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What's video got to do with it? : a community-university research partnership in Vancouver's Downtown… Vallillee, André David 2007

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W H A T ' S VIDEO G O T T O D O W I T H IT? A C O M M U N I T Y - U N I V E R S I T Y R E S E A R C H P A R T N E R S H I P I N V A N C O U V E R ' S D O W N T O W N E A S T S I D E by Andre David Vallillee B . A . {with distinction), University of Victoria, 2005 A T H E S I S S U B M I T T E D I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T O F T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E O F M A S T E R O F A R T S I N P L A N N I N G in The Faculty o f Graduate Studies U N I V E R S I T Y O F B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A A p r i l 2007 © Andre David Vallillee, 2007 ABSTRACT This paper argues that collaborative video projects offer a new, innovative model for community-university research partnerships to inform community planning processes. We begin with a brief review of participatory planning theory in the broader planning theory field. The work o f K e n Reardon in East St. Louis is then used to illustrate the emergence o f community-university research partnerships as a conduit for increasing participation in community planning processes. Building on the successes o f Reardon's work the paper moves on to explore the use of video in community-university research partnerships. Using the author's participation in a community-university research partnership in the form of a collaborative video project in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the paper sheds light on the opportunities and challenges collaborative video projects present in pursuit o f a more inclusive, democratic planning process. TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Table o f Contents iii List of Figures iv 1 Introduction 1 2 Democratize Planning! A Brief Review of Participatory Planning Theory 3 3 Bridging the T o w n - G o w n Divide: The Emergence of Community-University Partnerships 5 4 Through the Lens: Project Background and Methodology 11 5 Video as an Integrative Way o f Knowing 17 6 Observations, Reflections, and Insights 23 7 Concluding Remarks: Subtle Resistances, Promising Creations 33 Bibliography 34 Appendix I Consent Form 36 Appendix II "Participatory Video" as Defined by Project Participants 38 Appendix III Project Timeline 40 Appendix I V U B C Research Ethics Board Certificate o f Approval 41-42 LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1 The Official Timeline and Events o f the Carrall Street Greenway Project 19 Figure 2 The Unofficial Timeline and Events of the Carrall Street Greenway Project 20 i v 1. -Lntroduction. I can't help but dteam about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes — all the better. All the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I'd like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible storms. Michel Foucault, The Masked Philosopher Number 1 Hastings Street lies in the heart o f Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. F rom inside the Interurban Gallery one can hear the voices and vehicles flowing through the busy intersecting streets o f Carrall and Hastings. O n an early morning in Apr i l of 2006 a small gathering of Vancouverites occurred to try something different in the Downtown Eastside. A mixture o f inner-city youth, graduate students and members of a local non-profit and planning consultancy form the roots o f this collective. Their presence is a result o f the organizers' vision and desire to create a communicative space, a medium for storytelling that encourages multiple narratives — many beginnings with just as many ends. Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES) inspires judgment. Death, disease and addiction: the common frames through which this neighbourhood is presented, perceived and judged by mainstream media and accompanying audience. A common re-action among passing commuters, lost tourists and other Vancouverites upon visiting the neighbourhood is one of discomfort, unease and vulnerability. Often, as in the case of the D T E S , these emotions reaffirm prior stereotypes and morph into calls for increased policing and greater regulation 1 of space and the bodies therein. Shallow, dis-connected judgment acts as one o f the simplest, most severe, and questionable o f human capacities. A l l too often such judgments concretize the foundations for revitalization strategies in depressed urban neighbourhoods like the D T E S . This needs to change. M y research has three objectives: 1. Chart the evolution o f calls to democratize planning in the broader planning theory field. 2. Examine the emergence o f community-university research partnerships as a conduit for practicing a more inclusive, democratic planning process. 3. Determine to what extent collaborative video projects offer a new, innovative model for community-university research partnerships to encourage more inclusive, democratic community planning processes. This is a story o f stories - a set of reflections, observations and insights emerging from participation in a community-university research partnership in the form of a collaborative video project in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. I can only hope this study lends itself to that o f which Foucault dreamed, a criticism that bears the lightning o f possible storms. 2 2 J L V emocratize Planning! A Brief Review of Participatory Planning Theory We begin with a brief review o f participatory planning theory in the broader planning theory field. F rom advocacy planning (Davidoff, 1965) to equity planning (Krumholz and Forester, 1990) and from social learning and communicative action (Friedmann, 1973, 1987; Innes, 1995; Forester, 1989; Healey, 1997) to insurgent planning (Sandercock, 1998, 2003), the evolving models and strategies to democratize planning have been met with both praise and criticism. Each model survives, championed by some and challenged by others. Participatory planning theory is an evolving field of inquiry that continues to reshape perspectives on community, politics, and public decision making in the realm o f planning. It grows from the realization that traditional planning theory and practice based wholly within the realm of scientific thinking and instrumental rationality rarely represents or reports the experiences o f citizens at the community level (Innes, 1995). Over the years participatory planning theorists have developed a new vision o f planning as an interactive, communicative activity where planners are active participants in a process o f social learning (Friedmann, 1973, 1987; Forester, 1989; Innes, 1995). This position represents a significant detour from the traditional role o f planner as observer. Instead of trying to impose order on planning processes, participatory planning requires that the planner engage community members in an active, participatory planning process. Al lowing for civic engagement and participation in planning processes creates a forum to communicate stories and draw new insights in community planning (Mandelbaum, 1991; Sandercock, 2003). 3 A s theories o f participatory planning mature and become more comprehensive there is a need to develop a vehicle through which the guiding principles o f social learning, communicative practice, and participatory planning are activated. According to Innes (1995:183) the practical goal o f participatory planning theorists is to "help planners develop a new type o f critical, reflective practice which is both ethical and creative." The desire among participatory planning theorists to create a learning, development, and planning tool for putting participatory planning into practice corresponds with a growing demand among civil society groups, local authorities and citizens for a greater role for universities in public service activities. A s a result, various types o f community-university research partnerships have emerged to encourage community-based research projects in pursuit of a more inclusive, democratic planning process. 