We know that good communication is a two-way process. To engage the public and have an impact on the people who shape policy we need real stories, told by people in their own words, on their own terms. But there is an inherent tension between making a communication product that speaks for itself–which is powerful enough to elicit a strong emotional response from an audience or change their views–and one where the emphasis is on the integrity of the process. A process that is concerned with engagement and voice has participation at its core. A process overly concerned with the quality of the final product will privilege this end at the expense of the means by which it is arrived. New digital tools somewhat change this as, for example, they make constructing visual arguments more accessible and affordable to ‘non-experts’. But producing fantastic products from truly participatory processes is just the beginning. How do we then get the right people with influence to see or hear these arguments? And how do we ensure that desired changes are then made?
This article looks at a particular participatory methodology–Digital Storytelling (DST)–and how it can be used in a development setting to draw out stories and engage both storytellers and their future audiences. Through this example, I examine the extent to which it is possible to practice communication that is both truly participatory and produces ‘useable’results–communication as engagement rather than communication as marketing. Participatory processes such as DST