CommunityConnect Labs

CommunityConnect Labs Launches Community Motivator SMS Solution to Encourage 2020 Census Participation with Inaugural Partners in California and Hawaii

CommunityConnect Labs (CCL), a California-based nonprofit that develops high-quality, affordable mobile text messaging solutions that enable state and local governments and other service providers to reach low-income and other hard-to-engage individuals, successfully launched its Community Motivator solution with partner organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Hawaii with the aim of increasing 2020 Census participation.

The Community Motivator solution invites residents to create and share custom pledge cards committing to participate in the 2020 Census, and opts them in to receive mobile messaging reminders and follow-up communications as the critical once-a-decade count approaches.  

In California and Hawaii, United Way Bay Area and the Hawai’i Community Foundation have begun activating  communities using the Community Motivator.

  • United Way Bay Area is using the Community Motivator as part of a Bay Area-wide, opt-in texting campaign to encourage census participation in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Solano Counties.  The campaign will be offered in 12 languages starting in mid-November.
  • Hawai’i Community Foundation’s statewide campaign to help get Hawaii residents counted has already introduced the Community Motivator solution in coordination with partners including the Hawaii Executive Conference and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

“Hard-to-count communities need encouragement, reminders and other follow-up communications to motivate participation in the Census,” said CommunityConnect Labs founder and CEO Perla Ni.  “This is true in every Census year, and it will be a particular challenge in 2020, as the protracted public legal wrangling over the Administration’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to add a citizenship question to the once-a-decade count heightened some communities’ wariness about participating in the critical count.”

The Community Motivator solution is designed to address the challenge Ni describes, allowing states, counties and regional entities, including nonprofit community partners, to build opt-in lists and automatically follow up with text reminders and nudges in 2020. The Community Motivator allows organizations focused on Census outreach to scale and amplify their efforts in a meaningful way.

“The Community Motivator is helping us take a scalable approach to reaching the diverse, hard-to-count communities in the Bay Area,” said Stephanie Kim, United Way Bay Area’s senior director of Census 2020. “It builds upon the important in-person interactions and allows us to follow-up with coordinated and consistent messages that reach individuals where they are, in the language they prefer, and using a tool they’re familiar with.  We’re hoping to get as many people as possible signed up so that come March 2020, they’ll all receive reminders from Bay Area Counts 2020 to get counted.”

“A lot is at stake for the state of Hawaii and we believe the Community Motivator will help us to reach and engage individuals across our islands including those who live in rural communities, who are often undercounted,” said Robbie Kane, Director of Programs – Omidyar Initiatives at Hawai‘i Community Foundation.The Community Motivator will be a powerful amplification tool for our partner organizations, who are working to help us reach and encourage some of Hawaii’s most hard to count communities.”

Individuals can pledge to be counted via text and in turn receive a personalized digital pledge card. The digital pledge card is customizable by organization and personalizable by the individual respondents taking the pledge. The card can then be shared on social media to encourage friends and family to be counted. Individuals who opt in will then receive nudges and reminders in their selected language in the lead up to the 2020 Census. To demo the Community Motivator experience, text “CENSUS” to 987987.  

Redwood City, California-based CommunityConnect Labs is a leader and innovator in the public interest technology space, founded to address the difficulties local governments and human services providers face connecting with hard-to-reach individuals in their communities.  CommunityConnect Labs empowers clients with technology and expertise created through inclusive, human-centered design. CommunityConnect Labs’ roster of clients has included Los Angeles, Contra Costa, and San Mateo counties.  

CommunityConnect Labs offers a suite of mobile messaging solutions and training resources to help states, counties, cities, and nonprofits prepare for the 2020 count, and to achieve a complete count of hard-to-count communities. The CCL team has developed census solutions in collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau and has received grant awards to support census solution development from funders including Microsoft, Twllio, and Amazon.

Local governments, nonprofits and funders will play a critical role in ensuring a fair and accurate count of immigrant and low-income communities in the 2020 Census. CCL has worked in 9 geographies with city and county governments on the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) phase of the Census. CommunityConnect Labs is a member of the  U.S. Census Bureau’s Opportunity Project.


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