I-HOPE Photovoice: Hearing the voice of the community through photography
Tuesday, May 17 2022
To “hear the voice of the community” is to understand the context in which different members of demographic groups exist; to turn a listening ear to all segments of a place to take in facts and information, emotions, ideology, experiences, and symbolism. Historically, marginalized and vulnerable populations have had little opportunity to tell their stories and provide their perspective.
In the first year of the Indiana Healthy Opportunities for People Everywhere (I-HOPE) initiative, its regional Field Implementation Teams have held listening sessions in five Indiana counties―Cass, Daviess, Elkhart, Lake and Wayne―considered most vulnerable to natural disasters and pandemics. The teams have learned about community strengths and weaknesses, discovered additional touchpoints, and partnered with stakeholders to hold Call-to-Action Meetings to mobilize the need for a multi-sector, community-wide response to health disparities. But even with all this listening, the voice of the community’s youth can get lost in the shuffle.
To hear that often-overlooked voice, I-HOPE plans to launch a project aimed at helping teenagers express themselves through photographic activism. The I-HOPE Photovoice Project gives youth the opportunity to influence community leaders and lawmakers through original photos depicting the health of their communities. Researchers who developed the method describe it as one “in which people can identify, represent, and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique” (Wang and Burris, 1997).
“Photovoice is a powerful tool that can help youth become positive agents of change in their own communities,” said Evan Perrault, Associate Professor within Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication, which will oversee the project and jury the submissions. “Empowering citizens has been shown, over and over, to be an essential part of community engagement, especially the kind of engagement that requires active participation for success.”
As I-HOPE looks for ways to build diversity, equity and inclusion into community-level public health initiatives, welcoming the perspectives of Indiana’s young people is a win-win. “The project models a way for youth to become active participants in the development of initiatives that will have an impact on them, while also giving their communities a glimpse into what it’s like to be a teenager living here…seeing what they see through their own eyes,” Perrault said.
I-HOPE will engage with 30 counties over the next year and, in many of those counties, schools and faith-based organizations will be asked to collaborate with I-HOPE on that county’s photovoice project. The project asks for submissions of photos that depict issues and situations that illustrate health-related concerns. Teens will have the opportunity to submit original photos in advance of a community call-to-action meeting and attend the meeting where project photos will be exhibited in large format.