Tamara (centre) and workshop participants in the Children in a Changing Climate 'Youth Voices from the Frontline' project in Indonesia. Photo by Ng Swan Ti.
Tamara (centre) and workshop participants in the Children in a Changing Climate 'Youth Voices from the Frontline' project in Indonesia. Photo by Ng Swan Ti.

In communication for social change and development contexts, Participatory Video (PV) is celebrated as an effective way to help people incommunities tell their stories.

However, the extent to which these stories are listened to, and able to affect structural change, is much less clear.

Exploring the link between PV and political engagement for meaningful citizen impact has just earned the Centre’s Tamara Plush her PhD.

In conducting her study, Tamara specifically focused on the experiences of PV facilitators, a group that had largely escaped research attention.

“Very little [previous research] focused on the PV practitioners themselves and the powerful role they play in international development in designing, gathering funding for and facilitating PV projects,” she says.

“I was interested in how their conceptualisations of ‘using PV to raise citizen voice’ might influence PV’s potential to sufficiently fulfill this aspiration.”

Tamara interviewed 25 global practitioners who had worked on more than 650 PV projects between them.

As one part of the research, Tamara asked her research participants to draw a storyboard of their ideal scenario of using PV to raise citizen voice.

“I found the drawings, and the discussions about them, fascinating, especially as the analysis helped me identify three differing views of PV practice I called ‘amplified’, ‘engaged’ and ‘equitable’ voice,” she says.

"The distinctions led to a conceptual framework for PV linked to the characteristics of an ‘equitable’ voice viewpoint.

"The results and framework have directly affected how I think about and approach my practice, and I’m thankful to the PV practitioners who participated.”

Tamara says narrowing down the focus of her research was not easy.

“One of the greatest challenges in my PhD journey was for my supervisors, Elske van de Fliert and Lynda Shevellar, in skillfully helping me wrangle the multiple directions in which I wanted to take my PhD on a weekly, daily and sometimes hourly basis,” she says.

“I like how Lynda described that by the last six months, they had finally cut enough arms off the octopus so I could walk in a straight line.

“I owe them a great deal of thanks as I struggled to merge my strong practical experience using PV with theory.”

Tamara says a valued aspect of her PhD journey was being part of a visual methods support group.

“I enjoyed having the time to read and explore one topic of interest in-depth, and to debate it with people researching similar areas,” she says.

“The group's influence on the direction of my PhD, and the friendships it led to, were especially meaningful.”

Tamara has already put her research into practice, working with UNICEF Indonesia on the Children in a Changing Climate ‘Youth Voices from the Frontline’ project.

“It’s a Community Digital Storytelling project aimed at strengthening Indonesian youth capacity and voice on climate change, disaster and environmental issues,” she says.

“Through the project in the coming months, young people across Indonesia will be collectively creating and sharing stories in their own language using photos, narration and music.”

"The process will help young people share their concerns with people who can address them, so together they can design solutions and take action.”

To read more about Tamara’s PhD, go to her research profile or download her full thesis.

Read about her current and past adventures as a visual storytelling researcher, designer and facilitator via her Wikispaces page.


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