DemLabs blog

Who do you trust for advice? Probably someone you already know who shares your values and concerns. How can such trust encourage more people to take part in the 2020 census? This is an urgent need given apathy about the census and new concerns caused by the proposed new questions about citizenship.

Ethnic media represents a trusted bridge for communications for many of these communities. In California over half of Latinos, Blacks and Asian Americans identified an ethnic media source they relied on for news, information and entertainment. Ethnic media (print, radio, TV and online) can play a vital role in encouraging minority groups to take part in the census, but these outlets are struggling as advertising budgets move to social media. How can these outlets be enabled to inspire their readers to take part in the census?

Ethnic Media ServicesCalifornia Black Media, and DemLabs have teamed up on a pilot project to do just this. The initiative trains ethnic media journalists on how to use innovative technology to better engage more readers. The project starts in California, before expanding nationwide.

The Justice Department, plans to ask about citizenship in the 2020 census. Historically it has undercounted communities of color, low-income and rural populations and immigrant populations with limited English proficiency. "The U.S. Census Bureau counts the total number of people in the country — not the total number of citizens. This count is used to redraw congressional districts, so it can affect the makeup of Congress. And to determine where federal, state and local funds will be used to build new schools, roads, health care facilities, child-care centers and senior centers".

Personal stories are a trusted information source in many diverse communities. But collecting such stories has traditionally been labor intensive, expensive and time consuming. It's even harder when the recordings have to be made in different languages by people scattered across a state. How can stories about the census be collected quickly with little money or technical skills?

FlipGrid, a free app simplifies the collection of video clips on a specific topic. This is how FlipGrid is being applied in this census participation project:
1. A trusted person from the community asks respondents in their native language to explain why they will take part in the census. This request is shared in the form of a link (URL) which is published in newspapers and shared online through social media.
2. Readers record their own personal stories on a phone or laptop and can share their recordings on social media. Editors also get copies of all the video clips automatically.
3. The best video clips are broadcast by ethnic media outlets. Community-specific ads are created from the video clips.

2020 Census: Flipgrid tutorial

The link for this pilot provides info on the census and prompts the viewer to make a recording. The link is easily shared in print, by email and through social media. Recordings can be made through phones or laptops using just a browser - without needing to install an app.

Try making a recording here and watch this video tutorial explaining how to use this app for other campaigns. The video clips below show:
1. A video prompt from an Indian writer asking viewers their thought views on the 2020 census.
2. Response in Vietnamese on why she believes it is important for her to be counted
3. Ad created by a small non-profit using video clips collected with FlipGrid.

FlipGrid in Hindi 2020 Blog Vietnam

Short Ad Flip Grid

Key Takeaways
Ethnic news sources can inform and engage California's diverse populations, especially immigrants and communities of color to take part in the census. But, they need support given their limited resources and the fast approaching census. This initiative will provide ongoing digital training for ethnic media on new techniques in digital communication. A better informed public and more accurate census being the goal.

DemLabs works with partners to apply cost-effective solutions to progressive causes. This joint project to train journalists to use digital tools to encourage taking part in the census exemplifies our approach. Contact us here the next time you have a problem that could use some innovation.

Co-Founder, DemLabs

Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.
Donate here to support our work.

A Project of The Advocacy Fund

DemLabs is a Unique Collaboration of Leading Technologists,
Creatives and Political Professionals

We deliver technology and storytelling innovation
to progressive campaigns and groups

The Democracy Labs — New Ways To Win