Participatory video for reconciliation: A case study of the Ivory Coast

You can’t forget but you can forgive someone, you can forgive someone. When I express myself, every time I speak, and talk about my story, it frees me a little bit, every time I do it, it frees me. I can tell you that after this interview I feel released.


Justice Transitionelle en Côte d’Ivoire – They were both victims and authors


The extract of the interview above comes from the participatory video Justice Transitionelle  made by a group of young people in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It is a project supported by InsightShare, an NGO from Oxford that has been working with participatory video since 1999. InsightShare has projects all over the world, involving different communities that deal with their local issues. In they Ivory Coast they also supported the project Clubs Messager de Paix which aims at promoting peace and non-violent behavior in schools.

Both projects involve young people who have engaged and suffered from violence of the civil war in the Ivory Coast. By creating their own video, telling their personal story and staging different situations they want to make a contribution to a peaceful living together.


Can participatory video be a strategy to achieve reconciliation in a country like the Ivory Coast?

From personal experience I know that making a video is a fun activity which inspires and stimulates one’s creativity and self-esteem. Besides it requires a lot of collaboration and teamwork to act, film, assure a good sound quality and decide which material is useful and which is not. According to Harris “the process of production and content development become a dynamic site for community building and reconciliation” (Harris 2008, 161f.).


Justice Transitionelle en Côte d’Ivoire – Learning how to use a camera

Besides, it is a way to communicate. In Justice Transitionelle and Clubs Messager de Paix the young people share their feelings and personal faits, explaining how and why they became violent in the first place. This is meant to create understanding and reflection. They also tell about their change, about how the project has helped them to improve as a person and to become non-violent. This is meant to have a role-model effect on other young people who might have had similar experiences. Findings of an analysis of the project Clubs Messager de Paix say: “The participatory activity of planning and filming a video, and watching themselves in screen, helped the participants to affirm this position [the transformation to a non-violent person] and to connect to the group through common experiences.” (Flower 2015: 15).

Justice Transitionelle and Club Messager de Paix show the positive impact in their local settings and communities of making a participatory video. Baú says about Communication for Social Change initiatives: “When these activities take place where hostility reigns, video can be a powerful tool for sharing stories for conflict transformation and the restoration of social fabric that conflict has destroyed. Grief, isolation and victimhood are all elements that video stories can address and the wider community can benefit through public screenings” (Baú, 2014: 7).

However, Justice Transitionelle and Club Messager de Paix only show the most successful examples of transformation. We only know 10% the participant’s stories. Students selected the stories of which they think that they influence or motivate better behavior in others. I wonder how the impact on what Baú calls the “wider community” really looks like. What effect have the videos on a person who did not actively engage in the project? A more comprehensive evaluation of the project and an audience study should be conducted to answer these questions.


Watch the  videos on Youtube:



Baú, Valentina (2014): Telling stories of war through the screen. Participatory video approaches and practices for peace in conflict-affected contexts,

Flower, Emilie (2015): Case study: Peace Clubs. Participatory video and most significant change evaluation. Côte d’Ivoire 2015,

Harris, Usha (2008): Bridging the divide with participatory video,




  1. Interesting post!
    You end your post with stating the need to investigate the projects further to learn more about the people who did not engage. I agree, however, I think participatory video is of giving the choice to the people and let them engage and construct a narrative how they want to. If they don’t want to participate, this should be respected as well. The produced PVs might develop dynamics, which are hard to measure from the outside and so are the outcomes of the videos. The community can utilize for goals, which they define themselves and construct narratives for their very own needs.

    Lunch, N., & Lunch, C. (2006). Insights into participatory video: A handbook for the field. InsightShare.

    • Tanja Westerhold

      Dear Christopher, thank you for your comment! I agree very much when you say that we have to respect people who don’t want to participate. That is the idea behind the word “participatory”. However, I believe that in order to analyze the impact of participatory video, it is important to know how the audience of these films react to them. And the audience are not necessarily people who did not want to participate but maybe are people who did not know the project before or think that they don’t have anything to tell. Maybe through watching those videos some people feel the need to participate as well. Maybe other’s are not touched by them at all. But we do not know this until we conduct an audience study. Further, I believe that, when you analyze the success of a project, it is important to consider also cases where the positive effect of participatory video is not that obvious. The audience is only shown 5 stories out of 50. If you only show the best examples, it is easy to say that participatory video is a great success. This is why I believe that we need further studies to valuate the impact of participatory video.

  2. Eleni Maria Rozali

    Interesting, Tanja, how empowering people and enabling them to share their stories can have a healing effect on them.
    It appears as a personal catharsis, a “liberating pedagogy”, as Freires states (Tufte, 2009)
    Thomas Tufte argues that “participatory communication is very action oriented and the empowerment process is based on the reflection of problems and the integration of action” (Tufte, 2009)
    Therefore, here, the youth from Abidjan on the Ivory Coast reflect upon their experiences during the 2011 conflict, with elements of self criticism as they realise that a life immersed in violence is not something that suites them. As a result of this they are now committed to a peaceful existence.