4 3. D ridging the Town-Gown Divide: The Emergence of Community-University Partnerships. In the 1970s the Dutch 'science shop' model became a pioneer in community-based research strategies. Located on university campuses the 'science shop' provides a physical location where community organizations access academic researchers to help solve community-related issues. M u c h o f the contemporary science shop research responds to the needs and concerns within civil society to develop effective responses to social and environmental changes. Caspar de Bok (2002:22), project coordinator of the biology science shop at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, suggests: "Science shops are demand-driven and they perform research that is actually used in society . . . science shops offer opportunities for citizens to participate in the production and use o f knowledge." This trend towards community-service learning holds significant potential for supporting research on community planning issues ranging from social justice to environmental degradation, and from economic development to cultural revitalization. In order to develop sustainable community-university research partnerships, the research priorities o f the university system must be reassessed to better serve the public interest. Given the increasing concerns surrounding social justice in public discourse, community-university partnerships can act as a catalyst for research involving communities managing complex social change processes. Social planning theorist Barry Checkoway suggests "social, economic, and political changes are challenging communities — and their universities - to develop their capacity for the years ahead . . . Communities have needs, universities have resources, and collaboration has benefits for both parties" (1997:307-08). N o t only do such 5 partnerships respond to public interest issues, but research collaborations between planning students and faculty and community members can also create mutual benefits for all involved. For example, Checkoway goes on to consider that "on the campus, collaboration can provide opportunities for students to serve the community and learn from experience . . . In the community, collaboration can provide a source o f basic and applied research, consultation and technical assistance, and durable linkages with the university" (1997:308). Making academic knowledge and resources more accessible to community members and providing students with practical, meaningful work experience in the form of a research partnership has the potential to create a wealth o f new informed responses to pressing social issues. Where the rational comprehensive model of planning was made to be a science and disconnected from meaningful community input, community-university research partnerships empower communities to develop planning policies and practices from the ground up. In recent years, in the realm of community planning, the work o f K e n Reardon in East St. Louis provides an inspiring example o f how research partnerships between community members and academic researchers support participation in community planning activities. It is to this story that we now turn. Ken Reardon and the East St. Louis Experience. The beginning of this community-university partnership can be traced to the late 1980s when at the urging o f a State representative the University o f Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) committed funding to launch the Urban Extension and Minority Access Project ( U E M A P ) . The goal o f U E M A P was to engage students in research projects aimed at 6 investigating local issues in a depressed area o f East St. Louis. What is remarkable about this partnership lies not in what it was able to achieve from its inception, but rather the project's original shortfalls that led to critical insights among organizers to re-think and re-engage both students and community members in pursuit of long-term community-level social change. The early years o f U E M A P produced a watershed o f student projects that gained little traction and generated even less interest among local community leaders in East St. Louis. Then, in the spring o f 1990, K e n Reardon was hired as an assistant professor in U I U C ' s Department o f Urban and Regional Planning and tasked with directing U E M A P . A few months later during Reardon's first visit to East St. Louis, the stark state o f the city's once vibrant neighbourhoods set in: Two-thirds o f the city's downtown office buildings and retail stores were vacant. A l l o f the city's street lights and traffic signals were dark because o f the municipality's inability to pay its electric bill. The city air smelled o f burning garbage because o f a 6-year hiatus in residential trash collection triggered by the city's fiscal problems. Forty percent o f the city's building lots were vacant and 30 percent o f its existing buildings were abandoned. I quickly realized that little in my previous 10 years o f community organizing and urban planning practice . . . prepared me for the work I was about to undertake (Reardon, 2003:113-14). U p o n meeting and interviewing local leaders Reardon soon discovered the community's strong distaste for expensive, time- and energy-consuming university research that simply reiterated realities community members already understood, felt, and experienced. Struggling to find community organizations willing to (yet again) partner with university researchers, 7 Reardon was introduced to members o f the Emerson Park Development Corporation ( E P D C ) . After meeting with E P D C and local faith-based leaders on two different occasions, Reardon, referencing his own community organizing experiences and describing the work he and his students were able to undertake, was close to reaching agreement on a community-university partnership. E P D C decided that i f the partnership were to move forward, Reardon's department would have to commit to five basic principles E P D C had developed. The substance and strategy informing these principles offer important insights to those interested in creating similar community-university partnerships: 1. The residents o f Emerson Park and their organization, E P D C , would determine the local issues that the University o f Illinois would work on. 2. Local residents would have to be actively involved with U I U C students at every step of the research and planning process. 3. U I U C ' s Department o f Urban and Regional Planning must make a minimum 5-year commitment to Emerson Park following its 1-year probationary period. 4. The university must help E P D C gain access to regional funding agencies to secure the resources needed to implement local development projects. 