The special theme section of this issue of PLA Notes examines how popular communications can be used to engage with local people and bring the views of those who are generally excluded to a broader arena for sharing and exchange. It illustrates how popular media can act as a powerful mechanism to ring policy makers and local people together and shows the potential of certain popular communications techniques (e.g. participatory video, theatre for development etc.) for community empowerment. The issue also contains five general issues on PLA approaches and experiences.