Building Our Communities 10 Questions at a Time
by Lisa Johnson
April 27, 2010
It happens just once every ten years.
In March, mailboxes across the country were flooded with white envelopes containing 10 short questions, the answers to which could hold the key to our region’s future. With billions of federal dollars at stake, Census findings are responsible for allocating funding used for local transportation, education and other initiatives. But to secure these vital funds, everyone must be counted—including those that are hard to reach.
Harris County is home to a diverse population, and its immigrant and ethnic communities continue to be the most difficult to count. Targeting these critically important – yet elusive – demographic groups, Pierpont has implemented a multi-pronged approach in partnership with Neighborhood Centers Inc. and One World Strategy Group to effectively and efficiently reach the highest-growth and hardest-to-reach areas of the county.
Despite conventional media outreach methods to various outlets, it was clear from the start that these efforts alone would not suffice in ensuring every resident of Harris County completed and mailed back his or her Census questionnaire. So what do we do?
There is Power in Numbers
Armed with a message (Power in Numbers) that encourages residents to be counted, strategic community outreach efforts have been implemented to ensure that each and every pocket of the county will be touched by the Census and become aware of its importance.
It Takes a Village (Or Sometimes a County)
The sentiment “it takes a village” certainly rings true in regards to spreading the message of the Census. Harris County’s Census campaign engaged influential faith, business, government and community leaders to come together and form a Complete Count Committee. These individuals volunteered to help their groups understand the benefits they could reap as a result of an accurate Census count.
To help put a human face to the 2010 Census, field team workers set out on foot to walk neighborhood blocks in several of Harris County’s unincorporated areas, focusing on those areas at risk of being undercounted. Conducting outreach in person has complemented television, radio and print media coverage, as field team workers have helped to ease apprehension many people feel about completing their Census forms. Field team workers have helped residents to understand that the Census is safe, easy, 100 percent confidential and takes only minutes to complete by posting door hangers on homes and distributing educational literature to residents,.
Events Spur Interaction, Answer Questions
Playing a role in many community events, Harris County’s Census campaign has made contact with thousands of people over the past few months. Engaging with residents at the FM 1960 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, El Lago’s City Celebration and more, Harris County Census representatives have been able to build important relationships with residents and educate them about the value of the 2010 Census.
Additionally, through several special events hosted in partnership with Harris County’s Census campaign, Neighborhood Centers Inc. has helped address residents’ questions about the Census and celebrate its critical importance. By holding a variety of events, including a Census Campaign Rally, Questionnaire Assistance Forum, Be Counted Dinner and Dance and more, Neighborhood Centers provided an opportunity for hard-to-reach groups to familiarize themselves with the Census and its vital purpose.
Building Online Communities to Reach Local Populations
Not only is Harris County’s Census campaign reaching residents in their neighborhoods, strategized efforts have created an online presence as well. Following the development of a Harris County Census Web site and blog, Facebook fan page and Twitter account, news and events are frequently posted and made available to residents via their favorite social media websites. With a steady stream of updates available at the click of a mouse, Facebook fans and Twitter followers can stay informed about important Census issues and keep track of the latest developments.
Final Census findings won’t be delivered to President Obama until December 2010, but the Power in Numbers campaign is already looking to overcome Harris County’s 2000 Census undercount, which missed more than 71,000 residents. Following a strong grassroots approach that blanketed Harris County over the course of several months, hopes are high for a complete and accurate count in 2010. The future of Harris County depends on it!