5. The university must help E P D C create a nonprofit organization to sustain the community revitalization process after the university left the community (Reardon, 2003:118). After discussing the principles with U I U C ' s Department head, Reardon received the go-ahead and accepted the five principles, then quickly got to work with community residents to draft a plan o f action to guide the partnership. Following some debate and discussion there was agreement to create a 5-year stabilization plan and a commitment to undertake new neighbourhood improvement projects. It is important to consider Reardon's response when 8 voicing support for his proposed stabilization plan in the face o f community leader's initial objections: I asked them i f they would, as members o f the city council or county board, recommend funding for [infrastructure improvements] in the absence o f a blueprint revealing how these initiatives might contribute to the area's short-term stabilization and long-term revitalization. I reminded them of the intense competition that existed for discretionary housing and community development funds (Reardon, 2003: 119). What is happening here is a negotiation over process and product. E P D C is clearly tired o f participating in yet another planning and visioning process, wanting instead to see on-the-ground implementation o f physical improvement projects in the neighbourhood (ex: rehabilitation o f bungalows, reclamation o f the neighbourhood's boulevard). Reardon is concerned that without a clear neighbourhood plan, funding support for such projects will not be forthcoming. After argument and counter-argument Reardon recalls, E P D C "agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to work with my students on this [5-year stabilization planning] effort provided it led to the implementation o f specific neighbourhood improvement projects within the year" (Reardon, 2003: 119). A critical balance was found between process and product that led to agreement between the partners in research and action. Nearly ten years later the accomplishments are impressive. By the year 1999 the E P D C -U I U C partnership had produced plans that helped secure $45 million in public and private investment in the community, offered more than 3,500 U I U C students with powerful, meaningful community-based research experiences, and maybe most importantly, built hope and trust in the shared visions, desires, and futures of those involved. 9 This East St. Louis story is a telling example o f what opportunities and challenges grow from community-university research partnerships. Building on the lessons o f Reardon's work we now move on to explore the use of video in a community-university research partnership in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. 10 4. JL hrough the Lens: Project Background and Methodology. Background: N o w let us return to the opening scene o f this paper, that early morning in the Interurban Gallery. A small group o f graduate students, inner city youth and project organizers from Projections 1 and Ear to the Ground Planning 2 are gathered for their first collective meeting. A t the outset, this collaborative video project was envisioned as an opportunity to connect inner city youth and graduate students around a topical planning issue: the Carrall Street Greenway. While the original vision and marketing of this project was as a "participatory" video project, my experience, observations, and insight gained from interviewing fellow participants and organizers suggests that the project was, in practice, collaborative — hence, the use o f "collaborative" rather than "participatory" when referring to the video project. The distinction between participatory and collaborative video processes will be examined further in a later section o f this paper. With partial funding support from the City, project organizers facilitated film-training exercises and provided guidance in the video production stages. The youth and students co-developed short film scripts and shooting schedules in three sub-groups. This project produced three film shorts informed by a mix o f imagination, emotion, and creative representation; there was also a short 'process piece' that documented the collaborative ' Projections is a film-training program for at-risk youth, it is based in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Ear to the Ground Planning is a Vancouver-based planning firm that uses innovative tools like video in community planning processes. 11 video project as it unfolded. Digital video was emphasized as a core way o f knowing and used to explore the politics and perspectives surrounding the planned revitalization o f Carrall Street as a greenway corridor in the D T E S . One o f the main goals was to produce short videos about people, issues, and perspectives in the D T E S in an attempt to confront, challenge, and re-think common perceptions o f the area. As Barbara Eckstein suggests: The will to change . . . has to come from a storyteller's ability to make a narrative and physical space in which to juxtapose multiple, traditional stories so that they enrich, renarrate, and transform that space rather than compete for ultimate control o f a single, linear, temporal history of an impermeably bounded geopolitical space (2003:24). This video project reflects a desire to search out a terrain o f culturalfluency; a place where Michelle LeBaron believes we can engage others with a spirit o f inquiry, learning about the ways our and their perceptions differ rather than seeing only the familiar picture that shows us the world as we would like it to be (2003:85). The community-university dynamic in this partnership acts to legitimize both the students and youth as possessing valid knowledge o f urban planning issues. This commitment to community service-learning builds on the work of K e n Reardon in East St. Louis and others who challenge the knowledge/power nexus that so often legitimizes one (often professional or academic) knowledge over other ways of knowing. The collaborative video project was also an attempt to challenge and go beyond what American educator Ernest Boyer refers to as the "scholarship o f discovery". By embracing a process that re-conceptualizes university 12 research we help emphasize the importance o f community-service learning to foster other ways o f knowing. Methodology: Outline of Study Design. This research project used an inductive case study approach that was part o f a larger collaborative video project entitled "Through the Eyes o f Youth: A Participatory Video Exploration o f Urban Revitalization and the Carrall Street Greenway" led by Jonathan Frantz o f Ear to the Ground Planning. A s already noted, the focal area o f this research was Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES) , in particular the Carrall Street area. Participants used video editing facilities at U B C in the Cosmopolis Lab, as well as the Projections office in the D T E S . Group meetings occurred at various locations around campus and in downtown Vancouver. This study is based on a combination o f personal experience, participant observation and in-depth individual interviews with key project participants. This approach helps shed light on the strengths and weaknesses o f collaborative video projects as a model for building community-university research partnerships to encourage participation in community planning processes. In the context o f this research project, my role was two-fold: (i) as a participant-observer o f a larger collaborative video project, and (ii) as an interviewer of participants involved in the organization or production o f the collaborative video project. 