Methods & Tools

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

November 27, 2018 annavonsury Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.3 out of 5

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



Upgrade your workshop with a background story!

September 06, 2018 annavonsury Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools, SDC Networks

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

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How to create an immersive workshop experience, where your participants bathe in the juices of the workshop’s topics? Immersive doesn’t require virtual reality headsets, foremost it requires a story. Here a practical example.

Nadia von Holzen, learning moments and Hynek Bures, dubbed perceptions


For the DDLGN 2018 face-to-face event, we – Nadia as facilitator and Hynek as multimedia reporter – came up with a low-tech idea to tell the network’s background story: A timeline that portraits the network, its members, its achievements.

For your info: SDC’s face to face events are organized by the agency’s thematic networks, where participants exchange on the networks’ topics. In this case on democratization, decentralization, and local governance. This year’s event coincided with the network’s ten years anniversary.


The timeline

On the wall of the main event hall, we drew a horizontal line using a colorful scotch: a Washi tape. Each year with a different color. Below this timeline we asked the network core team to add key events, or publications in form of a picture or a short text. We then took Polaroid pictures of all participants on their arrival and added them above the line according to the year they joined the network.



Immerse into history

From the first step into a cave with ancient paintings on the wall, or into the Sistine Chapel you are enveloped by the story of the place. Though less monumental, the timeline – its images from past events and the participants’ faces – has a similar effect: The networks history, its achievements enter the hearts of the participants: They become aware of their part in the story.


Enrich the learning process

While moderating participants’ interactions and reflections, Nadia would come back – time again – to the timeline: For example, recalling a past event or a key document to which present interactions make reference. We both felt that the historic background heightened the thematic complexity. It enriched the discussions among participants. New ideas were anchored in history. They had a reason to emerge, because they are part of a process that didn’t just start with this event.



Reflect on your learning

One of Nadia’s key moderation tools is to let participants reflect on how their personal learning process feeds back into the network, changes their role as a member, or impacts their day-to-day job. The timeline played a key role in taking the participants on this meta-level journey. Without this visual tool, the participants would have struggled to let go of the immediate lessons assimilated and focus on the bigger picture: Reinforcing the network’s culture of learning and sharing.


Propel actors to take action

The last day of the workshop a list of next steps was proposed. Participants could subscribe to which activity they wanted to contribute with their expertise and time. The timeline serves here as a constant reminder and assurance, that their effort is not in vain. Their action will contribute to the network’s future story: a continuous enrichment of thematic expertise.


Do it yourself

Key to reap the most beautiful fruits from your timeline is to give it a presence, a role, in your workshop. Start by creating it yourself! Make it beautiful in your eyes. A visually appealing timeline will attract the participants’ attention. During the workshop, this attention should transform into an interaction with the timeline. For this you should keep the timeline in mind when you plan your workshop. For example, provide time for the participants to interact with it. Then during the event, make recurrent links to your timeline. For example, introduce the next workshop slot with a short backstory.


Let’s conclude

Yes, the timeline is all about the story: the story of a network, of a program, or of a theme. But don’t focus your story on the product or the output. Behind every good story is a hero. Thus, to create a time-line that touches your audience, tell your story through them, through the people.




Engage before, during and after – Insights from a series of webinar

August 27, 2018 annavonsury Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

DoinAndrea Iffg a presentation online is as if doing it ‘in real’ or so I thought before having engaged in the organization of several webinars. Well – that is not the case at all. Read through the short list of insights of the DDLG network in order to not make the same mistakes as we did or to achieve the same satisfaction.

 Andrea Iff, SDC



Video Production Part III: Post-Production

August 16, 2018 annavonsury Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

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After your big day of filming, it’s time to discover the potential of the material you have recorded and how you can make the best use of it. The last part of this series on video production guides you through the most important steps of video post-production. 

                                             By Leonie Pock and Anna von Sury



Organising your first webinar? Have a look at our new guideline

July 31, 2018 Blog Admin Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

NadiaquadraticCesar Robles - square - 25 Jan 2018







Are you ready to organise your first webinar? Then get inspired by our new guideline ‘How to organise interactive webinars’. The guideline gives you a step-by step idea how to plan, design and promote your first webinar.

Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments, Natalie Frei, SDC and Cesar Robles, Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation


Video Production Part II: Filming

July 13, 2018 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

quadraticWith the extensive preparation we talked about in Part I, the implementation of your video project should be a cakewalk. However, there are still some considerations and things to pay attention to on then big day of filming, which are discussed here.

Natalie Frei, SDC



Icebreakers? Try speed-networking – there are many options

July 02, 2018 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

NadiaIcebaker exercises are popular. I’m often asked for good examples for how to break the ice and warm participants to each other. Indeed, connecting people is important. How we open a learning event is a first essential step for the event’s success.

Nadia von Holzen, learning moments



Video Production Part I: Preparation

June 21, 2018 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5


Video has become a standard format to disseminate information and to report on a variety of events. In a series of three blog posts over the coming weeks, I will revisit key steps of video production: Preparation; filming and post production. This first part outlines how to get from the idea to filming.

Natalie Frei, SDC


Avoir sa voix en main et le discours dans la poche

May 16, 2018 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5


Notre voix est une des qualités les plus frappantes de notre personnalité, elle peut littéralement parler « du plus profond du coeur». Elle est aussi un outil très puissant pour porter nos messages. Dans cet article, un chanteur professionnel explique comment d’entraîner la voix pour la rendre plus persuasive et avoir le discours dans la poche.

Benoît Volkart, chanteur et professeur de chant (more…)

Going beyond presentations – what it needs to organize interactive webinars

May 01, 2018 Blog Admin Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

Cesar Robles - square - 25 Jan 2018NadiaHaving engaging and interactive webinars that go beyond presentations needs more than technological solutions. It needs people who are curious and interested to use online platforms and the functionalities they provide; who are ready to take the time to plan their presentations in an engaging way. Blending face-to-face events with online solutions is part of Helvetas’ organisational culture thanks to the “Shareday” initiated and supported by the Experts of the Knowledge & Learning team. 

Cesar Robles, Helvetas and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments


How to make your readers happy: writing lessons in 5 quotes

March 19, 2018 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Christina Stucky P7230789 hoch smallWriting is rarely a pleasurable experience for SDC staffers: how much information is necessary, how to structure a text, and what about jargon? Writing in English has its own particular pitfalls if you’re not a native speaker. A recent writing workshop at SDC in Bern recommended ways to improve the readability of texts produced for internal and external audiences and highlighted mistakes frequently found in texts written by second-language English speakers.

 By Christina Stucky

Organizing engaging webinars – division of roles

February 26, 2018 Natalie Frei Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.8 out of 5


The SDC Learning & Networking team has launched a series of blog posts on how to organise a webinar. After diving into crucial questions that must be clarified like in any face-to-face learning event, this blog post will focus on the division of tasks. Organizing and hosting a webinar needs a team of people focusing on different tasks: the coordinator and facilitator, the technical expert; the chat box facilitator and the presenter.

By Bertha Camacho, SKAT and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments


How to organise your first interactive webinar

February 12, 2018 Blog Admin Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

NadiaAre you keen to organize your first webinar?  Then this blog post is for you! The SDC Learning & Networking team launches a blog series on how to organise a webinar. There will be interviews with webinar cracks and testimonies from webinar aficionados sharing their experiences, tips and tricks. Next to insights from practitioners you will find links to resources helping you to get ready and bring your first webinar to life. In this first blog post you will discover that the crucial questions are not of technical nature but about purpose, process and people.

Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments


How to find stories for your blog post, newsletter, report, workshop, presentation

January 18, 2018 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5


Remembering stories is a powerful skill. Including a story into the opening of a workshop, an e-discussion or your next presentation engages your audience. People love reading stories in blog post or newsletters; the stories allow you to underline your point. But how can you find stories? This blog shares 10 simple ways to retrace, notice, collect or reactivate stories.

 Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments




Clear and Concise Statements

January 03, 2018 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

tinuNo one likes listening to the verbose babble of overly loquacious speakers (and yes, this type of speaker tends to be male). Making it short is an art that requires a lot of work. The formula “reduce to the max” might be oversimplified but it is essentially true. There are five steps to arrive at a short, tight but accurate statement.

