Photovoice for Knowledge Management

May 19, 2016

By Stella Muthuri, Post-doctoral Fellow, APHRC via K4Health Blog

I was invited to participate in the Knowledge Management for Health Share Fair held in Arusha, Tanzania between April 13th and 15th. The share fair was well attended, with representatives from 14 countries, allowing for engaging conversations about various knowledge management tools and techniques that may revolutionize the health sector and how information is shared.

PhotoVoice is a participatory visual qualitative research methodology whereby participants are given a camera and asked to take photos that represent their situation in relation to a particular topic or research question. Participants can then share these pictures with each other, and discuss what the photos represent. PhotoVoice allows researchers to see “through the eyes” of those who are often the most marginalised in the research process. It gives the participants an opportunity to capture the conditions around them, reflect on these conditions or their experiences, and develop strategies to reach policy makers.

PhotoVoice gives participants an opportunity to capture the conditions around them, reflect on these conditions or their experiences, and develop strategies to reach policy makers.

We used PhotoVoice to engage mothers in capturing their perceptions of the relationship between child care and employment. In the informal urban settlements of Nairobi, as in many other low socioeconomic settings in Africa, women’s ability to find work and earn income is often limited by their concurrent responsibility of caring for their young children. Perhaps access to affordable and quality daycare options may release these women to actively engage in income-generating activities. However, little research has explored the challenges that women with young children in resource-poor settings face in balancing work and child care.

I was thrilled to use the actual learnings and photos captured during our sessions with mothers from Korogocho in taking the audience through the use of PhotoVoice as a tool for generating evidence and managing knowledge. Many of those that attended my share fair session had never heard of PhotoVoice, which presented a great opportunity to work through various steps of the process.

I started my breakout session by providing the context regarding the choice of PhotoVoice to address our research question and also discussed the prompt that we used to get women to take appropriate photos that would address the topic. I then explained that we had spent some time with the mothers, helping them learn how to operate the cameras and take photographs, including an explanation of visual ethics such as the “no faces protocol,” which guides users on photos they can take instead of faces and identifiers of various places. I then shared some of the actual photos taken by the women and asked the participants to work together, in small groups of three to five, and reflect on the ideas that the women may have been trying to capture. Similar to what the mothers themselves had done, the smaller groups then presented their reflections of the photos to the larger group, leading to some very interactive discussions and development of overarching themes that were frequently raised.

Stella Muthuri works with mothers to craft their PhotoVoice captions.

Participants left with an understanding of the strength of PhotoVoice, which lies in its engagement with the participants themselves in narrating the stories behind their photos, having participants interpret their own visual productions, and the powerful messages that may result in using this method to engage policy makers through exhibitions.

Overall, I immensely enjoyed interacting with representatives from various organisations and learning how they were using various practices in knowledge management for turning evidence to action. I particularly enjoyed the session on the use of filmmaking as an effective way to engage policy makers and other audiences by developing a narrative shaped around one individual, but actually representing a wider set of issues facing a community.