13 The Interviews. A mix o f youth, students, and organizers were interviewed near the end o f the video production process. The interviews were each approximately one hour in length and occurred at a place o f the subject's choosing. A t the start o f the project, I verbally declared my role as a student and my intentions o f learning about collaborative video through participant observation, interviews, and my personal experience. I provided a consent form (see Appendix 1) to seek permission from the subjects regarding my intentions. The interviews were open ended, ensuring subjects had time for personal reflection on their role(s) and experience(s) in the video project. Why in-depth individual interviews? I selected in-depth individual interviews as a qualitative method because they are interactive and allow for self-reporting on the part o f the participant (Palys, 2003:150). The flexibility and open-endedness o f the interview offered an opportunity for meaningful dialogue between me and my fellow project participants. Palys remarks "gathering data is easy; gathering meaningful data is a whole other challenge" (2003:150). I took significant steps to develop interesting and appropriate questions in order to provoke insightful responses from the participants. During the interviews participants were asked general questions regarding why they chose to get involved in the project and whether it was what they expected. This lead to significant debate on issues o f 'participation' in planning, community-based research and creative forms of expression; as such, responses provided general insight into the reasons for participation in the project. In order to address deeper issues o f trust, friendship and frustrations emerging from the collaborative video project, more engaging, constructive and challenging questions were then posed in light o f the latter themes. The ideas and reflections expressed 14 in the interviews combined with participant observations enabled a better understanding o f what challenges and opportunities exist in using collaborative video projects to build community-university research partnerships that promote creative forms o f participation in community planning processes. Specific insights emerging from participant interviews will be considered in a later section o f this paper. Reflections on Research Process. The nature of my role as a participant-observer and the relationship that exists between project participants and myself must be considered. The observational process was unstructured in nature allowing for personal, narrative reports regarding how the participatory video project relates to my thesis research objectives. Procedurally, I used field notes gathered from observations o f the participatory video process in combination with individual interviews to determine what project components (ex: participants, activities, words and meanings, relationships, settings) influenced the experiences o f project participants. A significant challenge for this researcher was to avoid potential misunderstandings and misrepresentations of participants observed and interviewed. In order to do so I must confront hidden assumptions and stereotypes. As a white, middle class, university-educated male, I have personal life experiences that are likely quite different from the youth I worked with, not to mention the characteristics and personalities that differentiate myself from my fellow graduate researchers. H o w then could I conduct participant observations and interviews so as to ensure my interpretation o f events and responses correctly reflect the perspectives of project participants (i.e. "what was really being said")? According to Palys one 15 possible solution to this predicament is to develop interview questions that "(1) ask respondents to articulate their definition or sense of a term; (2) provide a definition for respondents; or (3) not even use the term but, rather, describe the scenario/stimulus you have in mind . . . since you're the one doing the research and hence have some objective in mind" (2003:197). Based on Palys' solution I developed questions that address themes relating to community-university research partnerships and participatory planning theory but avoid academic jargon. This research was, o f course, an iterative process and required ongoing reflection based on project experiences as they unfolded in the D T E S . 16 ideo as an Integrative Way of Knowing. H o w do you come to know, understand, and express a place? I f asked to describe the home, neighbourhood, or community you grew up in, what would be your initial reaction? For many of us such words conjure strong emotions and reflections o f recent and distant memories; home can be both a material reference point and a personal, intimate experience. Our neighbourhoods and communities exist as physical entities but are also infused with sometimes hidden social relations mixed with the emotional forces o f history and memory. Ways of knowing a place - its birth, being, and becoming - often demand an integrated, multi-layered examination. The use of video in community planning processes enables creative forms o f engagement and expression. Mix ing the time-tested quality o f storytelling with images and sounds brings both the filmmaker and audience closer to understanding the multiplicity o f knowledge, experiences, and emotions that permeate a community. But before exploring video as an integrative way o f knowing and re-presenting a place, it is appropriate to identify the contemporary factors that justify its use as an innovative tool in community planning processes. Writing Place. Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES) is often presented and described in written form through government reports. The bureaucratic nature of such documents results in a picture of the D T E S being painted under administrative headings like "context", "key findings", "options and implications", and "council requirements". Getting to know the D T E S 17 through this lens leaves the reader with a limited understanding and appreciation for the "hustle and bustle" of sounds, people, and day-to-day interactions that give this community life. Rooted in scientific analysis and coloured with budgetary concerns, official planning reports are often constrained in their outlook; the focus is on moving the agenda forward in the face o f perceived political realities. John Forester suggests: "planners and policy analysts regularly and selectively shape what parties know or believe about cases, how they defer or consent to norms, and how they develop or lose trust in the identities o f others." (Forester, 1999:202) The result is often one story about what the deal is, and what should be done about it. One Story, Many Stories: A Multiplicity of Plans and Processes. The Carrall Street Greenway Project was formed and exists at multiple social and political scales. From each level emerges a mix of narratives that together account for the ongoing planning processes around the Greenway Project. The official version as presented by the City and Council tells the story o f the Greenway Project as a major public realm initiative meant to connect three distinct communities located along Carrall Street: Gastown, the D T E S , and Chinatown. According to the official version, the Greenway Project originated as part o f the much larger Vancouver Greenways Plan adopted by Vancouver City Council in 1995. Yet, as the Greenway Project grew, developed and matured, City planning staff facilitated and collaborated with a variety o f community organizations who given their history, location, and role in the community, have vested interests and concerns regarding how the Greenway would impact the community. Community engagement processes emerging out o f and in response to the proposed Greenway Project are multi-layered and involve a range o f creative forms o f expression and organization. From an official planning 18 standpoint, these community-led processes occur "behind the scenes" - the activities are not housed within the City planning department or reported through official government reports. The collaborative video project along with community art projects, community stewardship councils, and an assortment o f other grassroots initiatives form the fabric o f these unofficial planning processes. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate both the official and unofficial timelines and events o f the Carrall Street Greenway Project. 19 In recent years the City of Vancouver has striven to diversify ways of knowing and presenting the issues, people, and ideas o f Greater Vancouver. Through a partnership with the Greater Vancouver Regional District and Shaw Television the City co-produces G V T V , a video series meant to educate citizens about the context for municipal policy decisions. While creative in its use o f video as a form o f storytelling and tool for education, G V T V programs receive limited input from and involvement of community members in the production process. The marked need for increased involvement in similar video projects sets the context for an innovative community-university partnership in the form of a collaborative video project in the D T E S . 20 Ways of Knowing and Representation, Re-visited. The use of digital video in this community-university partnership represents a progressive, albeit challenging, attempt to introduce a creative communication tool into a collaborative learning environment. The videos produced in this project were limited, constrained and influenced by the eventual need to present some coherent story in the form of a final film piece. A five-minute time limit for each group's film necessitated significant edits, narrow storylines, and a concise reading and presentation o f issues in the D T E S . Possibilities for social learning in this case were ultimately (and intimately) connected to and shaped by the processes underlying the collaborative video project. In the end, each video sought to give voice to issues often invisible in planning consultations: history and memory, language and persuasion, imagination and desire. The collaborative video project had other restrictive elements as well. Schedules, budgets, and the politics o f collaboration resulted in negotiated agreements around who would and would not be interviewed, and what issues would and would not be featured. Using video as the means to compile and communicate our research meant other ways o f knowing and presenting issues in the D T E S through statistical analysis, design graphics, and report writing were not emphasized or included. The implications o f excluding these latter mediums results in a story being told about the D T E S that limits the representation and input of planning practitioners, engineers and other professionals in the storytelling process. This raises the question o f whether or not to expand the ways of knowing or learning in and around similar collaborative video projects in the future. There is no easy answer to this question. 21 This collaborative video project was both exploratory and insurgent in nature. The videos produced were both complementary to and critical of the ongoing planning processes around the Carrall Street Greenway. Certain approaches to video production constituted "radical practice", diverging from "a logical continuum with rational planning for societal guidance" where participants found themselves " in opposition to either state or corporate economy, or both." (Sandercock, 1998:99) These participants found their strength and message acting in opposition to government; they accepted the bias inherent in their video work as necessary to present certain ideas and experiences. Other participants sought to use video as a creative means to engage planners, policy analysts, and the wider community around issues they believe require more attention and consideration in the planning process. This approach produced video work that explored how the ongoing planning process could be enriched, textured, and informed by alternative ways o f knowing and presenting the D T E S . 22 6. V^/bservations, Reflections, and Insights. The Project's Not Over Yet. It was in late August, upon arriving back to Vancouver from a month away, that I was able to organize the final interview for my thesis research. Sitting in a small cafe in Gastown, I met with one o f the project organizers to discuss their experience working in the collaborative video project. After some initial reflections regarding project expectations and realities, this organizer pronounced: " in some ways I don't think that the project is over yet . . . that's a fundamental problem with this kind o f [community-university] partnership" (Participant Interview, 2006). This organizer went on to express their frustration with a number of graduate students who had either moved on, left town, or ceased involvement in the community-university partnership after screening the videos at the World Urban Forum and Wor ld Planners Congress in June. In retrospect, I was extremely fortunate to conduct this interview when I did. Most of my interviews were held near the end o f the video production and public screening stages in June, interwoven with global conference schedules and hectic last minute presentation preparations. With only a few lines this organizer opened my eyes to a critical component o f any successful community-university partnership, but that was sorely lacking in our case: a long-term relationship built on trust, understanding, and commitment. For me, this interview triggered a number o f emotional, philosophical, and personal reflections on my role as a participant in this project and the goals of the project as a whole. In the time since, having listened to my other recorded interviews and reviewed my field notes, there are a number o f 23 key issues that deserve examination as a set o f insights to consider in future community-university partnerships in the form of collaborative video projects. Participatory or Collaborative: Who are the "Participants"? A n interactive dynamic exists between those who constitute a "participant" in this video project and whether the process is "participatory" or "collaborative" in nature. Lars Johansson et al. define participatory video as a scriptless video process, directed by a group o f grassroots people, moving forward in iterative cycles o f shooting—reviewing. This process aims at creating video narratives that communicate what those who participate in the process really want to communicate, in a way they think is appropriate. (1999:35) The "participants" who directed the filmmaking processes included a collection o f graduate students and inner city youth. What makes this group formation distinctly different from, and not fitting o f the "participatory video" label as defined by Johansson et al. is the lack o f grassroots people involved as participants in the co-production o f the short films. "Grassroots" in this context is considered to be individuals known, connected, and committed to the Carrall Street community in the D T E S . It became clear while working with the inner city youth that none had strong connections to the Carrall Street community; nor did the graduate students have much experience working in this area o f the D T E S . Participants were forced to rely primarily on Projections' contacts within the community as a means to access community members for information and perspectives to present in each of the short films. Contacted community members and planning professionals who agreed to be represented-in the films — either in voice or in person — were collaborators in the process. 