    Apart from the healing process that is evident however, they have been offered a voice, that allows a better “understanding of local context and permits a greater involvement of local stakeholders.” These are the value added benefits of the participatory approach (Tufte, 2009).

    In addition to this, it proves that individuals are not “only objects of human rights but are also active agents” (Servaes, 2002) participating and voicing their experiences.

    And I think, it is important to point out how the issue of “voice” is “receiving greater attention in development communication” because with it’s bottom down approach it provides individuals, who would otherwise have not been heard, with a tool to share their experiences. (Tacchi, 2009)

    Tacchi, J. A. (2009). Finding a voice : digital storytelling as participatory development in Southeast Asia. In K. M. John Hartley (Editor), Story Circle: Digital Storytelling Around the World. Wiley-Blackwell.
    Tufte, T. M. (2009). Participatory Communication: A Practical Guide. World Bank Publications.
    Unesco. (2002). Approaches to Develpment Cooperation. In Unesco, & J. Servaes (Ed.). Paris: Unesco.

  3. Laura Saxer

    When we look at this project, according to Kleine (2010), it is first to understand the applied development paradigm in a project to then understand the contributions of ICTs. The project aims to contribute to a peace building process. It gives people choices in form of creative expression and they frame the issues themselves through the video.
    Regarding the outcomes, we can see positive outcomes for the participating individuals and groups. These could be part of a diversity of contributions ICTs make to social, cultural, environmental and economic aspirations individuals have for their lives. Your question and argument about audiences I also find very important to consider. It would be interesting to find out who the receivers of those voices are and what impact the voices have on the wider community. However, we can acknowledge that this is one of many aspects in such projects. In the context of Ivory Coast such a project could be beneficial when looking at the argument that ICTs are supporting the creation of solidarity among people. A participatory practice, such as the videos, can foster a sense of citizenship that together with solidarity could further contribute positive sentiments in the context of civil war.
    Kleine, D. (2010): ICT4WHAT?—Using the choice framework to operationalise the capability approach to development. Journal of International Development 22, 674–692.

    • Tanja Westerhold

      Dear Laura,
      thank you for your comment. The aspect of solidarity is very important. One of the effect of participatory video is the effect of inclusiveness and cohesion. It is important to ” [bridge] dimensions which encourage associations across gender, ethnic, social and geographic divides. ” (Harris 2008: 145). The example of Justice Transitionelle and Club Messager de Paix show that participatory media projects can foster these dimensions.

      Harris, Usha (2008): Bridging the divide with participatory video

    • What an interesting article and comment discussion, thanks Tanja. Laura, I agree that the impact of participatory video and screenings on audiences is a very important part of the process. I shared the below quote as part of a comment I wrote on Tanja’s other article “Gaming for Peace” but it’s also relevant here 🙂

      “Audience studies are a key part of decoding and interpreting film, and some would say the most important (Barker 2010/2012, Fiske 1994, Rose 2001). Without audience, our films, images and edutainment interventions arguably have little meaning, and meaning of a media text always depends on the way audiences receive and understand it” [1].

      I think it’s important, particularly with the growth in popularity of online media, to reflect on why and how an individual or community would benefit from telling their story, how they make decisions about what to share, and what benefits the various audiences could experience. Friere says that “collective action begins with individual action, as people make connections between their own lives and the lives of others” [2], which tells me that audiences stand to gain quite a lot from viewing and hearing the stories of others – especially from within their own community. Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory demonstrates the same, with regards to role modeling and positive peer influence [3].

      I think one of the keys to successful sharing of stories in a community screening format lies in thoughtful facilitation, so that the screening can generate a meaningful discussion and Q&A about the issues being tackled. Couple this with local radio or television broadcasts, and even a write up in the local newspaper, and storytellers and communities can reach a wider audience and stimulate even deeper conversation [4].

      What I would like to understand better, and see more of, is actual evaluations of the impact of participatory video and digital storytelling workshops and film screenings – both of the storytellers and audiences. How do programmes document, or determine, effectiveness? It is relatively more simple to evaluate the experiences of participants in a video or storytelling workshop through qualitative feedback and focus groups, but how do we best assess audience responses and other, longer term impacts?

      Of course, the individuals, communities and organisations also must determine WHY they are undertaking a participatory video approach – what is the end goal of the project? These answers also help to inform end-project and audience evaluations, particularly if one of the goals is to spread awareness of a specific issue within the community.

      [1] Warren, Jenn (2015). “Analysis of the Film Inside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDS”. Malmo University Communication for Development CCMA Assignment 2.

      [2] Friere, P (1970; 1992). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

      [3] Bandura, Albert (1971). “Social Learning Theory”, Stanford University. General Learning Corporation.


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