I am a volunteer with Women’s March MN. Last night I got to moderate a (suddenly) online discussion on the Census for our Third Thursday series, which highlights a policy (usually MN legislation) of interest. The Census is important for three primary reasons: access to future federal funding, change in the number of representatives in congress and future plans at local, state and national levels.
I figured it was a fit here for several reasons. First, it’s how we are using technology to replace in-person meetings during the coronavirus slow down. And while you can definitely see the smoke and mirrors, Zoom worked pretty well. Second, the answer in how to engage citizens to take the Census is outreach online, now that door knocking and meetings are not available. People are getting inventive and people without broadband will be left behind. Finally, accurate Census numbers will help us with better broadband mapping and as noted above, impact funding and planning. So it makes sense for broadband advocates to promote Census!
We heard from the following speakers:
- Andrew Virden, State Demographic Center
- Monica Hurtado, Voices for Racial Justice
- Hannah Buckland, MN Libraries
- Jeffrey Her, Asian American Organizing Project (email@example.com – available via email)
They were very informative and resilient, given the huge changes that will impact their outreach efforts.
And the goals were:
- to educate people around the census – what it is, why it matters, the time line of both the roll out and efforts to get a full count. And, now, how the pandemic is impacting the census and work around it.
- to educate people around the issue of historically undercounted communities, and the efforts underway by different groups to make sure these communities are counted.
- to encourage/activate people to help Get Out the Count to make sure everyone is counted – via opportunities to volunteer, ideas how to spread the word, etc. And also to take action to get legislation passed that will support full counts and counting Minnesotans in a way that benefits the communities that they come from.
- learn about how the coronavirus pandemic is changing how we address these goals
People had great questions – many related to “how can we help?” Unfortunately so much as change in the call for social distancing due to coronavirus but there will be roles (paid and volunteer) to reach traditionally unrepresented voices in certain (often new American) communities, in people experiencing homelessness and in prisons.
Here are some of the resources mentioned:
- MN Census
- State Demographic Center
- MN State libraries
- Voices for Racial Justice
- Asian American Organizing Project
- Blandin Census resources
- Smartphone-friendly Census access
- On phone access to Census in English 844-330-2020
- MN Census Communication plan
- Join a count group near you
- Census Resources for Libraries
- Public Libraries & the 2020 Census
A favorite question, which I will be passing onto my musician friends:
I’m working on a playlist for Census Day – anyone have any ideas for fun Census songs? I’m working on a playlist for Census Day – anyone have any ideas for fun Census songs?
And a special notice to the Black Dog, which normally hosts the Third Thursday. Like most restaurants, they are feeling the punch of social distancing and have started a GoFundMe initiative.