Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Managing Risks

I sometimes wonder how the Police Woman we met to discuss our idea for a participatory video project sold it to her boss at the Metropolitan Police Service…

‘Living Lens want to produce a training video for us on trafficking’
‘Oh yes, what will it be about?’
‘Well I’m not really sure, but it will involve women who’ve been trafficked, they’ll make it.’
‘The women will make the film?’
‘Are they film makers?’
‘Do you know what they’re going to say?’
‘Do you think it will be any good?’
‘No idea!’
‘OK let’s do it!’

The project was Fresh Start and the project aim was to have victims of sex trafficking produce a training DVD for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). We knew we could facilitate a group of trafficked women to produce a training video, but could we convince the Met to use it?

There’s an unavoidable risk in taking on a participatory video (PV) project that aims to produce a usable product at the end of it. The very nature of the participatory process means that the participants, in this case victims of sex trafficking, devise the content and shoot the film themselves. What they want to say to the MPS, may not be what the MPS want to hear, let alone use as a tool in their existing training programme on trafficking.

The key elements we believe support us in taking on risks are:

1. a strong project team – in this case our team had members from the MPS, the POPPY project and Anti-Slavery International. Having members of the project team come from different backgrounds with different perspectives can be a challenge, but the results pay off. We advise meeting in a neutral space.

2. thorough planning – share your planning structure with your project team, review it at regular intervals and make changes. Working with risks means changes are inevitable, make sure everyone is kept up to date.

3. open communication – when things get dicey our natural reaction can be to take cover and try and figure things out, so we can present the solutions and not risk looking like we haven’t got a clue what’s going on. We’ve come to realise that this is the very time to be in open communication with the project team, sharing the breakdown and having everyone be a part of the solution.

4. being with the unknown – it is impossible to know how a participatory project is going to turn out, unless we’re willing to accept this, it is a very nerve-wracking and stressful process. The process requires us to keep listening and observing how the project is opening up. We respond to what is happening, rather than trying to control the process so it turns out the way we think it should.

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