Fostering Global Inclusion Through International Associations

by Nicholas Strozza

Technology has brought the world closer together, affording associations the unique opportunity to grow their reach and draw in members from different backgrounds. For many associations, expanding across borders to include members and customers on a global scale is the logical next step for growth, and critical for long-term sustainability.

Associations are designed to bring people together to work towards a common goal. Unfortunately, language barriers can make this task difficult. Not providing your association members and staff with materials and resources in their preferred or native language opens the door to miscommunication, and can be interpreted as a message of exclusion.

The services that a translation agency can provide are key factors in helping associations build a welcoming environment that promotes diversity, inclusion, and effective communication.

Importance of Inclusion for Associations

Associations are dedicated to promoting inclusion which, in turn, drives engagement and participation. It shows members that they matter, regardless of factors such as nationality, gender, socioeconomic status, or language spoken. Opening doors to all walks of life benefits each member, and the organization as a whole.

Association Forum, whose mission is to advance the professional practice of association management, states that “when an association values differences and creates a welcoming environment – one that is comfortable, inclusive, and empowering – it opens the door for innovation, increased participation and an elevated sense of community and belonging for all.” As your organization grows, it is up to the association leadership to adopt practices that foster inclusion.

Combating Linguistic Oppression

One of the principal ways in which associations can promote inclusivity is by breaking down linguistic oppression. Simply put, linguistic oppression is a form of exclusion that occurs when a group faces systematic disadvantages due to the language that they speak.

In terms of associations, providing members with resources that aren’t in the language that they are most familiar with (or best understand) puts them at a disadvantage compared to native speakers. Associations across all trades and missions offer a plethora of member benefits from networking opportunities to tools to important industry knowledge and news. Offering your association’s information, services and tools in multiple languages ensures that everyone is able to take full advantage of these benefits.

By providing your members with content in their own language, you are taking steps to become an active ally for traditionally marginalized groups, such as non-native English speakers. It shows that you, as an association, care about the needs of all members and celebrate the things that make your organization wonderfully diverse.

How Translation Agencies like Interpro Can Help

Taking the leap toward global expansion typically requires a good deal of planning. Reaching international audiences doesn’t happen overnight, but a translation agency can make the process as seamless as possible.

As your association expands, there will be more to translate than just membership information. To be inclusive towards all of your audiences, think of everything that you offer your current members. Some of the most common content that translation companies work with includes:

  • Documents and resources: Whether it’s training materials or important industry announcements, translation of association documents ensures that all members can take advantage of all available resources.
  • Websites: Not only do the documents that your association provides need translation, but so does the place that members come to in order to find them, which is often your website. Everything from headings and text, to action buttons can be translated for optimal member experience.
  • Member communication: Do you provide your members with organization updates through mailers or email newsletters? These, too, can be translated so that your international audiences are up to date on the latest association news.
  • Videos: Audio and video translations allow members and staff to take advantage of engaging visual resources, as well as text-based documents.
  • Live events, workshops, and conferences: Translation companies that also offer interpretation services allow members to come together for live association-sponsored events. Interpretation can also be streamed digitally to audiences, allowing those located across the globe to participate.

To fully capitalize on the benefits of association membership, members should be engaged and involved, and language barriers sometimes prohibit this. By offering translations of this type of content, your association is providing an equal opportunity for education and networking, regardless of language spoken. This strengthens the entirety of the organization, and works to advance the overall mission of the association.

What to Look for in a Translation Agency

It’s important to remember that not all translation agencies offer the full spectrum of linguistic services that your association might need in order to create a welcoming environment. A few associations may be able to get by with limited services, but most will need the help of an agency that offers professional, turn-key solutions. A few important factors to look for in a translation company is the ability to localize content, handle projects from start to finish, and scale with your association as it grows.

Localization

When it comes to getting your message across, word for word translations don’t always get the job done. According to the American Society of Association Executives, “associations just starting to grow globally often create a single messaging strategy for all markets rather than customize strategies for each market.”

This approach, however, can prevent the associations from effectively reaching multiple audiences. Even small missteps in communication can lead organizations to alienate potential members. Associations who already have an established and successful global presence often work with local leaders and translation companies who have the knowledge and ability to localize communications to each market.

Localization goes beyond simple translation and takes several factors into account –  including vocabulary, style, tone, and cultural nuances. Along with written text, localization takes graphics, video, layout, and designs into account to ensure linguistic accuracy and cultural appropriateness. With a basic level of translation, the effort taken may seem like a hasty afterthought. Localization, on the other hand, is an end-product that is tailor-made for each target audience.

Handling Growth and Scalability

It is also important that translation agencies be able to effectively scale with the associations they serve as they continue to expand. A versatile agency will be able to handle projects involving multiple languages, cultures, and content mediums. This will ensure that all members receive the same great service that the association intends to deliver.

Conclusion

Whether your association is in the early stages of global expansion, or is already well-established across international borders, translation services are essential. When you provide your members and staff with the content they need in their own language, you let them know that you care. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way in prioritizing your member’s experiences and in building a truly inclusive association.

Nick Strozza

Vice President, Marketing and Sales

"Working at Interpro allows me to be part of a talented team where we are collaborating together to exceed our client’s expectations for each project."