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Grounded Project


Middle English, from Old English grund; akin to Old High German grunt ground:
1. Connected to the earth
2. Confined to stay inside
3. Not allowed to fly (in aviation)
4. Based on empirical data (as in Grounded Theory)
5. Mature, sensible with well-considered priorities

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YUL Repository

Grounded is an approach to bringing awareness to issues concerning environmental sustainability, biodiversity conservation, health, and human well-being in Costa Rica through the creation of a series of documentary films spotlighting rural community lives.  The participatory nature of community voice, combined with video documentation reveals and shares the structural elements that constrain the pursuit of social and ecological wellbeing, as well as the opportunities that these grounded experiences offer for alternative ways of living.

In Winter 2021, the Las Nubes Project in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (EUC) and the Faculty of Health (FoH) at York University, and the Universidad Técnica Nacional of Costa Rica, San Carlos Campus launched the project with the financial support of EUC, FoH, York International and York Libraries.

The confinement provoked by the coronavirus pandemic has inspired us to find ways to continue exploring the complex issues in the Brunca Region that have been the subject matter of the diverse courses of the interdisciplinary Las Nubes Summer Abroad and Reading Week programs. We have also been moved to find ways of maintaining dialogue with partners and stakeholders in the Brunca Region with whom we have developed long-standing relationships of trust, collaboration and community engagement, as well as to continue to provide the study abroad experience to students who might not be able to travel to Costa Rica, for health or other reasons, including economic, disability, or other travel constraints.

Grounded seeks to engage in transdisciplinary conversations among academics, expert practitioners, local stakeholders and actors on the ground.  Participatory documentary filming, creates and mobilize knowledge about complex issues of the Brunca Region, focusing on local concerns, difficulties, aspirations, achievements and potential. The series provides documentary material from diverse theoretical, disciplinary and life-experience vantage points gathered in the Brunca Region and allows for the analysis, theorization and collaborative construction of knowledge. This project is a model to support long-term transdisciplinary and ethnographic research of complex regional socio-ecological systems in the Global South.

Documentary Film Series Creation – each episode is created by faculty plus student independent films based on several identified issues of interest

Each documentary is led by a York University faculty member and filmed in rural Costa Rica offering diverse theoretical, disciplinary and life-experience perspectives and allowing for the collaborative construction of knowledge, new research and policy discussions.

The Grounded series advance the understanding of the complex issues of rural livelihoods, resilience and socio-ecological wellbeing in the Global South and expand the conversations beyond the confines of academia, to include the general public.

International Experiential Education – a collaboration with Costa Rican partners through Globally Networked Learning and Practicum

Grounded allows for the participation and interaction between Costa Rican and Canadian students at all stages of the transdisciplinary research and film production, as well as the creation of internships, practicum and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students under the supervision of the diverse academic leads. In addition, the Grounded team is documenting all processes and sessions among York students, York faculty, local experts and local community stakeholders, as experiential pedagogical opportunities to learn and share best practices.

An innovative approach to building community connections on the ground in Costa Rica

Grounded enables a collaborative globally networked research environment that allows for the developing and deepening institutional partnerships through in-person and virtual ecosystems to enhance research and community of learning between York and Costa Rican Universities.

Research – Interdisciplinary ethnographic film methodology with  using Grounded Theory to explore issues of interest

Our goal is to bring together a team of researchers from diverse disciplines with academic interests in the Brunca Region, along with local experts in diverse fields, to engage with local stakeholders and community members and collectively explore and further the understanding of the threats and opportunities, difficulties and potentials, fears and aspirations for socioecological wellbeing in the Global South. The Brunca region boasts great bioecological and ethnocultural wealth, but consistently suffers conditions of economic poverty and often holds the lowest Human Development Index in the country. Despite these challenges, it maintains resilient populations with a strong sense of place rooted in their way of life and territory in the face of these contradictions, which are increasingly compounded by climate change

Educational Resource Development – Creating a repository for data collected and film footage for use in future courses and study abroad programs

In collaboration with the York University Libraries, the Grounded Project is working on the creation of multiple pedagogical and teaching materials based on the participatory, transdisciplinary research process and audiovisual products including a collection of multiple audiovisual materials, based on primary research with voices directly from stakeholders on the ground, which serve as pedagogical instruments to immerse Canadian students into Costa Rican rural livelihoods, environment and culture.