A humorous story in The Economist from South Sudan, where NGO-speak is quickly becoming a local language.
The jargon of aid
Jan 27th 2011 | NAIROBI | from PRINT EDITION
THE emerging new country of South Sudan, which has voted
overwhelmingly for secession from the north, has already become a
leading nation of "the workshop": not a place where hard work gets
done under duress but where the language of aid is taking hold even
among the natives. "I feel like a stakeholder now," exclaimed a
woman of the Dinka tribe, the region's most prolific.
All the favourite words of NGO-speak are now aired in the makeshift
corridors and canteens of Juba, the fledgling capital. Top of the
list are "empowerment", "capacity-building" and "stakeholder" (not
someone actually carrying a stake). "Governance", "civil society",
"facilitators" and "disadvantaged" follow fast behind. British NGOs
have a fondness for "focal groups". Americans like anything that
leads to "inclusion", especially of the "excluded".
Such terms' joy is that they are nice and woolly, hard to define and
harder still to contradict: who could possibly turn down the chance
to enhance development practitioners' facilitation skills for the
capacity-building of gender-disadvantaged women?
NGO-speak is particularly cherished and fostered in the grant
applications that smaller NGOs have to file to the bigger ones.
Using the right word is all. "If you don't know the buzz words,"
says an NGO director, "you hardly have a chance to apply for funds."