Participatory video workshops, from individual learning to collective advocacy

Participatory video was for me an exciting adventure. I like it because there is video, but there are negotiations. There is an issue and the technology is again just one mean to make people thinking, talking, and advocate within the process, and then for the process and for changes. So I would say video, images, technology, negotiations and stories.

valentina hvale pelliizzer

co-facilitator and participant, OneWorld - platform for Southeast Europe (OWPSEE) Foundation

I think the essence is that a PV is a process where several people meet in order to use the technology, the video, the sound, but the main thing is to make a message, to send a message, to provoke a discussion, to provoke free thinking, but all in a process which includes speaking about the topic, which includes negotiations, which includes finding a solution and in that sense I think it is very interesting and I liked it very much.

Zoran Petrović

Participant, MDPI Iniciative

About the project

Organisation: Centre for Management, Development and Planning – MDP Initiatives (MDPi)

Place: Doboj, Bosnia and Herzegovina

For more than ten years, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has supported citizen participation and local governance projects in BiH.  This project was developed as a form of ‘capitalisation’: a chance to look back and learn from the progress made so far and to generate lessons for the future.
The project brought together diverse groups of citizens, civil society organizations and local government.  It opened spaces for participants to reflect, learn and discuss issues including citizenship, participation and democracy.  It built their skills in technology, communication and visual methods.  It encouraged them to be creative and playful, and to put their own experiences, imaginations and emotions into their stories.
A unique feature of the project has been its combination of digital storytelling, used to illicit individual narratives about participants’ perspectives on participation and local governance; and participatory video, used by a smaller group of participants to collectively analyze and synthesize the stories created through the digital storytelling process. (Source: Citizenship in BiH, visual story of change)

process pipeline by Tessa Lewin

process pipeline by Tessa Lewin

The project produced 22 digital stories and three participatory videos, six interviews with mayors that where, during those ten years involved as partner in the MDPI initiatives programs and I Am Allowed: Training Digital Storytellers a short video about participants’ reflections on digital storytelling and Throwing a Rock at the Moon, a documentary produced about the project.

This case study will focus on the learning originated by the two consecutive workshops done to introduce trainers and participants to the participatory video methodology. The workshops apart for build the capacity of participants helped to identify and develop the ideas for three collectives videos on specific aspects of democracy and governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Objectives of the participatory video process

After the Digital Story Telling (DST) workshops – Training of Trainers, 3 workshops with local stakeholders and interviews with mayors – the first PV workshop was organized with selected participants from the previous DST workshops. In the period January – February 2013, MDPi team was in frequent and intensive communication with potential participants: all DST trainers were invited and five of them attended the PV workshop, DST participants were invited and four of them confirmed participation (2 from Doboj and 2 from Gračanica).
The workshop took place in two parts: Training of Trainers for PV took place on 26 and 27 February 2013 with participation of DST trainers and the first PV workshop took place on 28 February – 2 March 2013.
The first training was providing understanding of participatory video methodology and acquiring of additional technical skills. The second one on identification of specific ideas and creation of teams for the development of the short films.

Overall objectives for both training were:

  • Use digital stories as the basis of a dialogue and discussion about ‘unsayable’ issues that influence governance in BiH
  • Use participatory analysis (including power analysis) to contextualise and situate the messages from the digital stories in relation to the local realities in BiH, including in relation to SDC’s programmes
  • Move from individual to collective narratives about how change happens in the Bosnian context (and/or what stops it from happening)
  • Articulate messages for external audiences about local governance and citizenship that participants judge to be important
  • Develop a strategy for communicating with stakeholders within BiH using the participatory videos and DSTs (where consent is given)
  • Enhance the ICT skills of participants gained through DST with additional skills in filming and video-making
  • Providing a training of trainer dimension for DST trainers who wish to take to use participatory video in future
  • Generate powerful participatory videos that can be used to create public debate in Bosnia about governance

Planning and training workshop

During this workshop participants improved the IT and visual methods skills acquired at DST workshops. DST trainers particularly strengthened their skills through the PV ToT which was an added value to the whole process and much appreciated by DST trainers. This activity was not originally planned in the project but was essential to ensure leadership in the realization of the short films and the ability to sustain and facilitate the overall process of filming.

Below a sample of the TOT  day one agenda:

Training of Trainers (TOT) – Day one







Introduction to agenda, Process, Framing questions, Definition of participatory video Trainers Projector and flipchart Screen DSTs here


Screening of digital stories Group discussion

Stories organized, sound/projector,

Handout with framing questions

  • Discussion of reactions

  • Discussion of technical aspects



Name game All in circle Camera, hand-held mic Screening: technical notes on mics, framing


Introduce an object 2 groups of 3 Tripods, cameras, no sound

Objects: red heart mirror, hat, glove, ?

