Hi. The four of us, Haley Stewart, Elise Waln, and Sharyn Worrall–students in a practiced-based learning evaluation course at the Colorado School of Public Health–along with our instructor, Yvonne Kellar-Guenther, conducted an evaluation for a city in Colorado. Our goal was to capture the voices of residents who typically do not have the opportunity to provide input to their city leaders about aspects that positively or negatively contribute to their overall well-being. We decided to incorporate Photo Voice into our data collection to increase our understanding of the issues, engage our participants, and strengthen our recommendations and report with images.
Our dilemma: Photo Voice typically requires ongoing interaction with community members. While we loved Photo Voice, we were not able to meet with participants outside of the one-time focus groups.
Our solution: We modified Photo Voice by encouraging participants to email us photos prior to the focus group or to bring in hard copies of photos to the focus group.
Problems we encountered and how we overcame them: Typically, we only got 1 or 2 photos prior to the focus group. When participants arrived we encouraged them to look at their phones to see if they had pictures they felt were appropriate, and if they did, to email or text them to us. Many were able to do this and enjoyed sharing their photographs.
During focus groups, pictures were displayed using a projector. Following the Photo Voice procedure, participants were asked to explain their photo, specifically how the image represented something that led to positive or negative well-being. For those who were unable to bring a photo, we asked them to describe what they would have taken a picture of. In the end we got some great pictures and great descriptions.
Hot Tip: We set up a project-specific email, which made it easy for photo collection both before and during the start of a focus group. More importantly, we had unintended benefits of using Photo Voice. Simply getting the pictures emailed and on the screen was a great way to break the ice with the participants and an engaging way start our discussion.
Hot Tip: Allowing the participants who did not have a photo describe what image they would have captured generated authentic discussion and helped overcome any barriers this lower income group may have had. Overall, Photo Voice provided us with great visuals and an even better understanding of what contributes to well-being.
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