Promoting Linguistic Inclusivity in NGO work
(University of Portsmouth)
Paper short abstract:
This paper outlines the findings of a 3 year international research project that examined the language policies and practices of NGOs. It argues that inclusive development approaches should accommodate multilingualism in beneficiary communities.
Paper long abstract:
This study examines the role of languages in power relations in NGO development work. It is based on 90 interviews with NGOs, donors and translators/interpreters. It incorporates fieldwork from three case study countries: Kyrgyzstan, Malawi and Peru. It finds that languages are not generally integrated in the development cycle and budgeted for in advance, which leads to communication difficulties between fieldworkers and beneficiary communities. The failure of donors/NGOs to integrate languages into development initiatives leads to certain groups being excluded from project design, M&E and providing feedback. Southern NGOs/CBOs also report difficulties in applying for funds from Northern donors because of limited language capacity. Moreover, donor/NGO discussions about sustainability and supporting local capacity rarely include nurturing the linguistic potential of communities to contribute to future development strategies. Examples of innovative practice in the country case studies are discussed. The paper argues that celebrating and accommodating multilingualism is essential for inclusive development. It concludes with practical recommendations for NGOs on how to embrace multilingualism in their work and methodologies.
Unravelling, unfolding and unsettling NGOs' work, role and methodologies