Language Barriers: why the ways in which we talk about philanthropy & civil society are holding us back

But more importantly, in trying to make a handful of terms encompass multiple different usages and meanings, we run the risk of confusion and loss of clarity.

We speak of “governance models”, “impact metrics” and “stakeholder mappings”: all arid concepts that give no sense of the passion, commitment, humanity or hunger for change that animates most civil society activity. We define things by what they are not, rather than what they are — for instance talking about “non-profit organisations” or “the third sector” — and in doing so we imply a sense of inferiority to business or government.

The language we use not only describes our world but fundamentally shapes our ability to experience it. Not having the right words doesn’t just mean that we cannot convey the full richness and value of civil society, but that we may not even be able to grasp it in the first place.

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Rhodri Davies is a unrepentant philanthro-nerd, who likes to look at giving from as many angles as possible.

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Philliteracy

Philliteracy

Rhodri Davies is a unrepentant philanthro-nerd, who likes to look at giving from as many angles as possible.

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