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Uniting Voices: The 2024 Language Keepers Policy Hackathon Report

Updated: Jun 27

Panelists at the Language Advocacy Day 2024

On February 21, 2024, the Language Access Coalition of Canada (LACC), in collaboration with MCIS Language Solutions, hosted the Language Keepers Policy Hackathon in Gatineau, Quebec. This event was more than just a gathering; it was a pivotal moment in the ongoing effort to promote language rights and accessibility in Canada. Building on the foundational work initiated in 2019 by MCIS and the Munk School, this year's hackathon aimed to further conversations and generate actionable ideas to advance language advocacy.


The hackathon brought together 63 participants from various sectors, including language research and revitalization, media, academia, the language industry, policy-making, and community advocacy. The diversity of the attendees underscored the multifaceted nature of language issues in Canada, reflecting the need for a comprehensive approach to address these challenges.


Historical Context and Objectives


The 2024 Language Keepers Policy Hackathon originated from a partnership initiated in 2019 between MCIS and the Munk School, where they held their first Language Policy Hackathon. Following this, a series of virtual meetings between 2021 and 2023 focused on identifying and addressing disparities in language advocacy's institutional and political frameworks. These discussions underscored the necessity for a unified strategy to better engage political figures and enhance language rights advocacy.


The 2024 hackathon focused on four main topics crucial for advancing language advocacy: the effects of societal and technological changes like Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the field, and developing actionable strategies from the past four years' insights to promote language rights and revitalization in Canada.


Key Discussions and Outcomes


The hackathon featured in-depth discussions on complex language advocacy issues. Participants brainstormed solutions, leading to the selection of three top ideas for further development post-event. Despite time limits that restricted detailed refinement or practical implementation talks, the main objectives were to highlight promising solutions and enhance understanding of effective, grassroots language rights advocacy.


1. Addressing Technological Impacts: One of the primary areas of focus was the role of AI and technology in language advocacy. Participants discussed using these technologies to aid language professionals and enhance language access. They proposed the creation of AI tools for translation and interpretation, digital platforms for language learning and revitalization, and the use of big data to quickly identify and tackle language obstacles.


2. Promoting Community-Based Solutions: Throughout the discussions, the significance of grassroots, community-based solutions was consistently highlighted. Participants stressed the importance of empowering local communities in language advocacy in Indigenous language revitalization or health care in particular by supporting language revitalization and access projects, offering resources and training to community leaders, and fostering networks for sharing best practices while tackling shared challenges.



Microgrants to Support Innovation


Following the hackathon, MCIS Language Solutions will award three microgrants in May 2024 to further develop the discussed ideas. These will include one grant of $10,000 and two of $5,000, funding projects that leverage the hackathon's concepts to create practical, community-focused, and technologically-supported solutions. This initiative will enhance equitable access to essential information and services and promote effective language revitalization.


The awarding of these microgrants demonstrates a commitment to fostering innovation and advancing practical solutions to language access issues. MCIS aims to transform promising ideas into impactful projects across Canada by providing financial support.


The Path Forward


The 2024 Language Keepers Policy Hackathon marked a significant advancement in promoting language rights and accessibility in Canada, emphasizing the critical role of collaboration, innovation, and community engagement in tackling the complexities of language advocacy.


Looking ahead, there is much work to be done. The ideas and solutions from the hackathon serve as a starting point. MCIS Language Solutions' commitment to supporting LACC almost exclusively over the past four years, inclusive of providing microgrants in 2024 is essential, giving the needed resources to develop and implement innovative ideas.

Going forward, it's crucial to maintain the momentum from the hackathon by encouraging continuous partnership among stakeholders, pushing for favorable policies, and enabling community involvement in language advocacy. Together, we can build an inclusive society where language unites us, fostering understanding and connection.


Conclusion


The 2024 Language Keepers Policy Hackathon showcased the effectiveness of collaborative and innovative approaches in tackling language rights issues. This event united experts from various fields, producing insights and solutions poised to significantly advance language advocacy in Canada.


MCIS Language Solutions' issuance of microgrants is pivotal in advancing and actualizing innovative ideas by providing essential resources. As we strive for a more inclusive society, it is crucial to build on the progress from the hackathon and maintain our dedication to enhancing language rights and accessibility for everyone.


We invite stakeholders, community members, and interested individuals to join us in using language as a tool for empowerment and connection towards a more equitable world.

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