Language Community Liaisons: A Pilot Project

Best Starts for Kids wants all King County youth to be healthy, happy, safe and thriving. This often requires a lot of community outreach so that organizations, communities and families are aware of opportunities, resources and know how to access them. However, we want to be more intentional in reaching some communities and building relationships.

So Best Starts is trying something new for King County. We are piloting a Language Community Liaison Project.  The Language Community Liaisons help Best Starts strengthen connections to specific language communities, many of whom have been historically underserved or underrepresented in King County. Embracing a relationship focused approach, the liaisons act as a bridge between their communities and the County.

What are Language Community Liaisons? 

Language Community Liaisons are consultants that provide communications and outreach expertise for King County and Best Starts for Kids. The pilot project has three primary goals:

  1. Develop effective messaging for specific language communities
  2. Identify appropriate communications channels for language communities
  3. Provide outreach and engagement to historically underserved and underrepresented communities through a relationship focused approach

We prioritize strong relationships with liaisons and believe that it will yield better results in the end. By focusing on relationships first, we are building trust between government and the communities represented by the liaisons. We challenge power dynamics by stressing that our liaisons work with us as colleagues, not for us. We’re a team. We want our liaisons to know that they mean more than numbers to us. Rather than have liaisons feel pressure to draw a certain number of attendees to an event to achieve success, we want them to feel good about the quality of the conversation that occurs no matter how many or few people attend.

Meet the King County Language Community Liaisons

Liaison Name Community/Language
Sokunthea Ok Cambodian/Khmer
Janet He Chinese/Mandarin
Je Jeong Korean
Ethiopia Alemneh Ethiopian/Amharic
Fahmo Abdulle Somali
Tammy Dang Vietnamese
Lalita Uppala South Asian/Hindi, _____
Carmen Casillas Latinx, Hispanic/Spanish
Maria Darskaya Russian
LCLs at Community Cafe Collaborative Orientation
Language Community Liaisons receiving training in Community Cafe Collaborative facilitation

Effective messaging

Language liaisons are fully embedded within their communities and review messaging and provide recommendations for innovation and translation. Liaisons can identify words and language that are conceptually challenging to translate or can potentially trigger an unwanted response, allowing us to edit messaging appropriately.

Appropriate communications channels

Each language and/or cultural community in King County has preferred methods of communication that are broadly accepted and utilized by many members of that community. The language liaisons help identify which communication channels make the most sense for their community.

Outreach and engagement

Each language liaison is responsible for crafting culturally-appropriate outreach plans for their individual community.

For example, at the 2018 Cambodian New Year celebration, our Language Community Liaison from the Khmer/Cambodian community was present. She created an audio recording that allowed event attendees to push a button and hear a brief “What is Best Starts for Kids?” recording in Khmer.

We modeled the pilot Language Community Liaison project on the following values:

Equity and Social Justice

We are committed to disrupting the historical and dominant pattern in which government takes resources away from communities of color and does not allow communities of color to access resources. To invest these resources back into our communities, we know we must strive to improve access to information and communicate in ways that are relevant and appropriate.

We compensate people for their expertise

The Best Starts Language Liaisons not only speak another language, but they have earned trust within their community and strong relationships. This is valuable and they know how best how to communicate with and reach out to members of their community. Rather than asking our liaisons to volunteer their time to bring resources to their communities, we compensate them for their knowledge, expertise and networks.

Invest in community leaders and they invest in their communities

Ethiopia Alemneh Photo 1
Language Community Liaison Ethiopia Alemneh learning to record video

Best Starts for Kids provides professional development and capacity building for our Language Community Liaisons. We know that building skills in the individuals will benefit their larger communities as they pay it forward. Examples of provided trainings and skills include:

  • Facilitation
  • Meeting planning
  • Outreach and engagement
  • Quality translation
  • Live interpretation
  • Administrative operations
  • Video and audio recording
  • Public speaking and presentations

Many community liaisons already have some of these skills. As a group, our liaisons are learning together and sharing expertise to build a more robust set of skills.

Collaboration and peer to peer learnings

This model may be new to King County, but we are learning from other amazing partners who have done similar things. We also believe it is important to encourage more governments to adopt such efforts. So we collaborate with others who currently run or hope to run similar liaison groups including:

  • City of Seattle
  • City of Tukwila via Global to Local
  • City of Burien
  • City of Shoreline
  • City of Bellevue


The Language Community Liaisons are supporting general Best Starts for Kids engagement and specific projects including the Kids Health Survey and Help Me Grow. We will be sharing more about what this looks like soon!

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Comments (3)

  1. I am in support of this new approach. Yes, our community will be excited to see this implemented

  2. I love this! Am sharing with colleagues at the local school district where I volunteer for their Equity Council.

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