Participatory videos for community development. Lessons from the Nepalese Himalayan Mountains

November 27, 2018 | annavonsury | Methods & Tools |


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Pimmer Christoph      Urs_Web_06     ZAHND Alexander_4 (1 of 1)

The use of participatory videos to document and share knowledge is gaining traction in development cooperation and community development. But can we leverage these videos in very remote areas with mostly illiterate people? Yes, we can. Here are insights and recommendations from using participatory videos in Nepalese Himalayan Mountains to support the development of community infrastructure projects, such as building drinking water systems and greenhouses.

By Christoph Pimmer and Urs Gröhbiel, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Alex Zahnd, RIDS-Nepal/Switzerland

Recent technological developments have led to a sharp increase in the use of participatory videos in development cooperation. In our project, we sought to find out more about how to leverage these videos in marginalised and very remote settings with mostly illiterate populations.

Approach: Local video production and dissemination

The project takes place in the Syada, a Nepalese village in the remote north-west district of Humla. It is located at 2’750 meters above sea level and is typically reached through a 10-day trek. The videos were produced by a local cameraman in cooperation with members from the Swiss-Nepalese NGO RIDS-Nepal/ Switzerland. The intensive co-production played out in the form of face-to-face meetings, e-mail and Skype communication. One of the initial challenges was to agree on the notion of an instructive video because this concept was completely unknown in project settings.

The videos feature local people who explain benefits of community projects, such as building and maintaining drinking water systems and high-altitude greenhouses. In addition, villagers demonstrate how to carry out building and maintenance works in a step-by-step process.



People handling the tablet PC (© A. Zahnd)

People handling the tablet PC (© A. Zahnd)


Benefits: heightened interest, learning and practice gains

In the first practice-based evaluation, we used a mix of simple, qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate how local people would …

  • handle the videos on tablet PCs,
  • use videos to accomplish concrete, manual tasks (e.g. regarding the building of a drinking water system)
  • learn from the videos which were screened on handheld projectors in community meetings

The findings suggest that, after a short demonstration, most people handled videos on the tablet PCs well, which included steps from switching on the tablet to finding, playing and pausing the video.  Ourevaluation also confirmed that the videos allowed small groups of workers to learn and carry out concrete manual and analytical tasks regarding relevant building and maintenance works. Finally, the public screening of the videos in community meetings attracted huge interest: the five events were frequented by nearly 400 people.  The videos were received very well and stimulated public discussions about the development needs of the village. Another effect was increased awareness and knowledge, as found by selectively evaluating the community’s understanding of the topics through questions after the screening.

Video screening during community meeting © A. Zahnd

Video screening during community meeting © A. Zahnd


Insights and lessons learned

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is especially the use of narrative elements, testimonies and good practice examples from local families that enhanced the persuasive power of the videos. Another lesson is that the videos are unlikely to unfold their full potential if used as standalone resources. Instead, they should be embedded in existing training and community eventsand blended with discussions and/or practical tasks.

Perhaps the videos’ greatest value is that they promote the participation of groups, such as females, older and illiterate people, in learning and community events from which they are usually excluded. It was particularly illiterate women who provided a highly positive feedback. Speech and visual demonstrations helped them to grasp the key messages, and, in so doing, alleviated illiteracy constraints and allowed them to be more active members in the communities’ awareness and knowledge building practices. This can be seen as an element of democratising community development and learning. However, in the concrete handling of the technologies these groups were disadvantaged, especially because they had no prior experience with mobile phones. It is thus important that in future efforts they receive particular support and guidance in the use of mobile technology.

At the moment, the project is in the process of developing and using videos on greenhouses, which will be evaluated next spring.


Resources and further reading



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