By Tinu Niederhauser
Translated from German by Natalie Frei



Writing To The Point

December 04, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

What is the message? Finding the answer to this question is harder than expected, but the struggle pays off, and not just when writing a journalistic text.

By Markus Mugglin
translated from German by Natalie Frei




Interviews Part II: Vom guten Fragen & Unterbrechen

November 14, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.4 out of 5


Nach dem Vorgespräch fängt die Arbeit erst richtig an. Wie muss ich fragen, um die gewünschten Antworten zu erhalten? Wie steige ich ein und wie unterbreche ich? Dieser Blog behandelt das Vorgehen beim eigentlichen Interview.

Hansjörg Enz


Interviews Part I: Kein Interview ohne Vorgespräch

November 07, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

IMG_3667Besser ein Videointerview als ein hundertseitiger Bericht. Aber die Aufmerksamkeitsspanne ist auch bei Videos eher kurz, deshalb müssen sie gut geplant und durchdacht sein, damit die Zuschauer nicht wegklicken. Eines der wichtigsten Instrumente für ein gelungenes Interview ist das Vorgespräch.

Hansjörg Enz (more…)

Sparking attention with visual workshop agendas

October 30, 2017 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.8 out of 5


aP1420370aPresenting the workshop agenda is a unique moment for sparking energy, motivation and curiosity. A visual agenda gives a first clue what will happen in the workshop and serves as orientation all along the workshop. As facilitator, you can show where the group is in the process; and as participant you know what will happen next and how you can engage.

Marie Marchand, SDC and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments (more…)

Explorative Thinking With Photographs

October 02, 2017 Natalie Frei Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

quadraticA picture is not only worth a thousand words but it can also elicit a thousand words. As an audio-visual anthropologist and digital storyteller, Darcy Alexandra has studied the relationship between text and pictures for more than 10 years. She employs audio-visual production like photo and video documentation and digital storytelling as a means of participatory inquiry with diverse research partners. In an SDC Lunch & Learn she encouraged participants to explore new ways to look at and use images.

By Natalie Frei


Inspiring inputs for conversation

August 23, 2017 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Hynek Bures neuNadiaPresentations are more than information delivery. Presentations should inspire conversation. When giving a presentation, we should always remind ourselves that the presentation is about the audience; and that the presenter has a supportive and facilitative role. Let’s flip our presentations and start with a question and a first small conversation. Let the audience talk before we talk.

Hynek Bures, dubbed perceptions and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments (more…)

Do’s and Don’t’s of Power Point Presentations

August 09, 2017 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


PowerPoint presentations can be dull. But well designed slides can support the delivery of your presentation. Slides that are visual, catchy and easy to grasp are best. By observing some basic do’s and don’t’s you can make the difference with your presentation and pass your message.

Debora Kern, SDC Albania (more…)

Reading recommendations for facilitators

August 02, 2017 Blog Admin Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

NadiaThere is no shortcut in learning to facilitate. The best teacher is practice followed by observation and reflection through peer exchange, trainings and reading. Facilitation is creative work. Every workshop is an invitation to build anew the reflection and conversation space for participants to explore, learn and understand. This blog post presents three books for facilitators, beginners as well as experienced facilitators; they provide insights and ideas for planning and designing successful workshops

Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments (more…)

Lab office series, episode 3: Dare to experiment!

June 29, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

quadraticAfter the last two episodes, we know how to design and furnish a lab office and which doors to knock at for advice. The last episode of this trilogy focuses on how to become operational and how to develop your lab’s full potential. Most importantly, we will explore how to make a lab office a real innovative lab space.

By Natalie Frei, SDC

Lab office series, episode 1: Discovery Tour

June 13, 2017 Natalie Frei Change Stories, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

quadraticIn May, a delegation of SDC’s Knowledge-Learning-Culture division went on an expedition to discover new forms of office design and collaboration. Excited about the prospect of reorganizing our division, we set out to seek inspiration in the global lab trend. We visited five organizations with laboratory aspects in the international cooperation field and took notes.

By Natalie Frei, SDC