Participatory Methods

Participatory media methods cover a range of different ways to actively include voices that are not present in or have no or limited access to traditional mainstream media. It invites people to create, connect and share experiences with each other

We love Digital Storytelling and Participatory Photography because both methods believe in the fundamental right of all individuals to have access to tools and skills through which they can express their own needs and views.  

We use these methods to give people an opportunity to share their lived experiences and present the world as they see it. It enables self expression through creative media and encourages those who are traditionally the subjects of media to become its creator.  

Often people believe that their experiences are not interesting enough to tell a story about, that they are not creative enough, or they don’t want to bother others with their worries and cares.  

We guide people to tell a story which they are proud of. A story they want to share. We do that through an inclusive and empowering group process, where the participants are listened to and they themselves listen to others. 

Why is participatory media important?

Digital Storytelling and Participatory Photography are not only about active and inclusive involvement of certain groups or communities. It is more than just a ‘media product’, as it brings light on topics such as self-determination and dialogue. There is a huge potential in both product and process:


  • Empowerment (of vulnerable target groups) through recognition in the group
  • Self awareness through self reflection
  • Development of group awareness through group dynamics in the workshop
  • Development of communication skills by learning to listen and give positive and constructive feedback 
  • Reflection and understanding across differences, identification through personal narratives
  • Narrative, creative and technological learning


  • Creating knowledge, awareness and empathy in the storytellers nearest environment (family, friends, people working with the target group)
  • Information and recognition in a larger network (e.g. for people in the same situation)
  • Campaigns
  • Connecting communities through shared experiences
  • (Higher) education
  • Documentation and research
  • Culture and history of preservation
  • Local memory and civic planning
  • User research 


Digital Storytelling can be understood in various ways. In Upstream Stories we facilitate the Berkeley model, which was developed by Dana Atchley and Joe Lambert in the early 90’s in Berkeley, California, in order to give a voice to local communities. Digital Storytelling builds on the philosophy that everyone has a story to tell. According to this model, a digital story is a short, first person video-narrative created by combining recorded voice, still and moving images, and music or other sounds. We use simple and free tools, to keep the methods open for everyone, no matter the economic, social and cultural resources. We don’t expect a professional product in the end and we keep the methods flexible to be able to adjust the process to different target groups. 

The Process 

  1. Creativity
    We start out by helping the participants finding their stories with several creative exercises which invites them to get in touch with memories and subjects that are important in their lives. The group starts, already here, to get to know each other, which creates a comfortable and safe space to share in.
  1. Story Circle
    When each participant have the story they want to tell, they start developing their script individually. This is followed by the story circle, an important element where everyone gets to read out loud the rough draft of their script, followed by constructive feed-back from the rest of the circle.
  1. Production
    When the script is done, the participants get their voice-overs recorded which are imported into a simple film-editing program on their device. They collect the imagery they want to use, and start the editing process. We always encourage our storytellers be creative and use what is at hand.
  1. Sharing
    Every participant will end up with a short film of 2-4 minutes, and the last part of the process is to share and celebrate the films in the group.

The classic workshop is three days long, which makes it an intense process where the participant only has limited time for the different parts of the process. The facilitators are of course there through the whole workshop to help individually, but also to encourage the group to help each other where they can and the hard work of the storytellers is rewarded with a film screening.


In a participatory photography project participants go through a set of exercises, from simple games, like “Photo hunts” or “What is that?” to more self-expressive, like portraits or self-portraits. 

In the end they are encouraged to create and promote an exhibition on a local and public place in a way that these projects can create a discussion and debate in the community and luckily to promote a wider conversation, even with stakeholders and decision-makers which can directly link to informed, appropriate change. 

At last these projects can be disseminated in online platforms and shared across the world creating more awareness for the needs and challenges of the participants in these projects.

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