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  • Niniu Oligao

    I was part of a participatory video production in a community in Vanuatu towards the end of 2013. Yes, it was very inspiring when we put the cameras in the hands of those which we wanted to get their stories told and they documented themselves. And we were there to assist them.

  • Kris Giere

    In my family, storytelling has always been valuable. However, the best stories come directly from the source of the experience. Empowering people to share their stories is, in my opinion, a great way to cultural understanding and sharing.

  • Dana Montenegro

    I think a good model can be found in the film Caine's Arcade that documented the immense creativity of a young boy who turned a bunch of boxes in his father's store into analog arcade games. The film maker got the community to show up to play his games as a way to honor him for his efforts and help him realize his dream. The next step is what is interesting: the film maker set up a pay pal account so that people who viewed the film could donate to this 10 year olds college fund (which is now MORE than covered.)

    What I like:
    1) The film maker got involved. In this case in making a kids come true. In more complex cases maybe film makers can work with their subjects to develop solutions, prototype them and document that as well.
    2) This film maker made sure that the light the shined on their subject was quickly attached to a way for people to get involved in a fundraising kind of way. I think this is a smart and viral approach and feeds into people's desire to what to help.

  • Susan Rooney-Harding

    I total agree that empowering people to tell their own story is very powerful, it is way to give back by up skilling and to telling the story untainted, from their perspective instead of ours. I have been facilitating these sorts of workshops for sometime with amazing results. In my experience what I have found is that to capture great story from the community you need to design great content creation projects, this i have been doing from some years - check out some of the projects that I have done (most of the content on my website is made in conjunction with community members -

    • Jordan Bryon

      Checked out your site, you offer quite the comprehensive package! Awesome!

  • Erin Levin

    Amen! I am donating 100% of film profits to the subject of my film, "imba means sing" to the African Children's Choir for their work on the ground in seven African nations!

  • eM Kay

    I love the notion of reversing the gaze, novel yet obvious!

  • Peter Fruhmann

    I think this article is also a good reminder and example of thinking / applying ethics and transparency towards the story tellers when harvesting stories. I like this: 'empowerment through participation'. Good thinking!

  • Elizabeth Luik

    The power of story telling is really a wonderful, magical gift to share with others like in the "LITTLE PRINCESS" where a little girl needs to go to a Boarding School in England during WW!. This little child is trumatized by the Head Maere in how "in sensentive"she is to "human rights". & the children there are Girls.

  • Barbara Bryon

    i particularly lik your thoughts about being a facilitator. it's too easy to be paternalistic just because we perceive people need our help.

    • Jordan Bryon

      Conduit is probably even better than facilitator.

  • EstebanMdelCampo

    Storytelling does have the power to change societies in the long run but they can also create a better informed society,…one person at a time. These are the type of stories that interest me for my new magazine, a magazine focused on helping the small business and community. I'm looking for writers, If interested in participating please send me your info at

  • Elysa Voshell

    Giving people the tools to tell their own stories is immensely powerful. Venice Arts (, the nonprofit that I work for, runs participatory storytelling projects with youth and adults at our home base in Los Angeles and around the world. A team of filmmakers just got back from Senegal, where we worked with participants and the incredible NGO Tostan on three participatory films. More information about that project can be found here:

    We also have numerous free resources on participatory storytelling and media education on the library section of our website, for those interested in tools for developing their own participatory storytelling projects.

  • frostythesnowman

    Yah! everything MOVES in me as I read this. Having participated last night in the
    spontaneous moving s shared as I chose the seat across the table from an unknown man who is homeles,

  • almendral3

    This is a fantastic way to approach providing some reward for sharing. I've participated in debates before about how to compensate participants, or "subjects" of a documentary. Many people don't understand why outright payment can complicate things and muddle the integrity of the documentation. Already, as soon as a camera is turned on, some level of authenticity can be lost. Payment can alter the story much more detrimentally. Participation & collaboration could be a great way to involve these storytellers, and to benefit their communities. I look forward to hearing more. Thank you!

