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College town utilizes multi-language vaccine communications to reach residents during Covid-19

City of Amherst

Amherst, MA

With a diverse population including transient college students, many with English as a second language, Amherst, MA faces unique engagement and communication challenges. In the face of COVID-19, the town needed to utilize civic engagement to mitigate misinformation and communicate about vaccine eligibility.

Topics Covered

Transparency
Civic Technology
Infectious Disease

Cost

Not available

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2020

Gov Champion

Communications Manager & Community Participation Officer

Problem Addressed

With a large college student population, Amherst struggled to effectively communicate with its more transient residents.

Amherst, Massachusetts, population 37,000, is home to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College, making it a temporary stop on the journey of tens of thousands of college students each year. This creates unique engagement and communication challenges between government officials and the transitional college student population.

To extend the reach of both emergency and routine communications, Amherst needed to mitigate language barriers among its international student population and citizens who only spoke English as a second language. During vaccine distribution, maintaining positive civic engagement became increasingly important.

"We needed to communicate who was eligible to be vaccinated based on age and eligibility guidelines," said Brianna Sunryd, Town of Amherst Communications Manager & Community Participation Officer. "We had many anxious seniors and residents who speak English only as a second language"

Solutions Used

Amherst implemented a new emergency and mass notification solution, facilitating community engagement and trust.

Using CivicReady emergency and mass notification software solution, Amherst improved relationships and built trust with their community members by keeping communications and information current and accessible on the town's website. The system has multilingual functionality, allowing Amherst to mitigate communication barriers across their residents. Having a trusted place to check information and combat any misinformation was important to maintain as the town experienced its regular influx and outflow of college students over the course of the pandemic.

CivicPlus also helped Amherst build out its website, creating a space for the government to communicate with its constituents outside of emergency alerts. “CivicPlus has helped us improve relationships with our community members and build trust in a number of ways," said Sunryd. "First and foremost would be our town website. We’re able to keep communications and information current and accessible. Having a trusted place to check information and combat any misinformation that was out there is really important. It was especially important over the course of the pandemic to have a trusted source of information for our community members.”

"CivicReady was crucial for us during the pandemic,” said Sunryd. “We spun it up quickly in the early days of the vaccine distribution process...we used CivicReady to broadly distribute news and alerts and also to allow citizens to sign up for relevant eligibility notifications and receive those messages in their preferred language.”

Outcomes

1

Mitigation of misinformation during the pandemic through the use of trusted technology solutions that serve as easily accessible and trusted resources for citizens.

2

Auto-translated Rapid and personalized vaccine distribution details, facilitating communication with those who speak english as a second language

3

More consistent, clear communication with citizens fostering positive civic engagement in the community

4

Ability to showcase key projects and Amherst’s goals on an accessible, user-friendly website

Who Should Consider

Public safety communicators in communities with large population segments of non-English speakers.

Last Updated

Apr 26th, 2022

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