24 They engaged in a process o f collaborative storytelling, through which their mix o f stories and experiences infused the ideas, images, and storylines that played out in each of the three films. But as grassroots collaborators they did not share an equal role with project participants when it came to script development, editing, and video production processes. O n the other hand, a common criticism among students and youth regarding a lack o f participant control in the video project concerns the dynamic within and between group participants and organizers, not the actual community members who were engaged as storytellers, etcetera. This is an important distinction because at one level the project lacked community control and input, while at another level, participants and organizers had different perspectives on what constitutes "participatory" video and whether the project did or did not fit the definition (Appendix 2). Sara Kindon , reflecting on her experience working on participatory video projects with members o f a Maaori tribe in Aotearoa New Zealand, believes participatory video i f used within carefully negotiated relationships, has potential to destabilize hierarchical power relations and create spaces for transformation by providing a practice o f looking 'alongside' rather than 'at' research subjects. (2003:142) For burs to be a truly participatory, community-based video project, the list o f participants directly involved in the filmmaking process must include those residents in and o f the D T E S . This is a seemingly obvious point, but one that was abandoned in light o f the administrative pressures and realities o f a time-constrained pilot project. For example, the pressure to identify and recruit a group o f youth and students in time for the 25 start o f the project demonstrates how project administration demands influenced community and participant engagement processes. A number o f project participants believe closer connections and participation among community members in the video project would have led to stronger, more persuasive and legitimate film re-presentations of Carrall Street and the D T E S . It is worth noting that a number o f these same participants identified time and budget constraints as factors limiting the group's ability to build the necessary trustand relations to form these partnerships. Is It Time and Money? I f only we had more time and money. So often this is the line o f last regret. It was no different in this case, with a number of students, youth, and organizers at one point or another remarking that more time and money would have allowed for better planning, training, and production processes. The project timeline (Appendix 3) provides the reader with a general sense o f how the pre-production, production, and screening stages unfolded during the six-month project period. It was not until Apr i l , already the mid-point in the project, that the students and youth were brought together for the first time. Reflecting on this, a number o f participants and organizers suggested that stronger group dynamics and relationships, and a shared commitment to and understanding o f "participatory video" would have resulted i f the group had joined together in January or early February. But this still does not address the larger questions o f time and money: was six months too short a time period to perform this project? Was the budget too small to command the necessary resources? One organizer observed the following: 26 With more time you would end up with a better process because you could spend more time discussing the details and flushing out a lot o f the concerns and answering questions that we kind o f had to skim over and move ahead. Y o u could have more involvement with the community, I think that would have helped a lot. But then from a practical point o f view it gets difficult to spend more time because you are asking a lot o f the participants, the costs go up (Participant Interview, 2006). There exists a tension in this project between a desire to build an inclusive, participatory video project rooted in the community, and the need to deliver video training opportunities and produce a set o f short films in the context o f time and budgetary constraints. While clearly a challenge, I see this as a productive tension, one that encourages participants and organizers alike to consider what they hold as desired outcomes for the video project. Planning Tool or Learning Tool or Both? I f the goal is to use video as a planning tool to communicate a message to effect social change and influence policy-making and planning processes, what does that project look like? Or , i f the priority is to support video training, capacity-building and knowledge exchange processes, how does that shape the project? Are the two options mutually exclusive or is there an opportunity to combine both and build something different? I think it is fair to say, based on initial observations and more recently reflected in a number o f interviews with project participants, that the original goal was indeed to combine the two in the context o f the Carrall Street Greenway. Early on, as project participants became acquainted with the Carrall Street Greenway Plan, it was clear that the visioning and planning processes for the Greenway project were in their 27 later stages. The sense among participants and organizers was that video could still be used to explore the politics and perspectives surrounding the planned revitalization o f Carrall Street as a greenway corridor in the D T E S . Given the chance to do it again, one participant believes: I think it would be better to use this process earlier on in a planning project; so say like the [soccer] stadium that's just now being initially discussed. But I still think there's a lot o f ways that this video can impact the Carrall Street project. Participant observation and personal experience suggests this was a common perspective among project participants. The role o f video as a planning tool to communicate a message and influence policy-making and planning processes is believed by participants to be most effective when incorporated early on in the process. In this capacity it can help frame issues, tell stories, and creatively represent the people, ideas, and perspectives o f the community. Reflecting on our project and its relationship with the Carrall Street Greenway, and given the late stage o f the planning process, I think it would have been most beneficial to produce videos that evaluated the actual Greenway planning processes that had already taken place. Instead each group decided to pursue themes and ideas emerging from group discussion among participants. This is another example o f the project being led by a select group o f student and youth participants with limited prior contact, engagement, and participation o f community members and planning professionals involved in the Greenway plan. It is also important to consider the successes and challenges o f this video project as a learning tool. While the planning tool dimension o f the project was limited in some respects by the late stage o f the Greenway planning process, its potential as a training and capacity-28 building tool remained. In fact, I would argue that the greatest strength and most tangible (albeit often invisible) outcome o f the project was the increased video making capacity among both youth and students. A t the beginning o f the project the majority o f participants had limited i f any training in and application of video making skills. Over a period of a few months we worked on a range o f skills and processes, from pre-production script development to production and video recorded interviews, finishing with post-production and screenings o f our short films. Based on the interviews, there