Summary of Objective Implementation Status
This project was identified as a priority early in the creation of the Office of Equity, with a proposed timeline of completion by end of 2021. However, the Office lacked capacity to address this critical need. A significant amount of research, a countywide department survey, and initial fiscal analysis have all been completed to date and will facilitate this work being done more quickly. In December, 2021, the Board awarded ARPA funds for this purpose, and on September, 2022 approved a contract with Nimdzi Insights, LLC for consulting services for a not‐to‐exceed amount of $185,850 for a 14‐month term, ending on November 30, 2023.
As a community struck by multiple natural and man‐made disasters, we have learned that effective communication between local government agencies and residents, with thoughtful regard to the languages they speak, is absolutely critical to ensuring public safety and saving lives. Therefore, we must ensure that every community member with whom County staff cannot communicate directly in their primary language has access to accurate, timely and effective translation of documents and interpretation of relevant information in a way that is also responsive to their cultural identities. To address this, the Language Access Plan and recommended Policy consultant will conduct a 3‐phase process to develop a culturally responsive County‐Wide Language Access Plan and recommended Policy.
The first phase of this process examines the makeup of the Sonoma County community and the responsibilities of the County as a local government institution, looks at other local jurisdictions’ services, and then looks inward. The consultant will create a demographic analysis of the linguistically diverse communities in Sonoma County and will look at Federal requirements and regulations around language access services for local jurisdictions to assess our responsibilities and liabilities. The Consultant will assess the Language Access Services provided by other local jurisdictions and evaluate their applicability to the County of Sonoma.
Additionally, the consultant will assess the County’s existing capabilities, practices, resources, service gaps, opportunities, and costs through a series of focus groups with County staff.
During the second phase, the consultant will conduct focus groups with LD and deaf and hard of hearing community members and organizations serving these communities to validate the data with lived experience, and further assess the County’s language service gaps and limitations from the perspective of the communities experiencing underservice. The consultant will use this knowledge to develop a set of recommendations to improve our existing capabilities and meet the needs for improvement identified by the local LD communities.
The last phase is the development of a Language Access Plan and recommended Policy grounded in the data gathered through internal and external engagements. The development of the plan will be an iterative process that involves feedback and input from County staff, leadership, and community through a series of workshops.
The plan and proposed policy options will include recommendations for oversight, accountability, infrastructure, staffing, budget, and other resources needed to ensure a successful implementation of what is outlined in the plan.
Key Milestone Update
The Language Access Plan is anticipated to be presented in FY 2023-24.
Coordination and Partnership Update
The Office of Equity is the implementation lead on the related objectives. While the Office of Equity currently enjoys vibrant community partnerships with the Spanish-speaking and indigenous language-speaking populations and the community organizations that serve those populations, there are other non-dominant language speakers in our community with whom we have not engaged in meaningful ways. This project facilitates deeper knowledge and cements a foundation for ongoing dialogue.
Community, Equity, and Climate Update
A language access plan will ensure clarity and consistency in County communications and service delivery. It will also ensure that the County is effectively serving and is in dialogue with all of its residents. In past events, non-English speakers have been left behind.
Community engagement efforts will be geographically dispersed throughout each supervisorial district. We would work to include all communities who experience marginalization in county communication and service delivery. Stipends are a regularly used tool by CBOs to value the work of community members.
Supporting the creation of a language access plan will increase equitable access for families and communities trying to recover from the economic and health impacts of this Pandemic.
The Office of Equity received funding through an ARPA application.