Bloom: Empowering by design

The Bloom software with a Swahili user interface.

“And I will make of you a great nation, 
and I will bless you and make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.” Genesis 12.3

Like Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to the nations… and yet, it’s sometimes difficult to know how to do that! 

Reflections on Christian missions show us that our work should not be paternalistic, but rather empowering. Paternalism engenders a crippling, demotivating, and dehumanizing dependency on foreign support. Ultimately, this quenches the work of the Spirit.

In contrast, missionary strategies which empower local communities engender a motivating and liberating confidence among community leaders, which in turn enables members of that community to more readily respond to the promptings of God’s Spirit. 

The same desire to empower people groups is at the heart of all design decisions made by the Bloom software team. I recently bumped into one oft-overlooked design feature of all software, namely, the language of its user interface. As a speaker of a majority language (English), I simply don’t see this, but pretty much all publishing software requires a working knowledge of a majority language in order to use it effectively. This requirement can be a major obstacle for many users around the world. Seeking to be a blessing to the nations, Bloom software engineer John Hatton explicitly designed Bloom so that all of the words and phrases that you see when you use Bloom can be translated into any language. And so, for example, a Swahili speaker can today use Bloom, choose the Swahili language interface, and voilà, they’ll see the Swahili word “Chapisha” instead of the English word “Publish”, and they’ll see the Swahili word “Hakiki” instead of “Edit” (see image above). The same goes for the Hausa language and 20+ other languages. This process is called localisation and Bloom is designed so that any language community can choose to localize Bloom into their language*. In this way, language groups have been empowered to make Bloom a fully international software program, one that serves the “least of these”.

I think Jesus would approve, and I must say, it’s pretty cool to be a part of this.

The Bloom development team continues to work on new and exciting features, and the momentum is building. You can now add Comic speech “bubbles” to Bloom books! What will they think of next? Sorry, I can’t tell you yet. Top secret and all… 🙂

As more language communities start using Bloom, additional needs and challenges are unearthed. Recently, I adapted a book from the Naskapi language (Canada, First Nations) into Bloom to put some of Bloom’s new features to the test. As a bonus, Naskapi’s unique syllabic script added a certain amount of interest, especially in the colouring of the lettering of this beautifully illustrated book.

Speaking of First Nations, at the end of March, Dot and I will once again have the pleasure of attending a workshop for three First Nations communities involved in translating the Bible into their languages. I will teach the Bloom software with the hopes of empowering these communities to boost their book production.

As always, we are so grateful for you partnership with us, as together, we bless the nations.

Colin & Dot

* Bloom allows this through a localization platform called Crowdin.

From “The Dancing Ants” book recently adapted into Bloom format.
Illustrator – Elizabeth Jancewicz. Used by permission.

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