coUrbanize, a technology company that powers community engagement in development and planning, has launched a Language Equity Plan (LEP) to ensure that people whose primary language is not English can have a say in what gets built in their neighborhoods.
The Language Equity Plan requires translation for all projects on the coUrbanize platform that meet specific criteria: If at least 5% of residents in the area where the project is located speak the same non-English language at home, all communications on the platform and all related materials (e.g., SMS text messaging signs, door hangers, and mailers) will be translated into that language at no additional cost to customers. In some areas, multiple languages meet this threshold, which coUrbanize determines according to the most recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). coUrbanize may also include other languages based on specific community needs.
“In line with our mission to give all local residents a voice in what developers and municipalities are planning, we wanted to remove language barriers,” says Karin Brandt, founder and CEO of coUrbanize. “The higher the percentage of residents who can weigh in on projects that affect their neighborhoods, the more successful the project outcomes.”
Brandt adds that while some municipalities have translation requirements for public meetings and informational materials, it’s not a consistent requirement across the United States. “We’re setting a new standard for inclusivity,” she notes.
To date, coUrbanize is the only community engagement platform to introduce a requirement for multilingual engagement across all projects.
coUrbanize’s translation services use a combination of human translation and DeepL Translator, an enhanced machine translation system. This combination enables accurate, yet affordable, translation options.
“We’re proud to take this step, and hope that it encourages others involved in development and planning to make multilingual engagement a priority, rather than a nice-to-have,” adds Kristen Veit, director of community engagement strategy at coUrbanize. “Our recent survey showed that most people are pro-development. But you can’t expect support when language barriers impede understanding and inclusion in the process.”