are a number o f participants who believe the video skills and production knowledge gained from this project will enable them to critically, and creatively, engage in future planning and professional activities where video can be a unique asset. Intersections: East St. Louis and Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Separated by thousands o f miles and born out o f different experiences and histories, the East St. Louis and Vancouver projects represent two distinct approaches to community-university research partnerships. The East St. Louis story illustrates what opportunities and challenges grow from community-university research partnerships and provides important guiding principles for building and sustaining successful projects. We learn that local residents should determine the research focus and be actively involved in all stages o f research and planning, that universities should commit to a minimum of a 5-year partnership with a given community, assist community groups with gaining access to regional funding agencies, and provide the necessary support to create a local nonprofit organization to sustain the project beyond the duration o f the initial partnership. Likewise, the collaborative video project in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside demonstrates the benefits, strengths and strategic role o f video in connecting the university and community around topical planning 29 and policy-related issues. A s a pilot project it provides important insights for how best to introduce video into a collaborative learning environment and details a possible framework and approach o f use to students, faculty, and community groups with similar aspirations. Together the two projects reveal the potential pitfalls and opportunities inherent in such partnerships and suggest important lessons to consider when developing similar projects in the future. This talk o f the future leads us to the final section of this paper, where I provide one possible recommendation for moving forward in light o f the issues discussed earlier: community participation and control, time and money, and the use o f video as a planning and/or learning tool. The Learning Exchange Connection. It is no easy task to establish a long-term, sustainable community-university research partnership (Reardon, 1999). So it would seem advantageous to search out opportunities and programs that already exist. I believe U B C ' s Learning Exchange is just such a program and that it would be useful to consider ways to develop similar video partnerships using its existing resources, contacts, and reputation in the D T E S . A s a pilot project the collaborative video project was infused with vision and idealism, and like most progressive experiments lots o f hard work, effort and patience on the part of organizers, not to mention participants. A number of organizers remarked that most of their time involved getting the partners and funding in place. For participants it was the issue of participation and control o f the training and video making process and the lack o f contact with community organizations that led to misunderstandings about what it was that we were trying to accomplish in this project. 30 The Learning Exchange grows from U B C ' s attempt to reorient its research priorities towards applying the institutions vast knowledge base and research resources to better serve the public interest, in this case the D T E S . With a growing concern regarding pressing social issues, community-based research is gaining a more central role in academic and public discourse, and the Learning Exchange is one of U B C ' s responses. The Learning Exchange's community service-learning partnerships involve collaboration among academic researchers, students, and communides who share an interest in planning for social change. Such partnerships can empower community organizations and schools in the D T E S to develop workable, community-based solutions to issues o f interest. By offering university resources in the form of technical tools, research expertise, and volunteer labour, U B C provides strong support for communities grappling with complex social change issues. U B C ' s School o f Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) has recently hired Jonathan Frantz, one of the organizers o f our collaborative video project, to teach a graduate course in Multimedia and Planning. The course builds on insight and experiences gained from involvement in organizing our video project, and offers students an opportunity to gain filmmaking skills through training and video projects based on campus. I welcome this course addition as one o f the options available to graduate planning students and believe the student video projects should be rooted in and grow out o f pressing issues in the D T E S and other communities in and around Vancouver. The opportunity is ripe to connect these course participants with the Learning Exchange and its partner organizations in the D T E S to explore and communicate local ideas, perspectives, and experiences through the innovative use o f video. 31 Through community-university research collaborations, students, faculty and community members are able to develop a framework for planning that works to empower communities interested in tackling social issues at the local level. Writing on the issue o f community-based participatory research, Vema St. Denis (1992:55) suggests community-based participatory research is "a way in which communities without socio-political power can use social science research to support their struggle for self-determination by gaining control o f information that can influence decisions about their lives." Empowering community members by helping mobilize and give voice to community interests and perspectives through video is a core component o f practicing more inclusive, democratic planning processes. A s D r . Margo Fryer, Director o f U B C ' s Learning Exchange, points out: " ' y o u c a n take any course and turn it into a service learning course,' but faculty need to be educated about the concept" (Charbonneau, 2004:3). The Learning Exchange's work towards community-service learning holds significant potential for supporting research on community planning issues and represents a promising opportunity to bridge the community-university divide through collaborative video projects. 32 7. v^/oncluding Remarks: Subtle Resistances, Promising Creations. By offering a re-mix o f the way in which the D T E S is often perceived, the collaborative video project uncovers new ways of thinking, presenting, and knowing the D T E S , and i f put into wider circulation, can create networks of ideas that inspire integrative knowledge and action. A s agents o f expression, collaborative video projects have the potential to support students, educators, and community members in a process o f local inquiry and to provide an opportunity for developing community-university research partnerships. The short films produced through this project generate more questions than answers, but that is the point. Cultivating multiple storylines, rather than a story about Carrall Street, is an emancipatory project. Bringing together different ideas and conceptions o f revitalization and a greater respect for diverse planning histories allows for a re-casting o f place. Instead o f altogether abandoning the official city report we can re-imagine and re-present ideas in creative new ways. Collaborative video projects add value, knowledge, and insight to traditional planning reports; they can be both controversial and complimentary in nature. Through sounds, images, and creative forms o f emotional and political expression, video is an integrative way of knowing and a promising contribution in pursuit o f more inclusive, democratic planning processes. 