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:
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.
See more PhotoVoice reflections.