and implementing the 1 to 5 strategy (1 person transfers expertise to 5 others)
  • There has been a positive attitudinal change towards vulnerable groups, women and girls;
  • The government felt more committed to provide additional contributions, when they saw that both service users and providers were showing willingness to contribute and provide resources during the implementation;
  • Users and providers have raised awareness and clarity about each other’s roles, experienced better communication amongst stakeholders and increased their understanding of each other’s feelings and opinions.

The process of analyzing these factors was a learning process for the CSOs as well as the stakeholders in the monitoring phase . It helped to strengthen their belief in SA process implementation and it helped them take a more distant view and reflection from the day to day activities.   The creative process of PV made them enthousiastic, and this supported the capacity building of stakeholders. In addition the PV showed changes created by the SA process, which added more meaning the monitoring process.  A piece of evidence next to reports and other monitoring tools.

Challenges in using participatory video for monitoring
Through the facilitation of the PV process, it was a challenge to identify the hindering factors for change, because people in Ethiopia do not have the habit of expressing negative opinions in front of a camera.  In this context, participatory video is a medium which proved most appropriate for appreciative inquiry questions, especially where social accountability is emerging and can be perceived negatively by service providers. Hindering factors for change such as ‘limited capacity of implementing partners’,  ‘turnover of key people in the process’  and ‘limited cooperation and limited willingness to communicate amongst stakeholders’ are factors, which can more easily be identified by more anonymous monitoring and evaluation methods, such as interviews, focus group discussions and observations without using the camera.

PV  covers various purposes
PV is an empowering tool for learning, monitoring and evaluation, especially in a context where social accountability is still emerging when an appreciative inquiry approach is used.  PV makes issues visible, as it gives people a voice and issues a face. It can provide additional value to discussions, because visualization can make all the difference.  If it is captured, it can not be denied. It can provide insight in the favorable factors for change.  For the identification of hindering factors and challenges more anonymous methods are required, such as more monitoring and evaluation methods without using the camera.  Participatory video adds added value to the process of monitoring and evaluation. It captures life stories of people, it is fun and supports the capacity development and learning process of stakeholders and it is an excellent mean in further disseminating life stories to other platforms for communication purposes.  A participatory video intervention provides a rich part of the puzzle!

Simon Koolwijk
Facilitator and expert participatory video

* For more information about training opportunities in video making and facilitating video storytelling consult  Trainingcourses storytelling by video


  1. Nice article Simon! The program and its partners have really benefited in so many ways from your participatory video interventions. We'll stay in touch!


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