Learning to Work Together: Using Photovoice to Help Respond to the Cumulative Impacts of Resource Extraction in Rural and Remote Communities

In May 2017, the Environment, Community, Health Observatory (ECHO) Network was launched at the University of Northern British Columbia on the unceded and traditional territories of the Lheidli T’enneh. The ECHO Network seeks to explore whether public health observatory approaches can enable coordination between sectors to address the cumulative health impacts of resource development.

HARC’s role in the project is to work with the ECHO Network to reflect on how and what they are learning as a team that works together across different sectors and places.

In February 2018, a photovoice activity was launched as one method to encourage this reflection. Photovoice is an arts-based method that encourages research participants to capture their experiences and realities by taking photographs and writing about the photographs they’ve chosen to take. Network members were invited to take part in the activity as a creative way to individually reflect on their place in the ECHO project. We asked the over 60 members of the Network situated across the country to take pictures and write short reflections around three prompts: i) the big issue facing us today is; ii) it is a big issue because and; iii) we need to face this issue to help our world look like this.

The activity helped us capture how the ECHO project is imagined across the Network and how different members are approaching issues at the nexus of environmental, community, and health concerns in rural and remote communities impacted by resource extractive projects.

The photovoice submissions were exhibited at the ECHO Network’s 2nd annual meeting in early August 2018 at the University of Alberta Augustana Campus. As part of the photo exhibit, those attending the meeting were invited to reflect on the 36 photos submitted. Over the two-day meeting, ECHO Network members interacted with the photographs taken by their colleagues through an exchange of written comments on the photos. Using the creative method of photovoice with a community scholars, advocates, and practitioners was an engaging and eye-opening way to allow members to express, share, and learn from different perspectives on how the realms of environment, community, and health overlap, compete, and come together in resource extractive landscapes.

If you’re interested in learning more about the project, please contact May at farrales@unbc.ca or visit the Echo Network website.