Making Change Personal – Deb Dole

Engaging communities really begins with engaging individuals. I have written recently about voice, building capacity, representing communities, and engaging communities. My own dissertation work with adolescent mothers opened my eyes to a new way of engaging people in discussion through photography. I am not an artist. I am not a professional photographer. I AM visually stimulated. I AM a visual learner – figuratively and literally. I think in terms of analogy – usually a visual analogy. When I “see” it in my mind, it then becomes a reality. The possibilities are endless. What does this have to do with making change personal? The process of self-reflection forces one to “see” in context.

 This photograph meant one thing to the teen mom who took it – it captured her sense of being trapped in a corner. It came to symbolize something different for me – there is always a way out. The differing perspectives seemed to reflect where we each were in our experience. I was “out”, she was still trapped.
As I reflected on the differing perspectives I began to recognize the importance of seeing. A group of teen mothers were given cameras and answered their own group generated questions through photography, group discussion, journaling and collage building. During that process my role as researcher quickly evolved into facilitator, and learner. It was through their eyes that I began to see myself differently. It was a change that altered the way I practice, the way I communicate, the way I engage.  For that I am grateful.