Using visual products derived from community research to inform natural resource management policy

Petheram, Lisa; Stacey, Natasha; Campbell, Bruce M. and High, Chris (2012). Using visual products derived from community research to inform natural resource management policy. Land Use Policy, 29(1) pp. 1–10.



People living near remote protected areas seldom have their perspectives considered in decision-making on conservation and development. A consequent challenge for researchers and practitioners is engaging with policy-makers about local peoples’ perspectives, in ways that will capture their attention and influence the decisions they make. Some authors claim that visual products have potential for providing such a means, i.e. in communicating ‘local’ messages to policy-makers. In this study we used action research to explore the use of visual products – derived from participatory community research – to communicate local perspectives to policy. Hypermedia DVDs, containing videos, photos, diagrams and text, were used with policy-stakeholders in interviews and group activities. Most participants reacted positively to the DVDs and indicated that visual products provided credible and valuable insight into findings, grounded in local knowledge. The main strength of the DVDs was to provide engaging messages, in a format that allowed integration of knowledge co-constructed by local people and researchers. They were found to be a versatile medium for use with a range of viewers with different needs, as well as a valuable platform to enhance discussion and understanding needed in developing sound policy in natural resource management. We also found the ‘processes’, used in creating DVDs and presenting them to policy-makers markedly influenced the effectiveness of visual products. We suggest that in working with broad and complex areas in NRM, these types of visual products have the best potential in shifting conceptual thinking and generating ideas and awareness among policy-stakeholders, rather than as a means of recommending specific policy.

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