Facilitating video storytelling

"Seeing our group of HIV/Aids-infected people for 5 minutes on video as long as our Mayor on video, gave us the feeling that we are recognized and seen in our community.”  A women’s leader in a community in Ethiopia expressed this feeling at a community dialogue, where self-developed video stories were shared amongst stakeholders in Ethiopia, when they discussed about the changes, that had taken place in the health sector.  “Seeing ourselves on video, shows how our behavior and attitude has changed in a positive way on how we deal with challenges in the health sector. It strengthens our commitment to continue this process of dialogue amongst the service providers and service users”

This story is an example on how video storytelling can make a difference in participatory processes. Video storytelling is a method, where people who have a common topic of interest,   work together to develop a film. The participants are the directors of the film. The purpose is to help to improve the communication amongst stakeholders, where connections and visibility make the difference in the dialogue. The process of filmmaking is as important as producing the final film itself. The presence of the video camera enables participants to talk to people, which they would not meet if they would not make a movie. The method initiates bridge building to key stakeholders at the border of the system.  For example, video storytelling enabled youngsters in a Moldovan rural community to have a meeting with the Mayor, so that they could make him aware on the presence of their youth club. It was the first step to get youth issues on the agenda of the municipality.

Storytelling and the role of the facilitator
People love to tell and share stories. To transfer this into a film helps them to build and develop their creativity, social capacities to relate and to connect. It is fun to do! The film gives the group a platform to expose their stories to a wider audience and it is an effective tool to build people’s exposure and confidence.  The role of the facilitator is to enable participants to get a deeper understanding about the issues, they would like to address to a broader audience. In my career I have been most involved in projects that were related to social development such as health care, education, economic development, water & sanitation and youth development.  The presence of a self-made film by the group made a significant difference in the dialogue.

The process starts by composing the group, that will make the film.  Their first step is to share stories, followed by questions they further would like to explore and discuss with wider audiences. A good video story has clear goals and a well-elaborated script.  By some simple exercises the  participants learn some basic camera techniques on how to optimize sound, light and shoot the best frames. The facilitator plays a coaching role during these exercises,  enabling participants to give each other feedback.  In the 2nd stage the participants capture the video images, with which they would like to tell their story.  This can be done by doing interviews with a number of stakeholders or through role plays or acting as they do in real movies. After capturing,  the facilitator helps the group with editing the video, collecting feedback on the first draft and finalizing the video. Eventually the group presents the video with key stakeholders for discussion aiming to deepen understanding and catalyze change.

Video storytelling at the EMENA Conference
Generally, the process takes 3 – 5 days, if the group wants to make a film, where they shoot at different locations with stakeholders, who are not part of the video storytelling team.  It takes time to learn how to manage the camera, learn about video editing and to spot the locations to do the shooting and get appointments with the stakeholders.  At the EMENA Conference having the theme ‘Facilitative Leadership’, we managed to shoot the film in 3 hours with a group of 10 participants. During the stage of exchanging stories, it became apparent that the transformational role of the client in the facilitative process was not visible at the Conference.  (Potential) clients were not present at this conference to tell and share their part of the story. Therefore, an initial group of 4 people decided to write a script about ‘The development of a facilitative approach, that helped the client to transform’.    During the break 6 additional participants were casted as actor for the film.  One participant, who already had experience in shooting managed to shoot the story with the facilitator as a second camera man.  ‘The process of developing the story jointly and doing the acting and shooting together was fun!’ ,  expressed one of the participants. ‘Within a short time we became like an united group’.   It took the facilitator 10 hours to review and edit all the footage with the help of the core team of 4 participants, who wrote the script.  The next day, at the final plenary of the Conference, the 10-minute film was screened to the whole Conference group.  The film triggered a lot of laughter and recognition.  ‘This story shows the essence on how change can take place with our clients through the participatory approach’, expressed one of the participants. Another, ‘The boss in this film made me remind of my former boss. It felt as real’. ‘It is amazing to see, that it is possible to create a visible story that shows the transformation.  It is not always easy to explain the change a client can expect, when we start with a facilitation intervention with an organisation’, said another participant.   ‘I would love this video to show to potential clients’.    Read the article in the IAF Newsletter
Video storytelling  covers various purposes
Video storytelling is an empowering tool for learning and having dialogue on issues, where  bridge building and visualization can make all the difference.   Video storytelling  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.  It will be up to the group to decide if they would like to show their story as a non-fictional or fictional story, having a clear purpose for further discussion.  A video story intervention provides a new and different perspective in facilitating dialogue!

Simon Koolwijk
Facilitator and expert participatory video

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


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