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Environmental Program Evaluation TIG Week: Using Photovoice to Promote Healthy Equity in Environmental Justice by Dawn Valentine

Howdy! I’m Dawn Valentine, founder of the Variable Scoop. I would like to share how photovoice can support community-based initiatives for environmental justice with health outcomes. We use tools that empower people who are typically excluded from decision-making processes and education to raise awareness of social and environmental issues. In addressing environmental injustice and environmental racism photovoice has been an invaluable tool to identify environmental hazards, document instances of injustice while promoting community engagement, and empowering communities.

Here are some ways that photovoice can support environmental justice projects with health outcomes.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Photovoice can give voice to marginalized communities that have been disproportionately affected by environmental injustice and environmental racism. Having community members take photos and share their stories can help to amplify their voices and bring attention to their concerns.
  2. Photovoice can help to identify environmental hazards and sources of pollution that may be impacting the health and well-being of communities. These photos can be used to identify potential sources of pollution and inform impact assessments.
  3. It can document environmental hazards such as toxic waste facilities in low-resourced communities or the disparate exposure of air pollution. By documenting these instances, a photovoice process can help to bring attention to these issues and develop talking points to advocate for change.
  4. Promoting community engagement through photos and stories allows for people to come together for a shared vision and purpose.
  5. It can empower communities by giving them a platform to share their stories and experiences, as well as by engaging them in the documentation, assessment, and interpretation process. As a result, we can both empower people and build capacity for addressing environmental injustice and environmental racism.

Hot Tips:

  1. Photovoice should be a participatory, collaborative process from the beginning. That means that participants – the community photographers – should be part of the planning as well as the implementation and interpretation of the project.
  2. Provide participants with a training session on the basics of photography and how to use the camera on their phone as well as information on the issue at hand – its causes, and its effects on health and the environment.
  3. Collect and analyze the photos and the associated story as a group. Using a guided discussion ask the community photographers and participants to describe what they see in the photos and what the images mean to them. Then together using a structured process identify themes or patterns in the photos that relate to the issue at hand.
  4. Develop a narrative with recommendations for improvement. To start this process, use the themes that emerge from the analysis, to develop a narrative that tells the story of the community’s experiences with an issue at hand (i.e., cancer clusters, poor air quality increasing asthma rates). As evaluators we can use this data and our resources to identify areas for improvement as well as opportunities to promote health equity.

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Environmental Program Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Environmental Program Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our EPE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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