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What we’ve learnt running bilingual remote workshops

Like many organisations we’ve had to adapt our ways of working since the start of the pandemic.

Although our co-operative has always worked remotely, a lot of our work has involved international travel. This changed in 2020, as workshops that we previously would have delivered in person are now being conducted online.

We think running workshops online is a more sustainable and accessible way of doing things. There are a number of benefits — it lowers our carbon footprint, is less stressful and time consuming to organise and helps open workshops up to people who may be less able to travel. We’ve found that there are some additional considerations to take into account when running sessions remotely and bilingually.

In July, we ran a workshop on Beneficial Ownership transparency with Rasheed (Transparency International Jordan). There were around 35 participants, who were all Arabic speakers. Most spoke English, but some attendees needed or preferred Arabic interpretation. Two people from Open Data Services and one person from Open Ownership presented. We all speak English, but no Arabic.

In this blog post, we’re sharing how we ran our remote workshop with interpretation, and what we’ve learnt along the way.

Help interpreters understand the subject matter

We started our preparation weeks before by translating our presentations into Arabic. We used the same company for translation and interpretation.

Translating in advance gave the interpreters time to understand our content and ask questions about the subject matter, including technical and legal terms. We checked the accuracy of translations with our hosts, Rasheed.

In order to be consistent with our language, we have a glossary of terms specific to beneficial ownership as well as technical terms about data standards. We didn’t translate the glossary for our Jordan workshop. In the future this will be our first step when running workshops in a new language.

While the slides were in Arabic, we kept the notes in English, giving us the confidence that we were speaking to the correct material.

We conducted a test run on Zoom listening from the Arabic channel, English channel and main floor, then exchanged numbers with the interpreters so that we had a back channel to communicate during the workshop if needed.

Create reusable resources

Hosting the workshop on Zoom meant it was easy for Rasheed to record the event to create a learning resource about beneficial ownership transparency.

Recorded workshops aren’t a replacement for live workshops that can be tailored to participants’ needs and allow them to contribute — but they can provide a useful way of sharing knowledge. In the future, we will look at how we can use online workshops as an opportunity to share information about beneficial ownership transparency in a more structured way — for example including captioning.

Find new ways to network

We always want to create a collaborative space — but it can be harder to encourage participation remotely.

To mitigate this we enabled participants to join the meeting room 30 minutes before the start of the workshop. We also encouraged discussion using the chat channel and the raise hand function. These methods won’t ever replicate face to face meetings, but as tools develop we are continually learning how to facilitate meaningful participation online.