Bridging the Digital Divide in Minority CommunitiesCASE STUDY
The Athena Group is a self-proclaimed for-purpose enterprise that specializes in community engagement, organizational health, and inner leadership development. Like Avantpage, they work with government agencies to advance initiatives around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In 2022, Washington State launched its first ever Digital Equity Forum with the ultimate goal of enhancing broadband internet access throughout the state. The forum sought to engage communities and fully understand their needs around this issue. The Athena Group and Avantpage, both approved vendors for the state, joined forces to ensure that Washingtonians had their say, whatever their language.
Aware that substantial portions of the state still struggle to get online, The WA State Office of Equity partnered with the state’s Broadband Office to understand why. With a statewide goal of providing high-speed broadband access to all residents by 2028, they needed to hear their diverse communities speak to their personal challenges with access, digital literacy, and affordability of services. With almost 25 years’ experience helping state, regional, and local governments build inclusive communities, The Athena Group, a woman- and minority-owned business, was uniquely positioned to co-design the forum and lead the facilitation effort. Their team set to work building inclusive spaces for diverse and historically underrepresented groups to come together and tell their authentic stories. This included the online forum, public meetings, focus groups, and listening sessions. To ensure that these spaces were accessible to limited-English proficient and hard-of-hearing participants, the group turned to Avantpage for help.
Before the actual translation work began, Avantpage’s collaboration with The Athena Group took the form of proposal collaboration. Government contracting teams need to see that they are entrusting vital projects to reliable subject-matter experts, and this trust building begins during the procurement process. Our respective proposals teams and in-house experts split the writing up according to the roles we would play, both showcasing decades-long experience working with the diverse communities of WA state. We were delighted that the contract was awarded to The Athena Group, the primary contract holder, and our partnership began in earnest.
First, the statewide survey was distributed online, translated into seventeen languages by Avantpage’s teams. This included embedded ASL (American Sign Language) videos, performed by an Avantpage interpreter. Next came community forums and listening sessions, for which Avantpage provided real-time remote interpreting in Spanish through the Zoom platform. Presentation materials and meeting notes were also translated.
According to The Athena Group, over 3000 residents across Washington State were able to take part in this initiative, telling their stories through the combined spaces mentioned above.
As the initiative moves to its next stage, so does the Athena Group and Avantpage partnership. We are already collaborating on projects for Washington’s Sno-Isle library system, and regularly partner to find joint contracting opportunities. Both organizations are mission-driven and through partnership are able to extend the work we do to empower more minority communities to succeed.
“Working with AvantPage Translations is so much more than a business relationship, it is truly a partnership… Through that partnership, we created a survey that includes 17 languages (including American Sign Language videos) and deepened our firm’s understanding of what it means to honor community needs related to language… In the end, we delivered a top of class survey that received praise across the state; however, the more lasting impact for our firm is that we completed the project with an improved understanding of what it means to responsibly adapt and translate content to serve the cultural and linguistic expectations of different communities. ”
– Anthony Campbell, Ph.D., The Athena Group
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