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Our Valuable Voices: Community Digital Storytelling for Good Programming and Policy Engagement

Submitted by Miguel Coulier 9th March 2015 7:05

Cham fishermen’s group and Ma Hi Ri, the Imam at the local mosque, discuss which photos they want to use to tell their climate change adaptation story.

Adaptation context

In An Giang province, Cham fisherwomen and men as a subgroup of the wider Cham community often work through the night; casting their nets wide in search of a good catch to sell at the morning market. During the day, they send their children to school, fix their fishing nets, do embroidery, pray at the local mosque, repair their boats and get a bit of sleep before going out to fish again. As many are landless or land- poor, their lives depend on the river and the weather and they are highly affected by a changing climate. However, because they have little time to attend community meetings, are very mobile, and often do not understand or speak Vietnamese, it can be difficult for them to gain local climate information or share their concerns with influential community members or decision-makers.

CARE recognised these challenges facing this particular subgroup when it asked Cham fisherwomen and men in An Giang if they would like to use Community Digital Storytelling to talk about climate change. CARE explained that through the activities they could share their stories and use those stories to build relationships with local and national policy-makers to jointly address their concerns. They agreed, and five Cham fisherwomen and eight fishermen worked with CARE and its partners in December 2013 to tell their stories.

Two community narratives emerged through lengthy discussions about flood – the main climate event that impacts Cham fishing communities in An Giang. The stories show how the participants experience increasingly unpredictable floods, how it impacts on their daily lives and what they already do to deal with these changes. 

If you wish to know more about the different stages in creating CDST please click here. 

Benefits of Community Digital Storytelling

  • Storytelling can provide valuable and often new insight into how vulnerable people live. This supports better development programming and policy. 

  • Valuable grassroots knowledge emerges through storytelling processes. What is learned helps development programming and policy be more responsive to local realities, priorities and solutions. 

  • CDST can also support and accelerate efforts within wider participatory activities that aim to empower community members. For example, women traditionally may not speak up during community meetings; but their concerns may be valued when shown as a photo-video. 

  • The photo-videos’ visual and oral nature is a powerful medium for involving community members, especially those who do not read or write. It allows them to share reflections and learnings in their own voice and language. 

  • Stronger relationships are often formed between the people making the photo-videos and those who watch and discuss the stories with them. 

From report: Ay Sah shows how Cham fisherwomen often work in day jobs on land to help support their families, especially when their fishing livelihood is threatened by flood or other climate impacts, as Sa Ki Roh takes her photo

Lessons learned

The storytelling project with the Cham fisherwomen and men was the first time CARE Vietnam had used Community Digital Storytelling. The CARE staff and government partner facilitators learned many lessons that can help make the community storytelling processes stronger. Below, such learnings have been adapted into six questions that practitioners can ask when implementing CDST to ensure the activity is consistent with its values.  

1. Does everyone understand CDST as a COMMUNITY-DRIVEN Process? 

2. Is the project designed to be FLEXIBLE and EMBEDDED? 

3. Is the CDST activity RESPECTFUL within the local context and culture? 

4. Are we prioritising DIALOGUE & LISTENING for better programming and policy? 

5. Are we ensuring INFORMED CONSENT and copyright permissions? 

6. Are we making SMART TECHNOLOGY CHOICES? 

Following each question in the report are insights into good practice and recommendations for the future. Access the document to read these insights.

Further Resources