Conclusions from the PhotoVoice Workshop Organized by Jibe Company in Sofia

In June and July 2023, the FOODITY partner Jibe Company, dedicated to “developing eBusiness solutions that empower people in a connected world”, hosted an interactive PhotoVoice workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria. The workshop had seven participants, ages ranging from mid-20s to late 50s, from various backgrounds, interests and origins. The participants included both native Bulgarians and foreign expats from Belgium and England, creating a culturally diverse environment.

If you use shopping cards, nutrition planning, or exercise apps, you are probably aware that you need to share some of your data to receive personalised recommendations. Used properly, nutrition and health data can contribute to better — healthier and more sustainable — food systems. But how is this data actually used? What happens after you share it? What choices do you have about it?

Our Jibe colleagues Hans Houf (organizer) and Carolina Gogova (facilitator) dedicated themselves to gathering the participants’ views on this issue in this three-day workshop. In particular, they tried to uncover what was important to them when dealing with their nutrirional data, what were their uncertainties, wishes, or expectations regarding this topic, and what it takes to ensure people do not lose control over their data.

Main workshop takeaways

This interactive PhotoVoice workshop provided an opportunity for a diverse group of individuals to explore and express their perspectives on the use of personal health and nutrition data.

The games, exercises, and overall activities that were held helped them reflect on their vision and express it through the photos they took. One of these activities involved an interactive mind map, around which participants engaged in great discussions.

The main themes identified in it were the need for more education on what is nutritious and healthy and the need for data to be used in a relevant and personally beneficial way, which is surprising and invites the discovery of new tastes and experiences.

Regarding the disposition to share data, participants had varying opinions. Some were happy to share it, while others would only do so for a good cause, and some were not willing to share it at all.

The open topic that was brought up for discussion is how parents can integrate more healthy foods into their children’s diets and maintain a good balance. The perspective of one of the participants, who was a chef, was very valuable.

Key topics identified

The main topics related to the use of data personal health and nutrition data that were identified were:

  • Care (smart, relevant; useful; peace)
  • Misuse (stolen, lazy, confusion)
  • Education/decision support (lack of food knowledge, tasty vs healthy)
  • Smart use of data (data sharing; tracking, big data; unclog my data for me to use; price you are willing to pay)

Smaller themes that were also addressed were:

  • What is healthy
  • Too much bad supply

Overall, education was the main and most important theme highlighted in the workshop. The fact that people lack the knowledge or ability to differentiate between tasty and healthy food choices, what’s good or bad for them, what choices to make at the supermarket, and how to pass on healthy habits to their children.

As the workshop came to an end, it became clear that empowering individuals with more knowledge and control over their data is crucial for promoting healthier and more sustainable food systems.

The FOODITY PhotoVoice Workshops

At FOODITY, we are focused on finding solutions to create better food systems for people and the planet. We have held three workshops in Austria, Portugal and Bulgaria to gather the opinion of a diverse group of citizens on data privacy and sovereignty in food and nutrition. They have also allowed participants to learn how having better control of their personal data can lead to a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

In particular, we used the PhotoVoice method created by Caroline Wang in 1992, aimed at empowering people to engage in community conversations and decisions. Through the power of photography, participants have been able to share their stories, concerns and desires.

This is just one of the ways in which we are making citizens part of the change towards better food systems.

This article is part of a series through which we are sharing the outcomes and insights of our three PhotoVoice workshops.

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