Many of the recent innovations in participatory approaches have involved a shift from verbally oriented methods (discussion groups, questions and answers) to visually oriented ones (participatory diagrams and visualisations). Everyone has an inherent ability for visual literacy, and the impact of visual methods on communication and analysis can be profound. They allow literate and illiterate people to participate in the process as equals, facilitating the exploration of complex relationships and generating collective knowledge. In this section, the following list of techniques will be described: diagrams and visualisations, using photos and drawings, and using videos.

Using Diagrams and Visualisations

These are pictorial or symbolic representations of information and are a central element of participatory analysis and learning. They can be effective because they:

• Provide a focus for attention whilst discussing an issue;

• Stimulate discussion by both literate and illiterate people;

• Can represent complex issues or processes simply;

• Provide a means for cross-checking and therefore provoking effective group work;

• Evoke creative associations;

• Stimulate people’s memory about their past and present situations;

• Reinforce the written or spoken word;

• Assist in decision-making or monitoring.

There are many different diagrams and visualisations. These include: flow diagrams, impact diagrams, flow charts, pie diagrams, Venn diagrams, historical profiles, social maps, resource maps, transects, time lines, sociograms, and many others. It is not possible to describe each of these methods in detail here, but references to good descriptions of these are made in the Annotated Bibliography at the end of this Toolkit.

Examples of where visualisations might be used effectively

• When examining issues with a geographical or spatial dimension.

• When developing a progression of ideas.

Using Photographs and Drawings

Photographs and drawings can be very useful when participants are being asked to illustrate feelings, emotions, perceptions, and attitudes as they utilise the creative and imaginative elements of the brain rather than the rational and logical elements upon which verbal techniques tend to rely. If there is resistance to the idea of drawing, cartoons might be easier, or cutting out images from magazines and pasting them into a collage. Sometimes, pencil and paper work well; other times, felt tips and flip-chart drawings are more appropriate.

Storyboards can be used to illustrate a series of key moments in an incident or to describe the history of an event. They can be produced by the facilitator or the participants.

Examples of where drawings and photos might be used effectively

• When participants are being asked to illustrate feelings, emotions, perceptions, and attitudes.

• As a contrast to using rational, logical, left-brain approaches.

• As triggers for discussions.

Using Videos

The most obvious use of videos is to locate pre-recorded material directly related to the topic that you wish to consider. It can be used as an introduction, a stimulus for a discussion exercise, or to summarise key points. Using videos requires careful preparation. Facilitators should:

• Select culturally appropriate material;

• Gain permission for the use of the material;

• Be familiar with the video material and the equipment (including the remote control, if used) and make a note of the counter settings if different parts of the video are to be used;

• Work out how they will use the video and what questions/issues they want participants to examine;

• Check the equipment on the appropriate day to ensure that everything is compatible and in working order;

• Pre-set the video so that it starts at the correct place;

• Ensure that all participants can see the screen and hear the soundtrack.

Examples of where video might be used effectively

• As a trigger to stimulate thinking about issues.