  • storytellerkp

    As a Storyteller I work diligently to help others share their stories in the interest of generating a sense of place, pride and peace with their own cultures and with others. I'm so invested in this work that I sold my home & most possessions to create/facilitate the volunteer project in Belize in 2005; this year it expands as I volunteer in Kenya, Ghana & India starting in June.The program involves building relationships and friendships; learning local cultural stories, teaching the teachers the stories and a simple creative writing exercise they share with their students so they are passing the stories to the next generation both orally and in written form, it's been well received. I've donated programs for 33,340 students and trained 800 teachers so far. It's created understanding between, another important need & goal. I believe if More of us use the Gift of Storytelling to Build Bridges Between and to Empower, we can create a better world. Stories have incredible Power in them, this has been know for thousands of years, sometimes forgotten and then once again remembered. Stories can Unite us or Tear us apart. Let us use story to Unite.

  • Patrick Davey

    Here in Ireland we have had the Folk Law Commission which for 80 years collected stories and music which is now a fantastic archive for all.
    While setting up Mountains of the Moon University in Uganda I hoped to establish a School of African studies to Study African history and life from the INSIDE and also very importantly to collect stories, especially from the older generation. AIDS has devastated the country and many of the middle generation have gone, the population is much more mobile and liable to be living in a different language area making communication between generations much more difficult so there is a very real danger of history being lost because until very recently it was an oral culture. When a country, like a person, loses their history they lose their identity with all the problems of alienation and social disruption that result.
    The School is set up and is doing usefull work but it does not have the resources to do the extensive outreach needed for story collection.
    Any Ideas?

  • graceadams830

    Maslow's hierarchy of needs--some are so destitute that they need first physical safety and second basic life needs like air water food. Once those two bottom levels of need are more or less met, most humans have some drive to contribute to the future of society--whether of their own children and grandchildren or by some recognition of the Commons, the heritage each generation inherits from the one before and leaves as a heritage to the next generation for better or worse. The chance to participate in telling the story might be a satisfying way to contribute to the Common heritage.

    • Jordan Bryon

      Hey Grace! Maslow's hierarchy of needs is an interesting one because it suggests people who are 'destitute' can't experience self-actualizaton. I personally think Maslow's hierarchy is too simplistic. I've worked with 'destitute' folk and they were totally still working towards the upper segments of Maslow's hierarchy.

      • graceadams830

        Does "destitute" mean still either fleeing for one's life from physical danger or too hungry to think about anything else or does it merely mean having income less than half of the median income of the society in which one lives? In the United States the overall standard of living is high enough that even with a Gini index well in the forties, about twice as many are poor in the sense of income less than half the median income as in the sense of still struggling with the first two levels of Maslow's hierarchy too much to pay attention to anything else.

  • helsinki_wolverine

    It's true that journalism doesn't always offer returns or solutions for its subjects -- and at its worst, sells magazine subscriptions by exploiting suffering and pain. Even the readers are often left with feelings of guilt and helplessness, rather than an empowered plan of action. Stories can't always save us in a direct cause-and-effect way, no matter if it's the subject "participating" in the writing or a trained journalist doing all of the communications.

    Yet, a descriptive, thoughtful story can help us understand someone else's difficult life and enlarge our empathy. In order to gain understanding, the story must be told in an effective way. This requires narrative craft and artistry. The drawback of "participatory storytelling" is that a subject can't always express the reality of their life in an effective way.

    I agree storytelling should always be a collaborative effort between writer and subject, but it makes sense that the writer gets to communicate that story to to the world. The hard work and intuitive gift of narrative craft is a more effective mechanism to make a story heard and felt.

    • nina.infinitefreedom

      I like this statement. Yet, a descriptive, thoughtful story can help us understand someone else's difficult life and enlarge our empathy. I'm dreaming about making a documentary about mental illness in America and I'm a little scared it would increase fear of mental illness instead of increasing empathy. I'm hoping it will increase understanding and possibly even empathy, and get rid of some of the stigmal. Here is a sample of me doing a interview on myself. pt 1 pt 2

  • Britt

    I'm totally with you regarding the value and importance of participatory storytelling.

    But what are good alternative methods when you don't have the ability to put the camera in the interviewees hands so to speak? For folks who've made narrative pieces with people who may feel marginalized - what have you found to be other positive ways to compensate them for their time and energy if you don't do the full-blown participatory method of storytelling?

