On a personal note

On a personal note

One year of work is an incredible opportunity of learning, reflecting and acting.

The transformation someone witness is immense and could be lost if not documented trough an accurate and sometimes pedant process of taking picture, filming, translating and infallibly order footage. All this and much more is the invisible work that remain in the background of the project  Citizen engagement through visual participatory processes.

I do, digital story telling for transformation, since the end of 2008, but it was during this project that had, for the first time, practised participatory video, not only but I have experimented together with Joanna and Tessa hot to move from the individual and personal experience of the DST to the collective one of a participatory video. The challenge was on find the best possible way to help the transition for people individual experience and statement on a personal event to an issue relevant for a community and to sustain the interest and the willingness to negotiate around ideas, planning a storyboard for a film of 9-10 minutes long, filming editing, and distributing it.

The key was in the power analysis, the revers engineering of a digital story. Usually storytellers do not have the practice or the opportunity to come back again in the group, with all or some of their original storytellers companion to reflect upon their own stories. The common moment at the end of the workshop, the final screening, is most of all a celebration for the accomplishment and it also sign, inevitably the end of the journey.

Here, during this journey, trainers and participants met once more for the participatory video workshop and each of them had to go back to his/her own story to look at it and using the power matrix understand which powers among the 4: power within, power over, power to and power with was the most present and why.

They had to search, to dive into their story to understand drivers and breaks and name it, and after that to start constructing a common discourse around these forces that where unique but at the same time part of the others stories too. And the possibility to “face” and catch the hidden common thread was surfaced by the collective reflection don on the filming of each exercise. This continuous looking at yourself and  the others trough role plays, dramas, drawing and interviewing allow each of us to understand and recognize the emerging plot of different potential movies.

The negotiation around the ideas happened in the course of the last day and half of the workshop and brought the participants to define their own affinity and affiliate with one of the three emerging films ideas:

Activism: how, why, how much of it is present in our  society? Our target group are activists, and persons in dilemma on activism, whether to act, or not. We will use parody, interviews, and drama. We plan to focus on three cases, which are fresh and exemplary. The first case is our case with stripping down of election posters placed illegally, where, incredibly, we had to go to court, unlike other much bigger cases which never reached a court. The second case is case of organization from Sarajevo, where one of the members decided to react to discriminatory parts of a blood donor form that forbid lesbian to donate blood, and the third case is case of organization from Banja Luka who got into trouble with the law because of posting a banner and stickers in the town. (Leila Šeper=


We will show three stories of civil initiatives. The first story is optimistic version and will show that cooperation between citizens, or NGOs, and municipality authorities is, in fact, possible.  The second story will show obstacles that groups of citizens of NGOs starting an initiative meet, fight with administrative obstacles or political interests in trying to achieve their ideas. The third story will refer to stereotypes citizens havethat cooperation with municipality is not possible, or brings no results. So an open question on how to make this cooperation happen. (Snežana Misić Mihajlović)


Title of our film is „young, educated, unemployed“. Our target group are young people, authorities, primarily municipal ones, employers, and legislators. We will make movie in municipalities of Doboj and Gračanica. our topic is abuse of human resources, young people with university education, and inefficient use of public resources.  The message we want to give with the film is to amend the law, and to prepare young people to what awaits them, and tell them to stand united and fight for their position. We will combine documentary with interviews. (Elma Mujkić)

Looking backward, I can say that the participatory video workshop follow a precise storyboard even if invisible and subtle and facilitate the emergence of the common thread present in the personal stories, the struggle experimented by all participants with the power matrix would probably gone lost without the incredible help provided by the continuous practise of filming each exercise which was fixing like in a mirror all the commonalities, divergence helping to make possible choice. Like with a Babushka we succeed to reach the core and once identified was easier to build around it the collective ideas.

It remain a matter of fact the we enjoyed, laugh at each other, drank a lot of coffee and count on the trust build trough each workshop and story wispered during the workshop and the breaks.

Almost everyone said that it made them view their lives differently

“One of the most satisfying things about organising the digital storytelling workshops was hearing from the participants about the exhilaration they felt at having created a story about themselves. Almost everyone said that it made them view their lives differently and value themselves more, and from what we could gather, made them feel much more special. Most participants said that they couldn’t believe that they themselves had sat at a computer and used video-editing software to produce their film. They were thrilled not only at having produced a personal artefact, but also felt tremendous confidence in having learnt new technical skills”

Samia Rahim, (2012) Digital Storytelling in Bangladesh: Experiences, Challenges and Possibilities, IDS Bulletin, 43: 5

Transformative stories

“When people connect to political issues through personal stories, they see them in a different way. They don’t just see democracy in the abstract, they see ‘my democracy.’ The transformative potential of storytelling is written into the fabric of our lives.”Joanna Wheeler

Joanna Wheeler talked about Unlocking the transformative potential of storytelling in a recent Open Democracy article. The following summary is edited from Joanna’s Open Democracy post.

Joanna explains how people can understand democracy differently when they connect to political issues through personal stories. They don’t just see democracy as an  abstract concept, they see how it is relevant to them on a daily basis. Although stories may not provide all the answers, she emphasises that what is gained through their telling is important for social justice and democracy. They connect us to issues and to one another through the power of a narrative and the experience of empathy.

In 2013, she and Tessa Lewin helped to lead a collaborative process with citizens’ groups and government employees IDS partners MDPi and OneWorldSEE. They designed and supported a process that used creativity and technology to help people tell their stories about their experience of local governance (pdf). They called it ‘creative citizen engagement through storytelling’ and the examples bring to life the transformational power of stories. Telling a story in a safe space can be cathartic, revelatory, healing and empowering. It can also be unsettling, uncomfortable, and painful.  A collective process of creating and sharing stories becomes a crucible that helps to resolve these conflicting emotions. Furthermore Joanna’s insights provide an interesting reflection on how connections are made between personal stories and collective issues which are political, in the sense that they address relations of power. Read more about Participatory Visual Methods  and the work in Bosnia Herzegovina onparticipatorymethods.org.

Participate Digital Storytelling Facilitator Training, Abuja

Hosted by Participate network member, The Theatre for Development Centre in Abuja, Nigeria the workshop brought together 5 organisations from across the 18 member network. Over 5 days the training took participants through a process of producing their own digital story and built their capacity to implement the process themselves. Concrete plans for implementation of digital storytelling activities were developed during the workshop.

The aim of of this workshop was to explore the power of mutual learning between global participatory network members in methodological exchange and innovation.

[Download Digital Storytelling Workshop Agenda]


  • Methodological conversations: The workshop brought together participatory practitioners with diverse experiences to strengthen the digital storytelling process – including skills in other methods of creative expression such as theatre for development and participatory photography.
  • The process also contributed to network building, growing solidarity and and partnerships for social action between members of Participate’s network.

Participant story – Professor Jenkeri Okwori

What Jenks enjoyed and found challenging about digital storytelling?


Theatre is Sunlight is the film Jenks made when he was a participant in the Participate2015 training workshop for digital storytelling facilitators.


Through his work on good governance and accountability with the Theatre for Development Centre in Nigeria Prof. Jenkeri went on to run a digital storytelling process, The Theatre for Development Centre used their experience with drama to support creative expression in the storytelling process. Dramatic scenes were enacted to help participants have creative input to their stories, and to enable a safe environment for exploring the issues.

Mardhiyyah Abbas is a film from this process hosted by participate2015 on Vimeo.

Follow up case study: Family for Every Child and networked learning