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Current Research

Marginalised Lives and Livelihoods –

Reducing Poverty by Enhancing Working Equine Welfare in Nepal


To facilitate grassroots low-economic communities using equines in their income-generation activities, to enhance their knowledge, attitudes and skills in managing the health/wellbeing of their equines, leading to (a) greater productivity sustained into the long-term thus increasing economic security and reducing poverty, and (b) increased equine welfare.



  1. Conduct field-based interactions within three specifically targeted low-economic communities that use equines in their income generation activities.

  2. Facilitate these communities to reflect on their knowledge, attitudes and skills in equine health/wellbeing, culminating in the production of Community Action Plans that participating communities take ownership of and implement.

Community Interaction

1. Ethnographic/Participatory Community Film Screenings

A community film screening of an edited Nepali language version of the ethnographic/participatory film. These film screenings will be outdoor events within each community. It is anticipated that audiences of between 100 and 300 people will attend each screening. The screening will be held outdoors within each community, using a loud speaker PA system, a projector and large screen. This equipment will be hired by Animal Nepal.


2. Focus Group Discussions and Guided Interviews

Pre-screening and post-screening focus groups and interviews will be conducted with community participants specifically to explore impacts upon (a) their knowledge (b) their attitudes, and (c) their behaviours and practices towards their working mules. The target is 30 people in focus groups (5 groups of 6 people) and 10 guided interviews in each locations - totalling 90 people in focus groups and 30 guided interviews. Focus group and guided interview questions have been designed by the research team - Michael Brown and Animal Nepal. These questions have been carefully designed to highlight changes in participant knowledge, attitudes and behaviours/practices that can be attributed to their participation in the ethnographic/participatory film project.


3. Community Action Plans

Each community group will be facilitated to create their own Action Plan, in which they identify community-wide actions that will enhance their knowledge, attitudes and skills in managing the health/wellbeing of their equines, leading to (a) greater productivity sustained into the long-term thus increasing economic security and reducing poverty, and (b) increased equine welfare. The participants in the focus groups and guided interviews in each community will form working groups in their respective communities to create these Action Plans.


The ethnographic/participatory film screenings supported by focus groups and guided interviews will stimulate participant reflection and self-identified learning. This is what Paulo Freire calls ‘Critical Consciousness’ and is essential if people are to make changes within their own attitudes and practices.


The research team will examine the focus group discussions and guided interview results, alongside the community Action Plans, and then make informed evidence-based judgements that can be attributed to the ethnographic/participatory film-making methodology about:

  1. the impacts upon participating communities’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours/practices towards equine health and welfare

  2. the likelihood of greater productivity of working equines being sustained into the long-term, increasing economic security and reducing poverty within participating communities.

  3. the increase in equine health and welfare within participating communities.

Selected Projects

Below are 12 selected research projects I have led as Principal Investigator, that have had significant impact at local, national and global levels.


Output type: 83 minute Documentary Feature Film

Description: An 83 minute documentary film giving a portrait of Nepal’s working mules. Using participatory and ethnographic filmmaking over the course of one year, the film has been used to create positive change in the wellbeing of Nepal’s working mules through community level and policy level engagement.

Additional Information: Produced 2018. First screening 2018 in North American Film Awards. Winner of Best Feature Documentary Nature Without Borders International Film Festival (America) 2020. Winner Silver Award North American Film Awards 2018.


2. THE MISSING MILLIONS: demanding justice for the millions of people affected by leprosy

Output type: 44 Page Report and Recommendations

Description: This research used participatory action methods to compile participant reflections and recommendations, culminating in ‘The Mission Millions: demanding justice for people affected by leprosy’, a 44-page report in English and Spanish. The report was delivered to the World Health Organisation, contributing to a change of position in the WHO 2016-2020 Leprosy Strategy, recognising the ‘missing millions’ with revised health and community intervention guidance.

Additional Information: Produced 2016. Published by The Leprosy Mission Ireland.

Reference: Brown, M. 2016. The Missing Millions: demanding justice for the millions of people affected by leprosy. The Leprosy Mission Ireland. Dublin.


Output type: Two x 15 minute Case Study Films

Description: These two case-study films emerged from research that asked an original question, ‘Can global palliative care practices be enhanced through the promotion of ‘champions of change’ filmed case studies?’ The research was conducted in partnership with Professor Max Watson of Project ECHO and Hospice UK. Case studies of effective low-cost palliative care projects, with morphine administration at the grassroot level, were needed to create awareness and confidence within global health administrators and policy makers.

Additional Information: Produced 2016.


Dr Guyatri – A Champion of Palliative Care in Hyderabad, India,

Hospice Nepal - A pioneering hospice based in Kathmandu.


Output type: 3 Day Workshop Culminating in a 6 minute filmed Youth Communique to G8 Heads of State

Description: This project facilitated a G8 Youth Summit, in partnership with The Fermanagh Trust in May 2013. The Summit was held at The Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh, 4 weeks before the main G8. 120 young people from the island if Ireland met for a 3 day summit, to discuss global issues they felt to be most important and urgent in the world today. They produced a concise communique to give to the world G8 leaders in both print and film formats.

Additional Information: Produced 2013.



Output type: 24 Page Curriculum-Linked Educational Resource including 7 global films

Description: This project, funded by UK Aid, was coordinated in partnership with 5 disability and development organisations - Livability, War on Want NI, Disability Aid Abroad, The Christian Blind Mission and Children in Crossfire. The project explored the interconnections of disability and development. 7 films were made exploring the impacts of disability caused by their life situation, on the lives of children; agent orange in Vietnam, malnutrition in Ethiopia, brain damage in Bolivia and Tanzania, spinal injury in Nepal, earthquake injury in Haiti, and visual impairment in Ireland. The films were embedded into a curriculum-linked learning resource for post-primary schools in the UK and Ireland. 

