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Participatory video

Video can be used to explore issues, tell stories, express concerns and advocate for change

Written by Ulan Garba Matta 2022

A young adult in India uses his mobile phone to video a group of laughing boys as part of a participatory video project

Making a community film in Delhi, India. Photo: Ideosync Media Combine

Three Bolivian women smile and laugh together at a training workshop

From: Participatory communication – Footsteps 117

How to provide opportunities for people to share their ideas and influence change

Participatory video is when a group or community work together to plan and create their own films. The process helps them to explore issues, tell stories, express concerns and advocate for change. 

Participatory video can:

  • inspire communities to take action based on what they discover and discuss during the video production process
  • help communities to communicate their needs and ideas to others, including local decision-makers
  • be used to share learning between communities
  • help communities reflect on the impact and effectiveness of their activities and projects.

Collective filmmaking

Here are some tips for community groups creating their own participatory videos. 

  1. Start with simple filming activities so everyone gets used to the camera. The best way to learn is by experimenting, trying new things and having fun together!
  2. Work together to develop an outline of the story you hope to tell or the issues you want to cover. This plan may change, but it will be a good guide to the conversations that you want to have. 
  3. As well as filming people, make sure you film the surrounding area to provide context. For example, the entrance to the community, fields, houses, shops and street scenes.
  4. Always ask for permission before filming people outside your group, even if you know them well. 
  5. If you are using mobile phones to film, hold them horizontally (longest side down) rather than vertically (shortest side down).
  6. Make sure that the sound quality is good if you are recording people speaking, singing or playing musical instruments etc. If it is windy, this can distort the sound. Use an external microphone if possible.
  7. Once you have a first draft of your video, show it to the wider community so they can ask questions and make suggestions. 
  8. Use these suggestions to help you complete your video. Make sure that everyone involved has a chance to see it before you share it with anyone outside your community.

Instead of videos, a series of photographs can also be used to tell a story or stimulate discussion about an issue. This may be an easier approach in some communities.

Two women in rural Ghana practise using a camera and microphone

Women in Kulbia, Ghana, learn how to use a camera. Photo: Gareth Benest/InsightShare

Case study: Widow’s cry

By Chris Lunch

Ten women from the small village of Kulbia in Ghana joined a participatory video process to explore and document the land issues affecting widows in their community.

There are an estimated 50,000 widows in the Upper East region of Ghana. Traditional practices vary, but the loss of land by women following the death of their husbands is consistent across communities.

The group from Kulbia was made up of women of different ages and experiences. All were illiterate and had never operated video equipment before. They learnt basic video skills through a series of games and exercises. And they worked together for several months to create a powerful video on corruption in the community and the resulting loss of land by those who are most vulnerable: widows.

Their short video ‘Pakorpa Susangho’ (Widow’s Cry) has been watched and discussed widely during community screenings and various national and international events. Community chiefs, civil society leaders and politicians from local and national government have attended the screenings, and many have made public promises to support widows and protect their land rights.

The widows in Kulbia have reported significant improvements in their relationships and their standing in the community. Other women have become more aware of the issues and have asked to be involved in discussions. Two community members have been inspired to train as legal assistants.

One participant said, ‘Our issues have only ever been whispered amongst ourselves, between widows. We could never have discussed our issues openly… let alone discuss them with the chief! Now our issues are being shared and we have sensed change in the air.’


Chris Lunch is the co-founder of InsightShare and leads the overall strategy, operations and financial management of the organisation.

InsightShare uses participatory video to empower citizens, enhance research and drive innovation.


  • Insights into participatory video By InsightShare
    This practical guide includes facilitator techniques and key games and exercises to promote learning. Download free of charge from or email [email protected] to buy a printed copy. Available in English, Spanish, French, Russian and Bahasa Indonesia.
  • Local fundraising - Footsteps 111
  • Participatory learning and action - Footsteps 29

Written by

Written by  Ulan Garba Matta

Ulan Garba Matta is a Nigerian filmmaker, writer and storyteller.

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