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PhotoVoice: An All-Staff Activity to Share Knowledge and Engage our Experts in the Field

You’ve likely heard this before, but at EcoLogic we implement a number of participatory workshops and activities. We do this so that communities recognize themselves as co-owners of project plans and initiatives, and our partner communities themselves can drive the conservation process in a way that aligns with their needs and interests. We believe that communities must be involved throughout the entire project cycle, from initial planning all the way to monitoring and evaluation. Our commitment to participatory processes ensures that our projects respond to locally defined needs and priorities, and are adapted to the unique environmental and social challenges of each community. This approach advances our mission to empower rural and indigenous people—and increases the likelihood that our initiatives are sustainable over the long-term.

Participatory approaches to development include a number of valuable tools that facilitate the inclusion and engagement necessary to give an equal voice to all involved. One particularly useful method used for this is called PhotoVoice—which is a process that allows people to identify, represent, and enhance their projects, plans, and goals through a specific photographic technique.

Just as we believe all community members must have an equal voice and a seat at the table, we think the same principles must be applied to all of our staff. So, this past September, EcoLogic engaged all US-based and regional staff in an organization-wide activity meant to gather information and insight on how EcoLogic is understood, identified, and represented in the many diverse communities in which we work across Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. The activity was meant to enable people to reflect about EcoLogic’s strengths and voice their opinions, while also promoting dialogue and knowledge-sharing. Participants were asked to each select a photo that they believe exemplifies EcoLogic’s role and process of working, and were later prompted to reflect upon the pictures through both written narratives and group discussions—a methodology called PhotoVoice.

Our recent PhotoVoice workshop had over 20 participants that engaged remotely from the regions in which we work. Together, participants shared over 20 photos and accompanying narratives that shared important information about EcoLogic. We plan to incorporate this information into a wide variety of project planning, fundraising, and communications materials. But most importantly, the activity gave everyone an opportunity to voice their expertise from the field in their own words, with their own representation. The meaningful dialogue and reflection about EcoLogic’s work that the activity generated will be integrated into our organizational vision, allow us to grow, and shape our future plans and project designs around rich, quality, information gathered from the knowledgeable minds of our expert staff.

Oh, and as a bonus, everyone got to share amazing photos that others had yet to see! Here are some of our favorite photos and reflections:

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Name and role: Marco Acevedo, Program Officer for Mexico

Project and location of the photo: Chinantla, San Lucas Ojitlán

Approximate date: 2013

Title: Perseverance and Transcendence

From your point of view, why is this photo significant and how does it represent EcoLogic’s role?

This photo represents two aspects of EcoLogic. The first is the perseverance that EcoLogic has to continue our work even when the road isn’t easy or when we encounter many obstacles. But, we have been able to build processes that allow us to advance and grow. The second aspect has to do with with how we propel conservation and bring it to the people and the lessons that we learn along the path of doing things together.

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Name and role: Severiana Dominguez Gonzalez, Field Technician for Oaxaca, Mexico

Project and location of the photo: Project Chinantla, Loma de san Bernabé San Lucas Ojitlán

Approximate date: December 2015

Title: Plan, Contribute, and Construct

From your point of view, why is this photo significant and how does it represent EcoLogic’s role?

This photo is a of a capacity-building and training workshop that taught about the construction of fuel-efficient stoves. Everyone learned how to build them and work in teams, which brought about team-building and knowledge exchange; we also learned about how to adapt technology into our daily practices.

EcoLogic’s role is present in this photo because it shows process of capacity-building, planning, and guaranteeing human well-being as well as food security; while keeping the focus on sustainable rural development that regains the favor of nature and guarantees its permanence by installing social and natural safeguards.

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Name and role: Roberto Valerio, MACO (The Municipality of Olanchito) Project Coordinator

Project and location of the photo: Project MACO, Olanchito, Honduras

Approximate date: June 2016

Title: Spaces for Dialogue

From your point of view, why is this photo significant and how does it represent EcoLogic’s role?

EcoLogic creates spaces for dialogue to awaken community interest in the conservation and protection of ecosystems, water sources, and alternatives to adapt to climate change.

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Name and role: Carlos Duarte Euraque, Program Officer for Honduras

Project and location of the photo: Río Lean, Esparta, MAMUCA

Approximate date: July 2016

Title: Youth, Water, Conservation

From your point of view, why is this photo significant and how does it represent EcoLogic’s role?

EcoLogic promotes the participation and empowerment of communities in processes of conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems, which represents the ethos of EcoLogic’s approach.

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Name and role: Basilio Martínez, Field Technician for Honduras

Project and location of the photo: The southern sector of  Pico Bonito National Park, Calderas watershed

Approximate date: June 22, 2016

Title: EcoLogic—an umbrella for our partners

From your point of view, why is this photo significant and how does it represent EcoLogic’s role?

EcoLogic is like an umbrella for conservation that extends to our partners and allows for sustainable development and environmental protection.

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Name and role: Victor Daniel Escobar Peña, Field Technician for Honduras

Project and location of the photo: The northern sector of Pico Bonito,Little Colorado watershed, El Porvenir

Approximate date: June 2016

Title: Protecting the Landscape in a Participatory Manner

From your point of view, why is this photo significant and how does it represent EcoLogic’s role?

This photo represents the work that we do in communities with the participation of local people, and how we have sparked a change in local mentalities for the protection and conservation of the landscape.

To conclude, some of the key insights we found are that EcoLogic provides key spaces for dialogue and brings a vast array of people together to establish common agendas and goals for the protection and conservation of natural landscapes in rural areas of Mesoamerica. We also want to mention that the PhotoVoice process didn’t end when the workshop closed. Rather, we reviewed and analyzed the outputs, reflected upon the process, identified key themes and values that are priorities to our staff and the communities they represent.

We are glad to see that our field staff highlighted the importance of children and youth as the key to a sustainable future, and how important their voices are to shape the future and protect their environment. Communities and field staff truly encourage and value the inclusion of children in the process of conservation as they are seen as the generations that will create positive change, protect cultural and environmental richness, and preserve ancestral histories and lands now and into the future.

Now it’s your turn!

So we can continue to learn from our supporters, partners, and friends, we would like to invite you to participate! Please find your favorite photo from our website or our Facebook; from your travels abroad; or from your everyday life that you think represents EcoLogic and the way that we work!

The next step is to post the photo you have chosen on your Facebook wall, tag us (@Ecologic Development Fund), and fill out the information below. We truly value the importance of engaging each one of you in our work!

Along with your photo—please copy and paste the text below into your post to include your input about EcoLogic’s role! Just as we are incorporating these perspectives into our work, we will include yours and with your permission, share your photos and perspectives on our social media!

Name and role (what you do for work):

Project and location of the photo:

Approximate date:

Title:

From your point of view, why is this photo significant and how does it represent EcoLogic’s role?

 

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