Overcoming the language barrier: New experimental multi-language platform creates space for dialogue

01 Dec 2020

Languages available:   English Español Français Português


Since last year, I have spent quite a bit of time speaking with community philanthropy organizations and other civil society actors across West Africa. These conversations began in advance of the GFCF’s November 2019 Pathways to Power Symposium, as a way of warming up event participants, and seeking additional input from colleagues and allies who wouldn’t be attending the event in person. We were looking to explore how actors in the region are engaging with their constituencies – ie. what their efforts to #ShiftThePower look like in practice – and to understand how we might better support the growing community philanthropy field in the region.

From these conversations – which were held in French – a few things became obvious. The first was that actors in West Africa are hungry to connect with practitioners in other parts of the world. This is not only to learn more about what is working in other places (are there lessons, tips and skills that can be shared?) but also to share their own stories and knowledge too, as these are so often overlooked by mainstream philanthropy and development. The second was that, though they were keen to reach out to their counterparts, there was wide agreement that language is a barrier, and this impediment has left them feeling isolated.


A multi-language platform

As a result of these conversations, and with the support of the GFCF, we have developed a multi-language platform that – we hope – will stimulate written discussion and sharing across borders and languages. The most important feature? Contributors can express themselves in their own languages (there are 16 options including Arabic, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, etc.) and thanks to a simultaneous translation tool, any other member of the platform will be able to read what is written, and to respond in their own language.

The platform is aimed at anyone interested in community philanthropy, localization, #ShiftThePower, etc. Users can submit new themes and start new conversations around topics of interest to them. Some examples of topics that have already been introduced include:

  • COVID-19 and its multiple effects on our sector.
  • Can organized labour make a difference?
  • Strategies for promoting environmental rights.

You are warmly invited to come and explore the platform! Join the conversation (in whatever language you’d like) – we’d love to hear from you.


By: John Norton, Development Workshop. Contact John at or visit the multi-language forum at where instructions for joining are included in French, Portuguese, Spanish or any of the other 13 languages that are presently supported.

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