Challenges in Sustainability | 2013 | Volume 1 | Issue 2 | Pages 80–81
DOI: 10.12924/cis2013.01020080
Challenges in
Publishing Sustainability Research Visually: A Film about the
Opportunities and Challenges of a Rural Entrepreneurship
Initiative in Kenya
Barry Ness* and Ann
Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), P.O. Box 170, SE–221 00, Lund, Sweden;
E-Mail:; Tel.: +46 462224809
* Corresponding author
Submitted: 17 January 2014 | Accepted: 18 February 2014 | Published: 27 February 2014
Keywords: entrepreneurship; film; improved cookstoves; innovation diffusion; Kenya; poverty; rooftop water harvesting
systems; sustainability
1. Knowledge Dissemination and Film
We have witnessed a large increase in the number of pub-
lications on sustainability challenges over the past decade.
One important characteristic of the research is with the
wide variety of actors that can make use of the results.
Sustainability knowledge is often not only relevant for those
in academia or policy-making circles, but it can also be
useful for decision-makers in a diversity of societal facets
and sectors. It is therefore essential that the sustainability
research community have access to a diversity of knowl-
edge dissemination outlets, including those that extend be-
yond the traditional, and often inaccessible, academic pub-
lishing realms. One positive development over the past
decade in sustainability research reaching broader audi-
ences has been the proliferation of open access publica-
tion outlets. The alternative has provided greater access
to scientific articles to almost anyone with an Internet con-
nection. But, is this medium of knowledge dissemination
sufficient? Are there additional channels that sustainabil-
ity researchers can use to broadcast knowledge to even
broader user groups?
Another dissemination medium that has developed
rapidly, especially since the advent of commercial websites
such as Youtube and Vimeo, is film. These platforms have
created places for individuals to share information. De-
spite the rapid growth and great potential of this medium,
there are, however, a variety of challenges that must be
overcome in using film as an effective form of knowledge
transmission in sustainability research. For example, film-
making skills—such as effectively combining the multiple
formats of film clips, photos, narration, and sound—must
be developed by researchers in a manner that the film con-
veys a clear and concise message, is academically rigor-
ous, and, most importantly, holds viewer attention. Fur-
thermore, academic publishing outlets must develop the
systems and procedures to meet the demands of film (e.g.,
DOI numbering, peer review processes, managing large
file sizes).
2014 by the authors; licensee Librello, Switzerland. This open access article was published
under a Creative Commons Attribution License (
Video 1: Film on entrepreneurship initiative in Kenya.
2. Innovation Diffusion in Kenya
The 18-minute film presented here (Video 1) represents a
first small step in uniting open access publishing with a dis-
semination medium other than the conventional academic
article. The film is a part of outreach efforts at the Cen-
tre for Sustainability Studies at Lund University to explore
and encourage different forms of knowledge to action, es-
pecially to those with an interest in poverty alleviation and
sustainability in the global South. The film presents the ac-
complishments and challenges of a rural sustainable de-
velopment initiative in rural Nyanza Province, Kenya. It
focuses on the sale and financing of simple technologies
through an entrepreneur. The technologies introduced are
improved cook stoves and rooftop water harvesting and
storage systems. The film describes the approach, the
technologies, and early achievements of the initiative. It
then concentrates on the major challenges encountered by
the entrepreneur in trying to sustain the initiative through-
out the first years of operation, with a special concentration
on maintaining the capital to sell additional innovations.
The film furthermore addresses solutions to this challenge
including the establishment of detailed written contracts, a
modest late fee for late payments, a witness to the pur-
chase contract and mobile telephone money transfer op-
The use of film as knowledge dissemination in sustain-
ability research will become more ubiquitous as the obsta-
cles are overcome. There are currently several develop-
ments underway including the addition of filmmaking train-
ing into educational programs in sustainability, and the cre-
ation of new and novel forums for spreading knowledge on
sustainability via film. We welcome the developments.