The vision of Translators without Borders (TWB) is a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. Language is key to better communications, and translation plays an integral role. In 2011, with the help and generous support of Proz.com, TWB created the first-ever translation workspace dedicated to that goal.
In seven years, with the support of TWB volunteer translators, together we have translated more than 50 million words for non-profit partners. This has been the cornerstone of the work of TWB, and has allowed us to greatly expand our outreach to more partners focused on humanitarian relief and development. This growth has been possible because of our dedicated and energetic base of volunteers, our team of project managers and interns, the support from our Board, Proz.com, and our small management team.
Dedicated to evolving as the leading language advocate in the humanitarian sector, Translators without Borders is committed to upgrading our translation services, using our ‘Kató’ platform (formerly known as the Workspace), to meet greater demand and accommodate a bigger community. We are also beginning to execute the TWB 2020 program in which we will train many more translators around the world, proactively activate in crises, and increase access to health and education information in remote parts of the world. This growth requires a measured approach with a mix of funding and careful management. We have attempted to answer questions about this shift here. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to email our Executive Director, Aimee Ansari, at [email protected].
How has Kató been updated?
In 2017 Kató received a number of key upgrades and new features. In the area of translation tools, we have worked to incorporate translation memory, support for terminologies, machine translation and improved quality assurance. We are improving the interface for partners and translators, and we are requiring increased evidence from our partners that the work we did makes an actual impact for affected populations. We also are working to add community levels, allowing us to realize our goal of working with students and newly educated translators.
What are NGOs allowed to post in Kató?
One of our major goals is to make sure the work our community does truly makes a difference. As such, we are requiring more information from our NGO partners to make sure that they strategically fit our goal to increase access to health, educational and crisis information in local languages. TWB is asking partners to provide documentation showing the impact they make, and we are starting to check content posted in Kató to make sure it improves outreach to affected populations. We want to make sure the time our community contributes is used most effectively.
Who is handling the upgrades?
TWB is fortunate to have received funding for a head of technology who is an expert in language technologies and translation tools. Mirko Plitt has fulfilled this role. He has worked in a wide range of roles in the language industry, always with a focus on making state-of-the-art language technology helpful to users (aka “people”). Additionally, he has served as translation technology expert for the European Commission. Mirko is working closely with Proz.com to upgrade Kató. Importantly, he also has spoken to a number of translators working in Kató and our interns who know Kató very well. The upgrades intended to improve the overall experience for our volunteers as well as our partners. .
How much are the fees you are asking for partners to pay?
From January 2017, we ask partners to pay a management fee for access to Kató. The 2018 fee begins at US $850 for an annual subscription. It will increase by small increments based on the amount of words and complexity of work the partner puts through Kató. This fee allows TWB to hire project managers and interns to oversee Kató. In the first five years of its existence, Kató (formerly known as the Workspace) was managed by a Proz.com manager – an incredible donation by our partner – and a patchwork of six-month interns. With our current growth, we need a dedicated manager to properly oversee and support Kató going forward.
If you get payments, why don’t you pay translators?
The management fee we are requesting from our partners only covers oversight of Kató, allowing us to professionalize Kató for our volunteers and our partners. In a survey of our translators in early 2016, we asked about motivations for volunteering and what incentives were important. The highest motivation was simply to ‘give back’; next was to gain more experience in translation. Important incentives included being part of something important, getting professional recognition, being part of a community, and getting a personal ‘thank you’. While asked specifically about financial reward, it registered last on the list.
To meet these needs of our translators, we are updating our TWB Translator Awards Program. We have always tried to recognize our translators for their dedication, but we are now able to put some more incentives in place for our team. These include professional recommendation letters, endorsements on LinkedIn, community groups on Facebook, thank you certificates, and small gifts sent when translators reach a specific milestone.
Importantly, as we shift away from large volumes of work in Kató that do not directly impact affected populations, we are encouraging partners to hire translators and language service providers directly. TWB has many dedicated sponsors
What are the TWB 2020 plans and how will they be funded?
As TWB has grown into the premier voice for language and translation as key tools in the humanitarian toolbox, the staff and board have focused on a strategic direction that will have the biggest impact to populations around the world. The TWB 2020 program reflects that analysis. It focuses on three key areas: proactive translation of health, education and crisis content for high-risk populations, a new initiative to work with partners focused on mother tongue education for children at high risk of poverty, and continued advocacy that language matters. To meet this program, we are beginning to put in place some valuable services, including the first-ever fully open repository of humanitarian content, to be used across organizations; feedback tools to actually listen to needs of affected populations; and, improved distribution of content through social media channels used by affected populations. We also are increasing our training of new translators around the world, and in 2017 we completed a major training in Guinea of 16 new translators.
We recognize that this work is not always apparent in Kató, but Kató remains the cornerstone of all our work. For example, we are now asking our partners if work they put in Kató can be used in our open repository, and we are asking them to explain how they are distributing the translated content to ensure there is impact. Kató is a key piece in the overall puzzle we are putting together for better humanitarian response.
Some of the projects within TWB 2020 will be independently funded through grants. Others are incorporated into our overall core funding. In all cases, TWB uses funds for minimal management and staff needs. We keep our costs to a minimum, especially overhead. TWB does not have a head office and continues to receive very valuable services from our volunteer board. This allows us to tackle these big issues without major grant expenses.