At a Research Roadshow held at our college this week, I led a one hour workshop on a technique called Photovoice. In participatory research, Photovoice uses photography as a tool for social change (Community, n.d.). In this workshop I was demonstrating how to use Photovoice in research but I realized that it can also be used for team building and motivation which leads to individual and organizational change.
I asked participants to bring a picture to the workshop that represents an achievement in their lives. Let me share this experience with you.
The first photo was of our colleague who is leaving the college. She was ‘on stage’ with the Director of the college, and the organizer of the social event where the recognition took place.
At first I was concerned that the participant had misunderstood my request, because she wasn’t in the picture and she talked about the achievements of those in the photo and how much she admires them.
With a little trepidation, I asked her how this photo represented her achievement. Her answer reassured me that she completely understood my request. She loves to acknowledge others and she does this through photography. She had spent her time at the event taking pictures of people engaging with their colleagues and families taking part in the activities, just, having fun. Then she had sent these pictures to the people who were in them. That was her achievement, capturing the enjoyment of others and giving it back to them!
The second photo was of a young couple on a beautiful beach. The woman who shared it explained that this was a photo of her newly married son and his wife on their honeymoon and that as a parent; it was a huge achievement to see her son married to his childhood sweetheart. She told us that her family lived in one of the cities in Mexico that has a major drug problem and she is so proud that her son and his wife have managed to be successful in their careers and their lives. This is a clear reflection of her and her husband’s parenting.
The next photo was of stacks of paper on a tile floor and I had a difficult time figuring out what this might represent. Had this person finished his marking? No, it turns out that this was a picture of his Master’s thesis in its last iteration! His relief, joy and pride of having finished were evident as he talked about this achievement.
Another participant showed a photo of himself with two others in a formal setting. He said that he had entered a sustainability competition in the Netherlands and he didn’t win and this was a photo from this competition. But, he went on to enter a second completion in the Far East where he did win! So this photo was his inspiration.
Finally, one of the women shared a photo of a painting called ‘Reclining Woman’. The painting was full of rich, vibrant colours. The woman explained that this was her first painting and she couldn’t believe she had done it. She loves interior design and dresses flamboyantly and many people had commented that she seems like an artist – and it seems that she is.
This portion of the workshop took about twenty minutes and really energized the group.
As I reflected back on it, I thought that this would make a wonderful team building exercise for a department or a small company. It brought to light the strengths of the people in the room, helped them get to know each other and created some alliances as they discussed their achievements. I know that this has given them topics to follow up on with each other – positive, generative topics – that are always good to have in the workplace.
I think many of us have learned that talking about ourselves is ‘bragging’ and we shouldn’t engage in it. And, yes, sometimes that is the case. But in a loosely structured setting, where everyone has the opportunity to share, talking about our achievements and successes can be energizing and motivating. Why not give it a try in your next team building session?
Photovoice Websites and Resources