Positive Vibes

Language & Contextualisation

Meaningful research processes contribute to building a stronger evidence base for programming and advocacy. To that end, PV partnered with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in 2017 to deliver a Learning From Innovation (LFI) project to learn from the implementation of LILO in Uganda, drawing secondary data from neighbouring Tanzania.

Through implementing this process, the feedback from LILO facilitators and participants, and subsequent critical dialogues between the HSRC and PV, two key challenges emerged in relation to the LILO methodology and its implementation: the issue of language and of contextualisation. These suggest possible changes, both methodological and in terms of partner engagement to the LILO approach.

Language innovation

Having to use English removes us from our cultures. It others us. – Khanyi Mkhwanazi, queer activist and writer. Language is one of the first entry points of broad-based engagement with LGBT+ communities, religious and traditional leaders, policymakers and government representatives among others, and determines the tone and often outcomes of such engagement. As a result, the process of engaging critically with the use of language in LILO is an important component in the translation of the materials and process into contextually and locally relevant experiences that participants can engage with.


Contextualisation is a key determinant of successful LILO engagement. LILO methodology is broadly relevant to local contexts in Tanzania and Uganda as it speaks directly to universal concerns of conscientisation and personalisation that are relevant in a broad range of geographical contexts. The core theory of change of PV—that personalisation leads to increased self-efficacy and engagement in social transformation—continues to hold true despite at times extremely hostile socio-political and cultural realities. What would enhance the application of this theory through programme design and implementation is a greater level of contextual awareness and participant involvement earlier in the process. For LILO to fully activate processes of participation, personalisation, conscientisation and taking action for change, it is important that the framing of the work sits well with culture, language and lived experience in Tanzania and Uganda. Participant feedback indicated that they wanted to see themselves represented by more familiar characters and situations in case studies and role plays in the LILO curriculum which points towards issues of representation. This was apparent in the feedback from some participants who indicated that there needed to be more use of local examples in elucidating some of the concepts at the heart of LILO. This is not only a methodological process but also a political one, recognising as it does the experience, knowledge and wisdom of local actors in co-creating the LILO process and where necessary recasting, reformulating or adjusting the process so as to more deeply engage with and speak to the lived realities and life worlds of participants.

Overall, LILO and PV’s work constitutes innovation on two fronts: in terms of its core focus on conscientisation and personalisation in service to social change; and in relation to the potential for much deeper levels of co-creation of knowledge and learning with local partners and stakeholders. This process of collaborative inquiry sets PV and LILO apart from the more typical development intervention that has originated in other contexts, generally in the West, and is being rolled out globally in a homogenous fashion.