by Gary Copitch and Hayley Trowbridge

People’s Voice Media, UK

We think that people telling their own stories about the experiences that matter to them, and that have impacted on their lives is powerful stuff. Using pocket technology to capture these stories and the Internet to share them with others is exactly what community reporting is all about. Basically, community reporting is a storytelling practice that uses an array of basic digital tools to support people to tell their own stories, in their own ways and to connect their stories with a wide range of people, groups and organisations. At the heart of this practice is supporting people to find their voice – whether that is through words, photos, on audio or with video – and to articulate their ideas with others, which can form dialogues between people across a range of topics. Take Lyndon, for example, he’s used video as a way of talking about his experiences of settling in to a new area.

PROVIDING INSIGHT
Stories like Lyndon’s can provide valuable and insightful accounts of people’s lived experiences that can then be used by research teams to identify key trends, inform findings and conclusions, and positively impact on policy and local agendas. Our Community Reporting for Insight projects see people from a diverse range of backgrounds, geographies and communities use digital tools to gather grassroots perspectives that can be used to inform others – whether it be policy makers or organisations – to change things for the better.

Take the Voices of Britain project, for example; community reporters up and down the UK went out on the streets to find out about what pressures people were facing and how they were being supported through them. As part of this people spoke about issues such as racism, housing poverty and work stresses, and explained how friends, family and service provision in their communities were helping them to overcome these challenges. The project was run in collaboration with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) who combined the stories gathered with rigorous analysis in order to identify key trends that they could use to inform future public policy. Have a listen to what Mandy from Liverpool had to say about some of her concerns around housing issues:

We’ve also worked with the University of Manchester to explore people’s experience of visiting the dentist. With NHS dentistry costing the UK around £4billion a year, it is important that we understand what people who access this service really think and how they use it. As part of this process, our community reporters gathered 86 first-hand accounts of visits to the dentist that were then used by a team from The University of Manchester and Salford Royal Hospital Foundation Trust to inform a set of quality measures and an overall toolkit to assess and improve the quality of primary dental care.

COMMUNITY REPORTING & SOCIAL INVESTMENT
So, how will we be using community reporting as part of the InnoSI project? Well, we’re set to work in 10 different communities from across Europe to gather as many stories as we can about people’s experience of social investment projects and the issues associated with them. As part of this we will be recruiting and training 100 new community reporters to join our expanding network of reporters who use basic digital media-making processes and mobile technology to tell their own and their communities’ stories. A series of 2-day training courses will take place across Europe in partnership with the universities contributing to InnoSI project that will provide participants with a chance to brush up on their digital skills, develop their ability to tell stories and provide opportunities for them to have their say on the impact of social investment projects on their lives. These stories will be shared online from early 2016, so watch this space for a snapshot of pan-European perspectives on social investment!

Want to find out more about community reporting? Then visit www.communityreporter.net to read, listen to and watch a whole host of interesting stories from our ever-growing, online community.

@garycopitch  @hayleytrowbridge