In preparation for the upcoming 2020 Census, California has made an unprecedented investment of $187 million to ensure the most complete count possible of the most populous state in the nation. At stake is representation in the US congress, redistricting, and federal funding for the state for the next decade. Federal dollars, linked to population estimates derived from the 2010 census, currently account for over one-third of all state spending, or more than $100 billion in 2018.
For every person not counted in the census, California loses an estimated $1,000 per person per year, impacting funding for programs designed to support the state’s most vulnerable communities, including education, transportation, and housing. The hardest to count populations tend to include renters, individuals experiencing homelessness and others in complex housing situations, as well as immigrants who are deterred by language barriers or fears regarding their own immigration status or that of their families and friends.
In recognition of the vast scale and diversity throughout California, the state invested in a multi-lingual, multi-media outreach effort ahead of both the 2000 and 2010 census, which helped achieve a census form mail-in return rate that outpaced the entire nation. In 2020, the census will be available online for the first time. Changes in technology over the past decade, including internet access and social media, have created both new opportunities and obstacles for upcoming outreach efforts, which are being coordinated through the state Census Office, California Complete Count.
Census Office officials are currently in the midst of implementation plan workshops aimed at solidifying outreach plans and identifying gaps; geographic, language access, hard to count populations and other key factors that will determine the effectiveness of the campaign. They are also developing a sophisticated media campaign that targets harder-to-count communities. A primary challenge facing the team now is coordination of the various contractors and vendors, counties, and community partners to ensure that various implementation plans are carefully aligned with each other and that messaging across various platforms is consistent.
As outreach efforts begin in earnest, Census Office officials require monitoring and evaluation support to understand how various media and ground-based efforts are working in concert, and what strategies are the most effective in reaching hard-to-count populations. Census Office officials envision a rigorous evaluation that will be crucial for modifying ongoing census efforts and that will also lay the groundwork for 2030 outreach by assessing which strategies are likely to be most effective in the next census. To support this work, the State will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will take the lead in developing a high-level evaluation of statewide census outreach strategies.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.
Starting in October 2019, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will begin his or her work with a broad listening tour with partners across the state to understand the players involved. The Fellow will need to travel across California on a weekly basis and engage with stakeholders in various census regions. Given the immediacy and time-sensitive nature of census outreach efforts, the Fellow must be a self-starter who is ready to hit the ground running in developing and enacting a monitoring and evaluation plan.
To be successful in this role, the Fellow must not only be technically proficient, but must also be an outgoing and adept communicator who is able to build and maintain relationships with external media vendors, field-level and local partners, and state and regional administrators. Understanding and working closely within state agencies and processes will also be important. The ultimate goal of this fellowship is the completion of a rigorous final evaluation report, with potential for publication, that can serve as a vital resource for future statewide community engagement strategies and census outreach efforts in other states throughout the country.
- On-going Monitoring and Evaluation of Census Outreach: Create baseline assessments and aggregate data around awareness of the census, message testing, and its importance prior to census-related outreach. Develop a broad framework for evaluating outreach efforts. Identify high-return strategies and practices. Provide insights on coordination across partners. Flag duplications in outreach or underperforming strategies.
- Stakeholder Engagement & Coordination. Maintain open lines of communication with both state and external stakeholders and partners. Translate evaluation analysis into easily understood and implemented recommendations. Communicate insights from data in a diplomatic way. Demonstrate cultural awareness and understand community-specific sensitivities.
- Research and Evaluation Study: Synthesize findings from ongoing assessments in a final study. Complete regression analysis to evaluate and identify successful practices. Publish study in a respected journal or publication. Develop recommendations for best practices and highlight strategies that provided best return on investment. Outline a model for future replication.
- Sarah Soto-Taylor, Deputy Secretary for Census, California Government Operations Agency
- Ditas Katague, Director, California Complete Count
- Alicia Wong, Chief Deputy Director, California Complete Count
- Sara Murillo, Assistant Director, Administration, California Complete Count
- At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong background in research, evaluation, and statistical analysis in such fields as marketing, communications, social sciences, or behavioral economics.
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
- Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
- Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
- Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
- Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
- Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.