For Immediate Release
Board of Supervisors approve community engagement and language access agreements
SANTA ROSA, CA | September 20, 2022
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today took the first steps in developing language access and community engagement plans to ensure broader involvement with county government by members of all communities. Using $710,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, the Board on Tuesday approved agreements with two consultants to work with the county’s Office of Equity in developing a language access plan, a community engagement plan, and policy recommendations for all county departments. The work supports objectives under the county’s Strategic Plan, Racial Equity and Social Justice Pillar .
The agreements with Equity First Consulting, LLC and Nimzdi Insights, LLC will support the creation of a Community Engagement plan and a Language Access plan to achieve equitable participation and access to County government services and resources for underserved communities of color and other communities that have traditionally experienced marginalization from government processes and services. The project aligns with the Racial Equity and Social Justice Pillar of the Five-Year Strategic Plan approved by the Board of Supervisors.
“The county looks forward to leaning into developing plans and processes to address the inequities in our community, particularly language access and equitable community engagement” said Supervisor James Gore, chair of the board of supervisors. “Expanding access to vital resources and information to all members of our community is a top priority for this Board and an important step in our greater equity efforts.”
The Board of Supervisors recognized and responded to the need for language access and community engagement policies and procedures after several disasters during which communities of color and other marginalized communities were severely and disproportionately impacted by disparities caused by these disasters. The Board responded to requests from the ARPA Equity Work Group and community members which started the work to address the needs of disproportionately impacted communities of color.
“We are excited to start this important work as we dig into two core initiatives at the heart of our department’s mission,” said Alegria De La Cruz, director of the Office of Equity. “Ensuring consistent, high-quality and culturally responsive language access and robust community engagement are meaningful steps toward unseating racial and ethnic inequities in our County.”
Language access is needed to effectively communicate with and deliver services to residents who are monolingual, Indigenous language speakers, blind or have low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, and to other linguistically diverse individuals who live or work in Sonoma County. The proposal evaluation was conducted by an eight-member review committee. The language access plan will include a three-phase process to develop a culturally responsive county-wide language access plan and recommended policy as follows:
- Internal review which will compare the county to other local jurisdictions, including a demographic analysis of the language in our community and a review of the county’s “best practices”, responsibilities and liabilities in the areas of language access.
- A focus group with linguistically diverse, deaf and hard of hearing community members and organizations that serve these communities. Toolkits for future engagement with linguistically diverse communities to be developed and presented at this phase.
- The development of the language access plan and recommended policy, grounded in data and input from county staff, leadership and community.
A county-wide community engagement plan will provide guidance and best practices for engaging in a culturally responsive manner between county departments and the experiences of community members and community-based organizations to break down barriers in Sonoma County. The community engagement planning process will include three phases including the following:
- Evaluating the county’s existing community engagement plans through a series of focus groups with staff and a review of other jurisdiction’s efforts.
- Partnering with external key stakeholders and organizations to identify and refine county capabilities and gaps in service delivery for communities of color and other marginalized groups.
- Presenting the plan to internal county stakeholders and members of the community with the goal of finalizing a community engagement plan, including operating guidelines or “best practices” that can be used by all county departments.
The Office of Equity invited community members to participate in two separate review committees of majority bilingual and bicultural individuals, representing different identities and/or communities. Thirteen community members in all helped select proposals for the creation of the language access plan and recommended policy and the community engagement plan. The materials were translated into Spanish to increase participation by the members in reviewing and scoring the proposals.
To receive updates on the Language Access and Community Engagement plans and recommendations, subscribe to the Office of Equity monthly newsletter: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/ypvo7W7/EquityNewsletter
Learn more about the County of Sonoma’s Strategic Plan, including the Racial Equity and Social Justice Pillar: https://socostrategicplan.org/racial-equity-and-social-justice/