The census design thinking FACILITATION workshop
The Census Design Thinking Faciliation Workshop took place in Columbus, Ohio on March 12-14th, 2019. The following three-part series of blog posts will highlight how the OCAC is building leadership and elevating community voices to tackle issues in underrepresented neighborhoods, featuring later posts from a couple community leaders who participated.
“Oftentimes, those closest to the problem are also those closest to the solution.”
Bringing together community leaders to piece through community issues and brainstorm ways they can be addressed locally and collectively is at the heart of the grassroots organizing methods designed by the social innovation firm from Cincinnati, Ohio, Design Impact.
In March, collaboration between Design Impact and the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio culminated in a three day training in Columbus, Ohio called the 2019 Census Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop.
“Knowledge is power,” reflects Elizabeth Hibbs, director of the Early Childhood Education Alliance (ECEA) in Stark County, following her participation in the workshop. “The more informed we become as a community, the more proactive we’re able to become.”
As the 2020 Census approaches, the proactive organization of trusted community ambassadors like Elizabeth will be critical to ensuring a complete count of Ohio’s communities, particularly those with the lowest response rates from censuses past, also known as “hard-to-count” communities.
Reaching “hard-to-count” communities will be a challenge in Ohio in 2020, especially in light of the potential for technical issues, legal challenges, and inadequate funding alongside feeble efforts that could hamstring our state in federal funding and political representation for the next decade.
But there is one thing that is clear to anyone involved in March’s Census Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop: a complete count in Ohio is possible and there are many local leaders passionately driven to produce that outcome.
In all, 23 individuals from “hard-to-count” communities across Ohio participated in the workshop. The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio sought out individuals located in “hard-to-count” communities – ranging from densely populated metropolitan areas like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus to Ohio’s far-reaching rural and Appalachian counties. These individuals come from a wide variety of backgrounds but they all share a clear sense of their communities’ needs and their role as a neighborhood leader.
These individuals also reflected the diversity of the many populations that the Census Bureau often struggles to count. New Americans, people of color, those who speak English as a second language, rural Ohioans lacking broadband accessibility, and other demographics were all represented, leading to a well-rounded understanding of the commonalities and differences in the challenges facing Ohio’s “hard-to-count” communities.
By the end of the three day workshop, the walls were lined with flip charts and colorful sticky notes. The tables were littered with pens, markers, and notecards with hastily scrawled questions, some asking how cyber security would be addressed, others about the impact of a citizenship question on Latinx participation. Over the three days, all participants had done deep dives into understanding all aspects of the challenges in their communities, made sense of what they had learned from others, came up with new, creative ideas, and were ready to get
back into their communities for feedback and test them out for the first time.
“When you have a problem well-framed, you have a problem well-solved.”
Training grassroots community leaders to use Design Thinking to dig into local issues helps us to accomplish two critical goals: 1) It provides a framework for community leaders and their neighbors to unpack local “hard to count” issues and work together to define local solutions and 2) It provides an opportunity practice authentic engagement and inclusion of local voices on issues important to under-represented neighborhoods.
Each of the workshop participants will be hosting at least one or multiple workshops in their own communities to record insights of the barriers and opportunities to census participation in their unique localities and generate awareness and community-based solutions to address the potential for undercounts in 2020.
What we learn throughout this process will extend far beyond Census Day 2020. Each of the workshop participants can use the new insights and skills they’ve gained to tackle other community problems well into the future.
As Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop participant C.J. Roberts eloquently wrote, “The more that participants within hard-to-count communities are aware of the power they hold in affecting the future of their communities, the stronger their communities can be. And, when our communities are stronger, we all are stronger.”
Strong communities require strong community leadership from within. Those closest to the problem are those closest to the solutions that will empower their communities to be as strong as they can be. For these distinguished community ambassadors, that starts with a complete count in 2020.