The 2019 census design thinking facilitation workshop: a reflection from community leader, C.J. RobertsRead Now
C.J. Roberts Reflects on How the Census Presents an Opportunity for Communities to Find Strength in Numbers
Strength in numbers. That is my main takeaway from a three-day Census Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop that I was fortunate to participate in earlier this month in Columbus.
Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio sponsored the workshop that trained participants from throughout the state on how to facilitate design thinking workshops and, in turn, use the knowledge and support gained to promote participation in the 2020 census – especially among populations with traditionally low participation rates.
My work group for the workshop included two government employees—one from Cleveland and another from Dayton, and three community outreach specialists – one each from Columbus and Toledo, and me, from Lancaster. The five of us represented three traditionally hard-to-count populations: African-Americans, Latinos, and low-income households.
What makes our populations hard to count? Consensus around the table and throughout the room was that fear and apathy are among the most common reasons for avoiding the census. Fear and apathy come from the unknown and from accepting rumor-mill gossip as fact. Why does the government need my information? What are they going to do with it anyway? It doesn’t matter if they don’t count me and my family; it won’t make a difference in the census outcome. I might be separated from my loved ones if I participate in the census. We could lose our benefits. . . .
Truth is, the census is not meant to pry into residents’ private lives. In fact, collected data is confidential and can only be used for statistical purposes. Individual responses are not shared with law enforcement or immigration enforcement or utilized in determining eligibility for government assistance.
Participation – by all – does matter. There is strength in numbers. The census is more than a population count. Data from the 2020 census will determine how and where more than $675 billion dollars in federal funds are spent. Census data determines how many seats each state has in the House of Representatives. Census data is used for redistricting as states redraw congressional and state legislature boundaries to reflect population shifts. The census is a means for identifying community needs and planning responses to those needs. And, the census is an every-10-year opportunity to do our civic duty by being counted.
In his recent article, “Hitting Ohio 16 ways: How a bad census count could cost Ohioans,” Stephen Koff, Washington bureau chief of cleveland.com, shared the importance of census participation. Koff references the Counting for Dollars Project at George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy. The Institute looked at 16 major programs that used census information in determining funding allocations in the past and how participation (or lack thereof) in the 2020 census could affect such allocations in the coming decade.
Just some of the federal programs affected by census data are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 housing vouchers for low-income households, Head Start and Early Head Start, Medicare, federal highway funding, and free and reduced-price lunch programs. Find Koff’s article at https://www.cleveland.com/metro/2017/08/hitting_ohio_in_16_ways_how_a.html.
Strength in numbers is my main takeaway from the Census Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop because . . .