Border Lives is a Oral History/storytelling project that successfully utilized ethical storytelling principles & new technologies to capture the experiences of people living along the border region of Northern Ireland, home to one of the most deeply entrenched conflicts in western European history.
Funded by the European Union’s PEACE III Programme, it has produced six short films capturing people’s lives and experiences along the border region of Northern Ireland, from the Troubles to the present day.
The project aims to ensure that these stories are captured, replicated, and shared in innovative ways that are accessible to both new and wider audiences locally, regionally, and internationally.
Each of the six films focuses on a different location along the border and gathers a breadth of perspectives and stories from local people. 40 public events were also held highlighting the project and its work.Read more
What was the project’s process for ethical storytelling?
90 people took part in the six films. The project used ethical storytelling principles as follows:
- Ethical storytelling is inclusive: The storytelling process was open to anybody within Northern Ireland society that felt they had a story to tell. Advertisements in local press and radio encouraged people to come forward and the project held 18 public information events that were open to people to come forward to talk about their experiences during “The Troubles”;
- Interactions with interviewees have clear boundaries: Participants were all given a project “Code of Practice” explaining what the project’s staff conduct and the project’s approach would be whilst working with them;
- Relationship and trust building are key: All participants had a minimum of 3 meetings with project staff and filmmakers to explain the documentary process, to record their interview and for follow-up work. In reality the project met with many participants up to 5 times;
- The process and final portrayal of a story must respect the wishes of the interviewee: All of the participants had the final say of what their interview looked like and what it contained, so that they were happy with its contents before it was included within each of the films. This involved showing each participant their recorded interview in full;
- Ethical storytelling includes partnerships: The project worked “with and in” communities and not “to and on” them, meaning that it partnered with a number of key not-for-profit gatekeeper organizations that worked with specific sections of society to ensure inclusiveness of the initiative.
- Ethical storytelling incorporates “duty of care” for participants: The project had a “duty of care” for each person. To ensure that the project did not re-traumatize the participants, it developed a signposting and referral service to counselling services in Northern Ireland that specialize in post-traumatic stress disorder and the Troubles. The project also had a budget to pay for participants’ initial consultation and some subsequent appointments if necessary.
The project developed the following:
- Six 30 minute documentaries of how the Northern Ireland Troubles Impacted on Border Communities;
- 20 Extended Interviews with participants explaining life in the area during this conflict;
- A purpose built website http://borderlives.euthat contains the films and interviews, along with maps detailing the local area as well as an interactive timeline about the development of the Northern Ireland Border, and a Blog detailing how the approach and methodology used by the Project team;
- A Smartphone App for iPhone and Android Users;
- A Social Media presence that included Facebook, Twitter and YouTube including the sharing of 7 Web virals that was used to promote the Project;
- An e-learning course, based on the footage gathered from 90 participants. The Course, http://www.borderlivesrethink.eu, is free and features 4 modules Restart, Remembering, Renewal and Reconstruction. The modules feature video clips, external links, questions and key learning points throughout the course and covers topics such as the role of narrative in conflict and moving forwards, the role of a border in conflict & identities in conflict.
Since its launch in September, the website has received nearly 25,000 hits. The films have been seen online nearly 8000 times, and the e-learning has been accessed over 4500 times.
See the project in numbers here.
An independent evaluation of the project made the following conclusion:
“There is a clear legacy aspect to the Border Lives project which has potential to contribute on an ongoing basis to peace building both in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties and in other conflict contexts. There is scope for the project resources to be used in a range of settings: educational, community and online and with a range of audiences both single identity and cross-community and with young people, those who lived through the conflict as well as newcomers to Ireland. The innovative use of new technology and social media to address these issues is a core element of this project and brings a new dimension to dealing with what are, in many cases, very old and long standing issues”