Aspiration is a key capacity


 Ellie Rennie (2006), in her book Community Media: A  Global Introduction she argues that community media are tend to work when entirely run by the community  according to their own systems and imperatives.  However it is not so simple as we might think. Often Global South’s community media work under legal systems or regimes that might be unsympathetic to their cause (Rennie, 2006: 135). Participatory media rely often on the relationship between non-governmental organisation and development organisation, thus funding and expenses. Donor involvement might determine where the funds are allocated and it places a  pressure upon community to justify their projects in  terms of measurable social  outcomes and to focus their  effort upon targeted group (Rennie, 2006:  152). In result community media tend not to work so well when it is at the center of a modernist development agenda to ‘save  the world’. Community media is not about ‘DIY’ any longer but it is ‘Do It Your Own Way -DIYOW’ (Rennie, 2006: 186). Rennie writes that it is a big responsibility for communities to bear. Are they the one to blame if the change does not occur? Empowerment and social inclusion sounds desirable but it also turns away attention for the responsibly of a government to its citizens (191).


Viewing community- created videos in Ardhavaram, India


In a largely non-literate village in Andhra Pradesh, researches together with a Byrraju Foundation, one of South India’s leading development non- governmental organisations made available a set of video cameras to community members. This village faces challenges of public sanitation, unemployment, political unrest and division between castes and gender. Group members developed their own system of sharing video cameras, not being instructed before what to do with them, they created videos that were shared outside of the group, in different people homes. Community began to see their own ability to act upon larger community goal and identified their own vision. Videos included a new farming practise developed by families, the new temple that was constructed by villagers, and new technology program developed in cooperation with NGO. Neither top down nor bottom up approaches to development are the key. Rather projects that engage communities to reflect and act on the challenges facing can enable them to uncover their own capacities to aspire. It echoes Rennie (2006) argument that for the collective action for development to occur from grassroots rather then from NGOs or researches , community aspiration is a key.

Rennie, E (2006) Community Media: A Global Introduction. London: Rowman & Littlefields

Srinivasan R (2012) Rethinking Digital Cultures and Divides: The Case for Reflexive Media.Information Society 28 (1) 


3 Comments to "Aspiration is a key capacity"

  1. October 24, 2015 - 10:39 am | Permalink

    You raise a good point, Agnieszka, with regards to a community’s intention, aspiration and in fact, interest.

    Participatory media projects, digital storytelling and community video screenings of course cannot be forced upon individuals or a community, and the aim of the projects must be clearly owned by the people themselves.

    As you point out, in many cases participatory media and video projects are initiated by an outside party – an NGO, donor or media outlet – due to access to funding, technology, and necessary camera/video/mobile/computer equipment.

    Even in such cases, it is valuable to understand and respect what the storytellers’ goals are. The example you share about how the Byrraju Foundation citizen filmmakers shared their community issues within the neighbours’ homes is a great one. I would be interested to know why they chose to screen the films in people’s homes. Was it because the home environment in this community is a safe or common space to discuss community issues, or because they didn’t have access to a community hall, temple or school?

    In the case of Siyakhona (‘We can do it ourselves’ in Zulu and Xhosa South African languages), citizen filmmakers choose subject matter based on consultations with fellow community members with no less than 100 votes on a particular issue before producing an advocacy based video on a call to action. The call to action is grounded in research and interviews with all concerned.

    The citizen journalists then hold film screenings in a public and accessible space in the township accompanied by a Q&A session where citizens can further discuss the issues, air grievances and discuss local solutions.

    I wrote about the project here:

    Watch more of their videos (in particular about the rat problem that residents face in the Alexandra Township) here:

  2. Matthew Robinson's Gravatar Matthew Robinson
    October 28, 2015 - 3:44 pm | Permalink

    This certainly is an important subject to think about with regards to development, Agnieszka. Putting the power of choice into the hands of those who are often instead told what they need, rather that what they themselves believe they need or want.

    Following on from Jenn’s comment about such projects being initiated by outside parties with the initial capital, I would still be wary of subtle control. For example, who decides which individuals can participate and why? Or is every single person within the geographical scope of such a project invited to participate?

    Further, regarding the question of screening locations for the videos in your example, who decided to screen them where they did? Was it somebody from the Byrraju Foundation, or was it a group decision made by the people involved in the creation of the content?

    Either way, I think this is a great approach towards developing self-determination and self-reliance. Thanks for posting.

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