Please note that ‘The Listening Zones of NGOs’ project has now come to an end. If you want to be kept informed of further outputs and news related to the project, please join the Facebook group at, keep track of our Twitter handle @ListeningZones, or contact  


From 2015 to 2018, INTRAC and the Universities of Reading and Portsmouth collaborated on a research project titled The Listening Zones of NGOs: Languages and Cultural Knowledge in Development Programmes. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the research explored the role that languages and cultural understanding play in the policies and practices of development NGOs.

The project was informed by a workshop in January 2014, where representatives from a range of NGOs came together to explore the challenges they faced in using languages in their work. The workshop revealed that language issues do not tend to have a high profile within organisations; formal language policies are often not in place; and translation and interpretation needs are often under-funded.

About the project

The Listening Zones aimed to raise the profile and importance of languages and cultural knowledge in development, and produce practical outputs for the sector.

The research addressed three key questions:

  • What is the role of languages in power relations in development work?
  • How much organisational awareness is there of languages/language policy?
  • What is the provision of language/cultural mediation including translators/ interpreters?

The main sources of data were: NGO and donor archives and documentation, semi-structured interviews, case study research in Kyrgyzstan, Malawi and Peru, and ongoing feedback and contributions from NGO practitioners through participatory workshops.

Who was involved in the project?

A partnership between academics and practitioners, the research was led by Professor Hilary Footitt, with Dr. Wine Tesseur (University of Reading), alongside Dr. Angela Crack (University of Portsmouth), Vicky Brehm (INTRAC Associate), and Sarah Lewis (INTRAC Research Officer).

The project benefited from the expert contributions from NGO and language practitioners.

Final report 

The final report is available in English, French, Russian and Spanish.


University-of-Reading-Logo university-of-portsmouth-logo
The Listening Zones of NGOs is funded by: arts__humanities_research_council_logo