THROUGH THE CAMERA LENS
In the world of international development, gathering meaningful insights from programs across multiple countries, delivering in varied cultural and linguistic contexts, has traditionally been challenging. Producing written reports that convey impact and program context can be a barrier when English is not many partners’ first language and expertise lies in direct program delivery rather than monitoring, evaluation, reporting and learning (MERL).
In line with the Pacific approach of talanoa storytelling, Team Up, the Australian Government’s sport for development program, began piloting a new approach to collecting stories of impact in 2021 in partnership with Folktale – an Australian-developed platform that allows program and evaluation teams to collect qualitative insights through video.
Following a pilot in five countries, Team Up initially introduced Folktale as an optional element of the program’s MERL framework. Based on enthusiastic feedback from partners, it became a compulsory part of Team Up’s MERL approach in 2023.
Team Up designed story templates to guide partners in gathering video interviews and accompanying footage from different voices in their programs – participants, staff, volunteers, partner organisations and other stakeholders. The Folktale platform guides contributors through the filmmaking process and automatically edits the clips together to produce a finished video.
Videos can be gathered and submitted in any language, with partners supplying translations.
Team Up and Folktale recently presented together at the Australian Evaluation Society Conference in Brisbane along with a representative from one of Team Up’s partner organisations, Tonga Table Tennis Federation CEO Salote Fungavai, who works on the Smash Down Barriers program and spoke about her organisation’s experiences using Folktale as part of Team Up.
"One of the biggest impacts of using Folktale in comparison to our written stories of change is that our participants can tell their stories in our local language where we then submit English subtitles.
However told, this has a more effective reach to both our Tongan communities and stakeholders – both local and international-based,” Salote told the conference.
She explained that, as well as providing video insights to Team Up as part of the program’s reporting process, participant feedback gathered via Folktale is also valuable to her Smash Down Barriers team in terms of helping them shape and improve program delivery.
"Folktale has made a big difference in our program's progress and numbers. We have been able to perform more efficiently and more effectively as we take the perspectives of our participants and match it with the goals of the program's mission,” she revealed.
The videos produced by Team Up’s 30-plus programs using Folktale not only help Team Up’s MERL team better understand the impact of these initiatives across seven countries, but also simultaneously create useful communications content for both partners and Team Up.
Salote agrees that having a pipeline of video content that showcases staff and participant voices and illustrates impact is extremely beneficial.
"Through Folktale, we are able to connect with the public and show them what we do in Smash Down Barriers. It is a chance for our program staff to explain and demonstrate the purpose of the program and its impacts.
This innovative approach not only helps us meet our reporting requirements but also serves as a powerful tool to communicate and connect with our audience while sharing the meaningful work we do in using table tennis to break down barriers in Tonga.”
Since 2022, Team Up has celebrated partners’ excellence in video production through the annual Team Up Folktale Oscars, awarding prizes for the best videos in multiple categories. Smash Down Barriers Tonga claimed awards in both 2022 and 2023 among a field of winners from five countries.
Reflecting on Team Up’s use of Folktale after three years, Team Up’s MERL Adviser Melissa Palombi believes its impact has been transformative.
“The addition of Folktale as a compulsory MERL tool in 2023 has revolutionised how Team Up understands and communicates about the wide range of programs we support and has allowed us to engage partners in a more inclusive way.
“We know that writing paper reports is not the best method for many programs to articulate their impact but video, often submitted in their own language, is working really well for many of our partners, especially given that sport for development programming lends itself so well to visual data. It is also empowering partners to amplify many previously unheard voices.”
Team Up’s Media and Strategic Communications Adviser Joanna Lester, who has led many of the training activities to build partners’ capacity in video production using Folktale, believes the video storytelling approach is well suited to Team Up’s network.
“It has been heartening to see how many of our sport for development partners love using video to tell stories of impact and taking the opportunity to apply their creativity and public speaking skills to this field.
“Several partner staff have told us that using Folktale under Team Up has given them transferable skills in filming and conducting interviews that they believe will be valuable in the future. This is allowing us to build video production and impact storytelling capacity in the Pacific countries where we work in a way that would never have been possible without such a simple, mobile-based tool.”
In 2024 Team Up will run further masterclasses for partners to elevate their video impact storytelling skills from good to great.
- Solomon Islands