Use maximum number of types of shots


Video comic strip 2 groups of 3 different grouping Flip chart paper, cameras, tripods

3-5 square story board,

use story cubes (3 each group?)

shot variation, storyboarding technique


Discussion of framing question: brainstorming initial ideas Trainers Flip chart, circle


Drama to develop 2 ideas 2 groups Cover zoom mic (omni/uni)




2 groups Flip charts

Discuss narrative, how will you show, division of roles

Cover roles (director, producer, camera, sound, editor)



Story circle to discuss 2 storyboards Trainers facilitate plenary

Designing a narrative

How to shot/communicate the narrative

detailed planning using storyboarding techniques, understanding the production process

[if there are more ideas, need to agree on the number of films to be made]


Filming 2 groups While groups work ensure filming or for documenting

Numerous exercises were organized for participants to learn new IT skills, advance their knowledge about use of visual methods and acquire basic filming skills. Specifically, participants learned how to use the camera and tripod, set the light, frame shots and use various shots, think visually, improve storyboarding techniques (building up on the DST workshop), dramatize a chosen theme, perform in different roles (director, producer, camera/ light, sound, editor), communicate messages in visual way to the peers, etc.

The exercise for power analysis by means of visual methods was an innovative way to address the underlying issues in each story. It was demanding but challenging and useful for all participants. Dramatization of selected digital stories in groups showed high understanding of all participants about forms of power and a link was made between DST and future PV products.

I was going through a period of transition, where I started seeing myself as a responsible part of this society.  I didn’t mind if being alone I was worth as ten people sitting in the municipality, but I minded more about existence of two sides.  I think this is very important for democracy, that there are more sides and they find a civilized language in solving their problems.

Leila Šeper

Participant, Akcija građana (Citizen in action)

I think the most important reason the power lines move up and down, are us individuals.  It all depends on our personal involvement, how in fact are we ready to contribute and influence changes in our community, how much are we ready to get engages, to raise awareness in our authorities, to find a way to

Arnela Mujić

Participant, Municipality of Gračanica, department of public relations

The power analysis exercise: exploring different forms of power
During the participatory video workshops, participants used drama to reflect on the different forms of power they saw in the digital stories. These included the power within individuals; the collective power of groups; the power to create change; and the power held over others by those in control of decisions and resources. Participants also used visual icons and mapping exercises to explore the ways in which these forms of power connected and changed in their own stories.
The exercise provided an important bridge between digital storytelling and participatory video in the project. Participants were able to move beyond the personal narratives of the digital stories to consider wider issues of power and politics in BiH, while still thinking visually and creatively. Through discussing these issues, participants identified the themes for their participatory videos.  An intense, challenging and thought-provoking exercise, it provided strong insights into underlying issues of democracy in BiH, and was significant for participants themselves and their subsequent stories.

Once the broad narrative was agreed, participants used a storyboard technique, in which the film is divided into 6-9 squares, and they draw or describe the scene for each square. They also discussed and planned if they would combine documentary filming (interviews, dialogues, narrations) with dramatization or use them independently. The storyboard was also used to allocate roles for the filming process (director,  camera, sound, actor, etc.). The last day of the workshop was used to discuss consent and ethics but also to discuss how participants want to use the films and who they plan to show the films. After the workshop each team had 3 week period for filming and a production workshop during which a peer review took place and each team define the details of the film and work on the editing learning in this particular case hot to use pinnacle a professional video editing software that was chosen for its affordability and easiness as tool.

In my story the power, varied whether I react or  just think about reacting. When I actually start to do something, I attribute a very high level of power to myself, on the other hand, when I just ponder or ask myself questions, I attribute a very low level of power. For those who pass and give comments, they had a good potential at the beginning of the story, but as the story continue their level of power decrease. Perhaps the graffiti is the most powerful one, it influenced my awareness the most and have ultimately made me go into action.

Leila Šeper

Participant, Akcija građana (Citizen in action)


During the workshop, participants had to discuss and agree a narrative for the film(s) they want to make.  This involved a first phase of looking at their own digital story and after that, filming the individual comments and looking at that for an additional collective discussion. Each participant using the power metrics worked on a “deconstruction” of his/her own individual story to identify key elements and commonalities that could constitute the common ground for the identification of a collective issues and team ready to work further on the development of an idea and after that on the realization of the short film. The workshop was very intense and exercise where thought as a combining the reflection process with the concrete learning of video techniques, so that each participants had the chance during the all process to not only use and manipulate equipment but also to test and experiment the different roles a video production require.