Additional Information: Produced 2017.


Output type: 2 Year Project Culminating in a 74 Page Report and Recommendations

Description: This research, funded by Irish Aid, involved designing and implementing a two year psychological trauma education and treatment project in Nepal. The project centred around building the capacity of a Nepali organisation called Kopila Nepal, supported by The Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation, to respond to the trauma needs of people within rural communities affected by Nepal’s civil conflict. Methodologies for community-based trauma education and treatment were developed and lessons learned drawn out, making the approach replicable in other communities, situations and countries. The project methodology and recommendations were presented through a 3-day international conference in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2008.

Additional Information: Produced 2008.


7. PARTICIPATORY EVALUATION: EARLY YEARS - the organisation for young children

Output type: 6 month Project Culminating in a 94 Page Report with Recommendations and a bespoke Training Manual

Description: Early Years (EY) is an NGO based in Northern Ireland focused on the development of young children, from pre-birth to the age of 5. Early Years work with a broad range of stakeholder groups including parents, children, nursery school teachers, and has a special emphasis on reaching disadvantaged through factors like economics and social exclusion – the traveller community being a prime example. In 2012, Early Years commissioned myself as Principal Investigator, and a colleague as co-investigator, to plan a deliver a participatory evaluation programme with 2 aims:

  • To provide an evidence base of the impact of The Atlantic Philanthropies funding within selected Early Years projects, and within their users and stakeholders.

  • To engage staff from these selected projects in the participatory evaluation process, and build their capacity to conduct their own participatory evaluation activities as an integral part of their on-going work.

I, and my co-investigator, developed a bespoke programme of participatory evaluation and implementation that involved:

  • A formative 5 day training workshop

  • A 5 week evaluation implementation period

  • A 3 day summative workshop

  • The presentation of the participatory process, findings and recommendations in a final report.

Additional Information: Produced 2013.


Output type: 100 minute Community Participatory Film

Description: Without adequate community consultation, politicians on the island of Ireland provided an exploratory hydraulic fracturing (fracking) licence to a private company, covering for large parts of Counties Fermanagh and Leitrim. Deeply concerned about the potential impacts on their lives and livelihoods, this participatory filmmaking project facilitated the voices of communities to be heard. Their film includes interviews with farmers, fishermen, health professionals, tourism providers and community members. Perspectives from Canada are provided through interviews with people who have experienced fracking in their own communities including a high level Public Health official. The film explores the Fermanagh District Council's position on fracking, before moving up to question the NI Assembly and international commentators including the Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth UK. The film was screened in local theatres and community halls, as well as at the two seats of governance on the island of Ireland – Stormont (Belfast) and Leinster House (Dublin). It contributed to the Irish Government’s subsequent decision to ban fracking in the Republic of Ireland.

Additional Information: Produced 2013. First screening 2013 in The Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.



Output type: 4 Participatory Ethnographic Films, Conference Presentation and Report

Description: Conducting medical trails of new drugs within real-life communities is a very challenging process. Pharmaceutical companies often work in partnership with medical trial research centres based in Africa and Asia. Communities in the locality of these centres are often the subjects of repeat trials, raising key questions about their willingness to participate, their motivation and fatigue. The Wellcome Trust provides significant funding to these medical trial research centres, and wanted to explore and understand the community perspective more fully, to inform the ethics process that underpins medical trials. I was commissioned to facilitate 4 communities in Kenya, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam to use participatory filmmaking to explore their attitudes towards medical trials being conducted in their localities. The films were screened and discussed at an international conference 'Medical Trials and Community Engagement' in Thailand in 2012. The insights provided by the films informed the conditions upon which The Wellcome Trust provided ongoing and future funding for medical trials.

Additional Information: Produced 2012.


Output type: 67 minute Documentary Feature Film

Description: Funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War One, this 67-minute film is the culmination of a participatory filmmaking project with rural communities in Northern Ireland that asked ‘Can understanding a community’s past enhance the present and make for a better future?’ The project used a community-based participatory filmmaking approach to investigate the story behind troops returning from Flanders trenches to take up houses and land promised to them by Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

Additional Information: Produced 2016. First screening 2016 in The Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.



Output type: 20 Page Curriculum-Linked Educational Resource including 5 global films

Description: This project was enabled through a Winston Churchill Fellowship with additional funding from UK Aid. The project explored the lives of street children and HIV orphans in Kenya and Nepal. The films were embedded into a 20-page curriculum-linked learning resource for post-primary schools in Northern Ireland.

Additional Information: Produced 2008.


Child Porter in Nepal -

Child Worker in Nepal - (1) (2)

HIV Orphans in Kenya -

Street Boy in Kenya -


Output type: 20 Minute Film

Description: The Early Years Toybox programme was a unique intervention in which field staff engaged with families within the traveller community, specifically with children aged from birth to four years old. The key aims of the Toybox Programme were:

  • To get children between the ages of birth to four years, involved in pre-school activities in nurseries and playgroups – either traveller site nurseries, community playgroups or statutory nurseries.

  • To build the confidence of parents in the education process, and to see the importance of education for their children.

  • To prepare children to move into Primary School Education.

Toybox field workers used a carefully thought through methodology, drawing on the High Scope Model that emerged from Detroit USA from the 1960s and 70s. It was an evidence-based approach, where the value of intervention can be monitored. The Toybox Programme had been evaluated, but the written from of evaluation struggled to bring the Programme to life, and to show the human interactions that were central to the approach. To address this gap a film was researched and produced.

Additional Information: Produced 2010.


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