Participatory video for policy development in remote Aboriginal communities
This research is based on the Fogo Process which used film to bridge communication between a group of remote Newfoundland fishing communities and government policy makers and politicians in the late 1960s. The research expands the scope of the Fogo Process by integrating principles from participatory video, a development strategy used to build local capacity around socio-economic issues, participatory action research and advances in video technology. This thesis is an investigation of the role of participatory video as a tool to influence government policy-making. The research is set within the context of a group of five remote Aboriginal communities in northwestern Ontario, Canada. These communities, collectively known as Keewaytinook-Okimakanak (KO), were part of a federal pilot program to encourage innovative broadband infrastructure development across the country. These communities represent a rare research environment because prior to the introduction of broadband services, they were minimally serviced in terms of telecommunications, with one telephone available for all the communities needs. The research was initially made possible because of the need for program evaluation data. Video was used to gather testimonial stories in support of KO's Smart Program evaluation report. Video was chosen because it was felt by the evaluation team and KO leadership that Industry Canada, the primary funding agency, could make a more informed assessment if the data was contextualized through the provision of real life accounts and experiences with broadband. Very few Canadians have ever visited communities such as these and the impact that broadband was having on health care, education and community development required a communication mechanism beyond conventional evaluation approaches. Local leadership quickly realized the potential of video to link their needs with policy makers located thousands of kilometers away. Research continued into the development and dissemination of locally produced videos in the service of policy needs. During the course of the initial video productions, I provided training workshops in the communities thereby creating a critical mass of people who could produce their own video media and, in turn, teach others. After the collaborative production of twenty two videos, and numerous others produced independently by former trainees, the research culminated in the production of 'Turning the Corner'. This was a 17 minute video produced in cooperation with the Privy Council of Canada's Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat and KO leadership. The purpose of the video was to relay the message that bottom-up planning and funding strategies were essential to the success of broadband expansion across Canada's Northern Aboriginal communities. This message was based on the lessons and experience of the KO communities where broadband had transformed community life from telehealth applications and internet assisted education to overcoming isolation and community development. The video made real the need for local planning and initiative to be brought into the planning process for broadband infrastructure through a series of screenings to senior policy makers in the nation's capital, Ottawa.