Nov 28, 2019 · 4 min read

A photo is worth a thousand words

Impact measurement is not just about data. It is also about the stories and experiences of young people.

We commissioned Elliot Manches, from Close Up Research, to produce
a video case study of our centre in Brent and photo portraits of our students
and he speaks about their impact below.

What makes a photo or video impactful?

‘In an ethnographic project like this, we’re interested in people’s lived experiences, so we spend time with people in their own environments, to explore and document how they think, feel and act.

Asking the right questions is crucial, as is listening attentively to the replies.
We’re looking for a balance of emotional resonance and engaging story-telling.

When it comes to the storytelling aspect, we want each image or soundbite to tell, or at least imply, a narrative that provides some kind of context, which can bring to life any statements of fact or opinion.’

Do you think photos and videos are more effective
than data?

‘The best ethnographic videos and photos should be designed based on good data, and good data is typically best communicated visually.

For this project, with the photography, we had data on the different demographics of students, and we wanted to reflect that in the portraits.

For the video, Renaisi [see back page] were already doing an excellent job collecting data. This emerging work helped inform the approach of the video ethnography — and conversely, the depth insights from the video case study then fed back into the report.’

‘When we’re researching a subject, data can describe and frame the ‘what’ very well, whilst video or photo ethnography can be a powerful tool to explain the
‘why’, and so help answer ‘how can things be improved?’.’

‘When you are making films about, or taking photos of, people it’s vital for participants not to be objectified or patronised.

At the same time, I think that occasionally what counts as positive or negative can be a subjective judgement from the viewer. So the best approach is just to explore things ‘as they are’, with as much context as possible, and hope that this framing evokes empathy from your audience.

For the video, that meant not shying away from, or hiding any of the challenges that the students and their community may have, but also to balance that with hopes and aspirations. After all, that’s what IntoUniversity is all about — focusing on helping people move forward the best they can.

I felt that what would really bring the portraits to life would be a focus on ‘what brings the most joy’ to each young person.

What was brilliant was that, whilst everyone experiences the same emotions, the way their enjoyment manifested in the portraits was different for each young person. No two students were exactly alike; all were individual. Even with identical twins Hills and Wills, who both loved to draw, Hills preferred to sit on his bed creating fantastical comics on his laptop, whilst Wills preferred to sit at a desk creating more naturalistic illustrations on paper.’

‘For the video, I was humbled to hear Steffi talk about the positive impact IntoUniversity has had on her mental health and overall confidence.’

For the photos, Mat’s story of going from unengaged to A-star student, full of excitement for the future, was really fun to hear, as was Hamza’s tale of getting fewer detentions and deciding to become a lawyer. I hope everyone will be able to take something away from at least one of the portraits.

Video Ethnography: IntoUniversity Brent

Four videos telling the story of IntoUniversity Brent are available
to watch on our YouTube channel.

Photo Ethnography: What brings me the most joy

Hamza, IntoUniversity Hammersmith

The photo portraits, produced by Close Up Research, show our students with what brings them the most joy, giving an insight into who our students are beyond their interactions with IntoUniversity. In this photo, Hamza from Hammersmith is photographed playing video games with a plate of his mum’s food.

‘Coming to IntoUniversity has made me have less detentions, because in Year 7 I didn’t do that much homework, but when I come to IntoUniversity they make it more interesting and more enjoyable.

I got really interested in being a lawyer, so in Year 11 I’m going to do my GCSEs, and if I make it into university I would do the degree for it, and go on from there.

For the top three things I enjoy in life, football is one of them. I’ve had my football stolen three times already though. Streaming and gaming is another one of them. And my mum’s food is one of them.’

Hamza, Hammersmith

IntoUniversity aspire winter newsletter 2019

Take a look inside to see a summary of our 2019 Impact Report, our research into attainment, our inspiring photo case studies and video ethnography study, and our exciting data visualisation microsite: The Impact Map.


Written by

A national education charity based in the UK, providing local learning centres where young people are inspired to achieve.

IntoUniversity aspire winter newsletter 2019

Take a look inside to see a summary of our 2019 Impact Report, our research into attainment, our inspiring photo case studies and video ethnography study, and our exciting data visualisation microsite: The Impact Map.

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