PV workshop group photo

PV workshop group photo

Even do all participants in their comments were recognizing the challenge of negotiating the fact they had already been working together and the common experience of developing their own personal story constituted and invaluable ground of mutual trust that helped to overcome differences and set an open atmosphere a willingness to dialogue and explore each others suggestions.

Once the broad narrative was agreed, participants used a storyboard technique (illustration below), in which the film is divided into 6-9 squares, and they draw or describe the scene for each square. They also discussed and planned if they would combine documentary filming (interviews, dialogues, narrations) with dramatization or use them independently. The storyboard was also used to allocate roles for the filming process (director,  camera, sound, actor, etc.). The last day of the workshop was used to discuss consent and ethics but also to discuss how participants want to use the films and who they plan to show the films. After the workshop each team had 3 week period for filming and a production workshop during which a peer review took place and each team define the details of the film and work on the editing learning in this particular case hot to use pinnacle a professional video editing software that was chosen for its affordability and easiness as tool.

Filming period and production workshop

At the end of this workshop, participants divided into 3 groups and agreed on making films on 3 different themes as presented in the table below.


 Title: Young, educated and … unemployed

 Storytellers: Zoran Petrović (MDPi Project Assistant, Doboj), Arnela Mujić (PR Officer, Gračanica), Elma Mujkić (Member of Youth Association, Gračanica), Bojan Dević (Strategic Planning Officer, Doboj)

 Misuse of human resources / young highly educated people and inefficient spending of public finances

 Local authorities;

Young people who graduated or still study;

Employers who engaged or plan to engage interns;

Law-makers (in relation to legislation on internships)




 Documentary film.

Narration, interviews with graduates and students, persons at the Office for unemployed, showing town, coffee shops, newspaper articles , etc.

 Title: Cacophony

 Storytellers: Slađana Bukejlović (Actress and Theatre Director, Doboj), Snežana Mišić (MDPi Project Manager, Doboj), Njegoš Šumatić (Freelance, Doboj)

 Identification of barriers for civic initiatives on the side of authorities (administrative, political) and the citizens (self-censorship)

 Local authorities;

Local NGOs;



Doboj Istok

 Documentary film.

Narration, presentation f several cases studies, i.e. successful and non-successful civic initiatives through interviews with NGOs and authorities who have experience with civic initiatives (drawing on several digital stories).

 Title: Generator

 Storytellers: Leila Šeper and Darijan Bilić (Activists from Akcija Građana, Sarajevo)

How much, why and where we have citizen activism?

Encouragement of civic activism in the BiH situation where authorities do not work in the public interest




Banja Luka;


 Parody, interviews, drama.

Filming period
The filming period lasted three weeks, during this period, participants had planned according to their storyboard, (although they can film the storyboard in any order).  They had to agree about who takes responsibility for the cameras and how they will get all of the footage they need and in this way reduce editing time later.

Production workshop
The production workshop saw each team familiarize with the chosen software (Pinnacle) but most importantly screening the footage and reviewing the material together while doing a ‘paper edit’. This exercise helped to identify which elements that have been filmed are to label using on post-its and then in the group and also trough a peer review exercise to agrees on how to order these.  Each participants have be involved into9998 the actual digital editing of the film(s).  At the end of the production workshop the rough version of the film is screened to the participants for discussion and comment and further changes can be made if necessary.

The films

Once the films were edited, all participants had receive a DVD with a copy of their own and all otehr films and digital story telling realized during the entire process.
Several community screenings had take place. The films are upload on the initiative Vimeo channel and are further distributed and used by participants in their activities as a tools for diologue and conversations with different audiences.




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...

It is not the first time for me to use a camera and a microphone, I have some experience in that regard. The entire process was very important for me, from the idea to the final product. I find it very important to go through the entire process.  Before, when I was doing it alone, I didn’t take the process seriously, I either started from the end toward the beginning, or from the middle towards the end. It is much clear to me now how to put everything together in order to make it right and correct. I see a lot of potential in this medium because it can be used not just for a comment after the end of some event, but it can also be used for advocating a change, campaign, rights of individuals, rights of marginalized groups, animal rights etc. So, I basically see a lot of potential and this was very useful for me. Thank you.

Darijan Bilić

Participant, Akcija Građana (Citizen in action)