connect / 2019
The Los Angeles Regional Census Table
No place in the U.S. is harder to count in the census than L.A. County — period. Undercounting our residents means losing billions of dollars in federal funds for schools, housing and other vital community services. The Los Angeles Regional Census Table is a group of nonprofits mobilizing north from the Antelope Valley, all the way south to Long Beach, to ensure every Angeleno — including immigrants, children and youth, people experiencing homelessness, and the LGBTQ community — is counted.
What does your organization do?
Advancement Project California is a next generation, multiracial civil rights organization working on systems change in education, equitable community investments, and inclusive democracy.
Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.
- Antelope Valley Partners for Health
- Long Beach Forward
- Pacoima Beautiful
- L.A. Voice
- SELA Collaborative
Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.
The Asian-American woman standing by herself at the entrance to the room in the county administration building was a little bit older, and seemed a little bit lost. One of Advancement Project California’s staffers approached her, and after a brief exchange, determined she was in the right place: a community training session on local redistricting.
If you look up “redistricting”, you’ll see that, officially, it’s the process by which state and local officials use the census data to draw representative boundaries for federal, state, and local districts.
Redistricting is how people in power keep themselves in power.
It’s historically been one of government’s most secretive, closed-off processes, where from one day to the next, you could wake up in a different school district, or in a reconfigured congressional district that splits your neighborhood down the middle.
At that training session in 2012, several residents were already set up at our computers, navigating a redistricting web portal we created to help them draw draft district lines that made sense for their area of the county. Our newest attendee - the lady in the doorway - didn’t know how to use a mouse. She was probably who several bureaucrats had in mind when they expressed skepticism about our training sessions: “Redistricting’s too hard for the general public to understand.” “Why should we do outreach?” “Leave redistricting to the map makers and the elected officials.”
This is the attitude that Advancement Project California and our partners confront — and combat — all the time. It fuels our passion to blast through the barriers many communities, especially communities of color, face to increased civic engagement. Through community-centered projects like the Los Angeles Regional Census Table, we make government accountable to residents, and connect government and democracy to residents’ everyday lives.
Toward the end of the community session, the older woman approached our staffer again. He was prepared to help her with another function related to using the laptop. But all she wanted was his opinion about which map she should use, of the three she’d created, when she eventually gave public testimony.
Which of the connect metrics will your submission impact?
- Government responsiveness to residents’ needs
- Rates of volunteerism
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- Central LA
- East LA
- San Gabriel Valley
- San Fernando Valley
- South LA
- South Bay
- Antelope Valley
How will your project make LA the best place to connect?
The Los Angeles Regional Census Table is THE gathering space for nonprofits to collaborate so every resident in L.A. County is counted in the 2020 census. While the government will perform outreach, research and previous censuses prove that the most effective messengers are local community organizations that residents already know and trust.
The strategies for an accurate count are simple — but effective. Organizations identify the areas to target, then deploy staff and volunteers to share information, make presentations, and hold cultural events, raising census awareness and motivating communities to respond. But to cover the estimated 5.2 million residents that are hard for the Census Bureau to enumerate, we need hundreds of organizations. It’s essential that organizations performing census outreach know who’s doing what, where, when, and how. That’s the role of the L.A. Regional Census Table.
Six lead organizations serve as census action hubs, each for a different region: Antelope Valley Partners for Health (Antelope, Santa Clarita Valleys), Long Beach Forward, Pacoima Beautiful (San Fernando Valley), L.A. Voice (San Gabriel Valley), SELA Collaborative (Southeast L.A. County), and Advancement Project California (Central L.A.). Winning the My LA2050 Grants Challenge would allow us to engage two more co-conveners to cover the South Bay and Westside.
We meet quarterly, physically in each of our regions, but connected via audio/video technology. Each co-convener recruits dozens of organizations to the meeting for state/federal census updates, train-the-trainer sessions on engaging residents, and resource-sharing to maximize efficiency.
Our county has the highest number of residents considered “hard to count” by the census. These include: racial/ethnic groups (American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Blacks, Latinos); people with disabilities; immigrants/refugees; LGBTQ persons; elders; the homeless; children 0-5; veterans; and those with limited English proficiency.
PREPARE: Ongoing recruitment of organizations; develop outreach plans (7/2018-3/2019)
EDUCATE: Raise census awareness (4/2019—12/2019)
ACTIVATE: Intensify outreach to residents (1/2020—4/2020)
CENSUS DAY: Census begins (4/1/2020)
RE-VISIT: Target outreach to areas with low response rates (4/2020—7/2020)
The L.A. Regional Census Table mobilizes hundreds of nonprofits to engage residents in the census — a critical and truly democratic means of civic participation. Through volunteer opportunities and cultural events, Angelenos will connect to play their part in allocating political power, and influencing billions for services like education, health care, and housing.
The L.A. Regional Census Table will continue to have an impact even after the census. By building membership bases and developing community leaders now, we believe we’ll see improved get-out-the-vote mobilizations, higher rates of voter turnout, and stronger relationships with local government.
In what stage of innovation is this project?
Expand existing program (expanding and continuing ongoing successful projects)
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
Across all government, private, and community efforts, we believe it is possible to enumerate all residents in the county. At a minimum, however, the L.A. Regional Census Table is striving for increased census participation in L.A. County, with a goal of at least 75% participation. In 2010, L.A. County saw a 2% dip in its participation rate, to 73% from a 75% rate in 2000.
Furthermore, Advancement Project California’s goal for the L.A. Regional Census Table is that participating organizations: 1) build their membership bases, 2) connect with organizations across geographies, populations served, and/or issue areas to better solve regional issues in the future, and 3) create a stronger nonprofit infrastructure in L.A. County that can improve opportunities and conditions for residents who have been politically, economically, and socially marginalized.