Doctoral candidate at UofG successfully defends thesis about work with K-Net

George Ferreira, a University of Guelph doctoral candidate successfully defended his thesis, "PARTICIPATORY VIDEO FOR POLICY DEVELOPMENT IN REMOTE ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES" on Monday, Sept 18, 2006. Doctor George is now available to take on new and exciting challenges that will hopefully further his research and production work.

The two hour session was video conferenced with professors, students, friends, co-workers and special guests (Don Snowden's family members) at the the University of Guelph, University of Toronto and Keewaytinook Okimakanak's Sioux Lookout office linked together for this special event. The video conferenced session is archived for online viewing. Click here to watch George's defense of his doctoral thesis.

George began working with Keewaytinook Okimakanak back in the spring and summer of 2003, becoming part of the Kuhkenah Network's Smart Communities evaluation team (Don Richardson, Helen Aitkin and Ricardo Ramirez). He travelled to each of the KO First Nations providing video production training and capturing how the KO First Nations were utilizing ICTs. His footage has been used in the production of a number of online video presentations about K-Net and our partners. Cal Kenny, K-Net's Multi-media Producer and others worked with George over these past few years to develop some great video material that is available on the K-Net website.

The production of the "Turning the Corner" video in the winter of 2005, provided George with the opportunity to meet with a number of government officials to further his research on the use of video as a means of influencing public policies and programs. Click here to see the KNEWS story about the "Turning the Corner" video presentation in Ottawa.

Click here to see some pictures of George's thesis defense session.

Brian Walmark, Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute Coordinator, was part of George's advisory team and thesis review committee along with Doctors Ricardo Ramirez, Al Lauzon and Isobel Heathcote at the University of Guelph. Dr. Susan O'Donnell from the National Research Council in New Brunswick was part of George's thesis review committee.

From George's thesis abstract (the link to the entire thesis will be added once it is finalized) ...

This research is based on the Fogo Process which used film to bridge communication between a group of remote Newfoundland fishing communities and government policy makers and politicians in the late 1960’s.  The research expands the scope of the Fogo Process by integrating principles from participatory video, a development strategy used to build local capacity around socio-economic issues, participatory action research and advances in video technology.

This thesis is an investigation of the role of participatory video as a tool to influence government policy making. The research is set within the context of a group of five remote Aboriginal communities in northwestern Ontario, Canada. These communities, collectively know as Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO), were part of a federal pilot program to encourage innovative broadband infrastructure development across the country.  These communities represent a rare research environment because prior to the introduction of broadband services, they were minimally serviced in terms of telecommunications, with one telephone available for all the communities needs.

The research was initially made possible because of the need for program evaluation data. Video was used to gather testimonial stories in support of KO’s Smart Program evaluation report. Video was chosen because it was felt by the evaluation team and KO leadership that Industry Canada, the primary funding agency, could make a more informed assessment if the data was contextualized through the provision of real life accounts and experiences with broadband. Very few Canadians have ever visited communities such as these and the impact that broadband was having on health care, education and community development required a communication mechanism beyond conventional evaluation approaches.

Local leadership quickly realized the potential of video to link their needs with policy makers located thousands of kilometers away. Research continued into the development and dissemination of locally produced videos in the service of policy needs. During the course of the initial video productions, I provided training workshops in the communities thereby creating a critical mass of people who could produce their own video media and, in turn, teach others.

After the collaborative production of twenty two videos, and numerous others produced independently by former trainees, the research culminated in the production of Turning the Corner. This was a 17 minute video produced in cooperation with the Privy Council of Canada’s Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat and KO leadership. The purpose of the video was to relay the message that bottom-up planning and funding strategies were essential to the success of broadband expansion across Canada’s Northern Aboriginal communities. This message was based on the lessons and experience of the KO communities where broadband had transformed community life from telehealth applications and internet assisted education to overcoming isolation and community development. The video made real the need for local planning and initiative to be brought into the planning process for broadband infrastructure through a series of screenings to senior policy makers in the nation’s capital, Ottawa.