33 Bibliography: Boyer, E . (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Cambridge Alumni Magazine ( C A M ) . (2006). "Focus: T o w n and G o w n . " Cambridge Alumni Magazine, 48. Charbonneau, L . 2004. "Educating Citizen Jane." University Affairs — Affaires Universitaires. Association o f Universities and Colleges o f Canada. Pp. 1-10. Checkoway, B . (1997) "Reinventing the Research University for Public Service." Journal of PlanningUterature, 11,3, Pp. 307-319. Davidoff, P. (1965). "Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning." In A . Faludi (ed.),^4 Reader in Planning Theory. Oxford: Pergamon Press. Pp. 277-296. (Originally published in Journal of the American Institute of Planning, 31, 4, 331-338.) de Bok, C. (2002). "Science Shops: A T o o l to Bridge a Science and Society Gap." Prepublication draft presented at the conference o f the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology. York , U K . P.2. Eckstein, B . (2003). "Making Space: Stories in the Practice of Planning." In Eckstein, B . and J. A . Throgmorton (eds). Story and Sustainability: Planning, Practice, and Possibility for American Cities. Cambridge, M A : M I T Press. Forester, J . (1999). The Deliberative Practitioner: Encouraging Participatory Planning Processes. Cambridge: The M I T Press. Foucault, M . (1997). "The Masked Philosopher". In P. Rabinow (ed.), Essential Works of MichelFoucault. V o l . 1. Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. New York: The N e w Press. Pp. 321-328. Innes, J . (1995). "Planning Theory's Emerging Paradigm: Communicative Act ion and Interactive Practice." Journal of Planning Education and Research, 14, 3, Pp. 183-90. Johansson L , Knippel V , de Waal D and Nyamachumbe F. (1999). "Questions and Answers About Participatory Video." Forests, Trees and People Newsletter, 40/41, Pp. 35-40. Kindon , S. (2003). "Participatory Video in Geographic Research: A Feminist Practice o f Looking?" Area, 35, 2, Pp. 142-153. Krumholz, N and J . Forester. (1990). Making Equity Planning Work. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. LeBaron, M . (2003). Bridging Cultural Conflicts: A New Approach for a Changing World. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 34 Palys, T. (2003). Research Decisions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives. Scarborough, Ontario: Thomson Nelson. Participant Interviews. (June-August, 2006). Information gathered from one-on-one interviews with youth and student participants and organizers. Reardon, K . (1999). " A Sustainable Community/University Partnership." Liberal Education, 85, 3, Pp. 20-25. Reardon, K . (2003). "Ceola's Vision, Our Blessing: The Story o f an Evolving Community-University Partnership in East St. Louis, Illinois." In Eckstein, B . and J. A . Throgmorton (eds). Story and Sustainability: Planning, Practice, and Possibility for American Cities. Cambridge, M A : M I T Press. Sandercock, Leonie. (1998). Towards Cosmopolis: Planning for Multicultural Cities. N e w York: John Wiley & Sons. Sandercock, L . (2003). Cosmopolis 2: Mongrel Cities of the 21" Century. London: Continuum Books. St. Denis, V . (1992). "Community-Based Participatory Research: Aspects o f the Concept Relevant for Practice." Native Studies Review, 8, 2, P.55. 35 Appendix II: "Participatory Video" as Defined by Project Participants A process in which everyone involved in a group that is making a video project gives, donates their dme, energy, input, and thought into creating a compelling and original piece o f work, as well as being open to other group member's ideas about how to develop the project, as a means o f getting a second or third opinion. Participatory video attempts to gauge what voices are being left out of the decision-making process and then craft a plan o f engagement, using video to make those voices heard. It's kind o f like show and tell from grade 4. We all stand up and explain a concept and why it is important to us and through this, we try to include it in a larger group process: A t the end of it we've all been heard, learned something and been part o f something bigger than ourselves. Then we go for recess. We're collecting video interviews from community members in an attempt to communicate the community's diverse perspectives on the Carrall Street Greenway. Creative control is controlled by a group, not an individual. Conflicting opinions o f people producing the project will be compromised or contrasted. Also specific duties aren't assigned to specific people, everyone does everything. A term that describes both the process and product, a specific mode o f production, articulation, and dissemination. A sharing o f opinions, values that produce a participatory process and product. Participatory video provides a catalyst for political change and engagement through a process o f participation, listening, and dialogue. Through this process, participants build understanding, self-awareness, critical reflection, and ultimately political voice towards social change. People who share common stakes in something use video to express their feelings or views about it with the goal o f enhancing engagement, empowerment, skills, consensus, and understanding. Video which attempts to involve the ideas and skills o f all involved in the production o f a film or video. Video that is an open and involved creative process. Participatory video is allowing those involved to have a say in how they're portrayed. They can in a way choose what parts o f themselves they feel are important, and are allowed to share those parts in a place and time that they have expressed is comfortable for them.. .so they aren't puppets, but are able to be the people they are, accessing this outiet for their expression that we are making available to them.. .we are able to shape it too, instead o f just following someone else's strict vision. Process and output that engages a group define at the beginning o f a project to collaboratively participate in a project where opinions are acknowledged. 38 Video as a means o f communicating an idea/s and perspective/s. A process which all parties involved have a chance to voice their opinions, thoughts, emotions, whereby coming to a satisfactory final product. 39 Appendix III: Project Timeline January 2006 - March 2006 • Selection o f youth and student teams • Training on participatory values, downtown eastside issues, the Carrall Street Greenway, basic filmmaking, documentation o f public processes by youth. April- Preparation • Youths and students brought together • Discussion and exploration on planning issues, the meaning o f participatory video, D T E S themes etc • Filmmaking skills activities including in-camera editing exercises, interviewing practice, making short in-camera documentaries etc. • Identified break out teams • Teams decided on topic and basic story development May — Production • Shooting begins. • Working with mentors to collect footage and interviews. • Screening o f material. • Editing. Working in teams with film mentors for preliminary (rough) edit • Rough cut screened for community June - Production / Distribution • Edit ing and shooting completed • Videos screened at World Urban Youth Forum, World Planner's Congress, Planners for Tomorrow etc. . July / August- Distribution. • Interurban Gallery exhibition • Learning Exchange screening • Distribution and festival submissions continue. • Evaluation of project 40 Appendix IV: UBC Research Ethics Board Certificate of Approval 


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