    • Jordan Bryon

      This is an awesome question. I've been in this situation too. Firstly and most importantly there should be a screening for the people involved. This is such a simple thing but it's remarkable (deplorable?)how many artists / film makers don't do it. Screenings and giving contributors their own copy should be standard practice. An update on how the project is going after its release can also award a sense of ownership to contributors. Maybe even give the people a copy of their whole interview before it was cut, or offer to shoot and print some photos of them. There are loads of ways really! It's just about being kind!

  • mel.eden87

    this brilliant, make way for the future, let all be involved. POWER TO THE PEOPLE :) he he

  • Arthur Grau

    Participatory story telling is ideal. Thanks for this short but insightful piece. Having worked with diverse groups in digital production, one difficulty I discovered is that of getting work that is high quality and consistent. Some production training and some oversight are essential if you want a production that people will see and identify with. Putting an image or sound recorder in the hand of the subject is not enough. Using broad themes, technical assistance, style guides and dailies can go a long way toward building a production worth watching or listening to.

    • courtney.h

      I agree. Like the author mentions, it should be "story facilitator." I just completed a project for an urban development class and it was about participatory approaches in community development. In many cases, once you grant ownership of a piece of land, the beneficiaries do the rest (quickly, efficiently, to their culture desires, cheaply, they pool resources, etc). It's amazing and I think people will do incredible things with only a little facilitation from others.

  • GroundUp Global

    We love this! Participatory story-telling is precisely what GroundUp Global has sought to do through the Ushahidi Crowdmap. The Reclaim Rights crowdmap provides Liberian refugees in Ghana with an open platform where they can share their stories in whatever words they choose. We trained computer-literate men and women on the camp to be Crowdmap Ambassadors, they in turn transcribed for refugees who were illiterate and wished to share their stories. The entire project was conducted with local Liberian-run CBO and long-time organization partner, SCHEFO.!refugee-voices/c1wdu

  • Annie Brulé

    Participatory storytelling is the highest form of storytelling: it brings integrity to the process, and usually leads to creative and unexpected ideas and results! The Chiapas Media Project ( and Longhouse Media ( train native Mexican/Oaxacan and Native American youth and citizens to tell their own stories using digital technology. Both are fantastic examples of participatory storytelling in action.

    —Annie Brulé (participatory mapping specialist, Seattle, WA)

  • Renee Franzwa

    As an educator who keeps a heavy hobby in digital video, I like to give cameras to my students. I did this in Ecuador for a summer and it was incredible to witness. I asked the students to evaluate their environment (ocean, forests, lakes, food, animals, the people and energy usage) through video- interview people and tell their own story of how they interact with the land, air, water. The students were empowered, learned a ton about human impact on the planet and also gained skills in video and editing. Most importantly though- to your point, Jordan- it was entirely owned by the people in the videos.
    Perhaps there is a marketplace for such projects, that my group por ejemplo, could receive funding for community projects?

    • aliebol

      wow that sounds like an amazing project props to you for starting that! How did you find the school you taught at?

  • jwoodard

    I agree that it is extremely important for educational and awareness videos to be participatory, rather than simply extractive. Under the USAID project I work on, I've developed a toolkit for development practitioners to use to help them use video in ways that are more participatory. Although the focus is for agricultural extension, it can really be applied to any sector of development. The toolkit can be found online at The organization InsightShare also does some good participatory video work in a number of countries.

    • Lindsey Smith

      Thanks for sharing these useful sights. I enjoyed reading InsightShare's case studies. As for the toolkit, I also think it is important to work with the individuals in the story to develop questions. Then, a director will know what stories a participant wants to tell. The video may then be a more realistic of his or her life.

  • Phillip

    Empowering by offering a channel for unheard voices is a great idea. I also think the hard questions you and the woman were asking should be addressed, even if it can't be answered right away. Gives us something to ponder.

    By giving them control, we get a genuine storyteller’s perspective, plus they’re empowered through participation, not representation—which is the only solution to marginalization anyway.

    I'm wondering if you've considered creating a specific platform available to these storytellers for the delivery of their narratives.

  • Yasha Wallin

    Nice idea. How would participatory storytelling work exactly? Have you tried it out in places like Dharavi? I'm also curious how you answered the woman's questions who interviewed you...