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Don’t Come A-Knockin’: Worthington leader switches census strategy to reach communities of color amid COVID 19

Posted in Community Leadership

Communities are rich with resources. Leaders who put in the work to know their community strengths, create networks of passionate leaders and identify priorities will be better prepared to act during times of uncertainty. 

As COVID 19 rattled our daily routines, causing many communities to scramble for solutions, leaders across the state who had laid the foundation for community work launched into action. They called partners. Tapped existing assets. Forged new paths forward. And their communities will be stronger for it.

Census champion Jessica Velasco knew as soon as COVID 19 hit her hometown of Worthington, Minnesota, her plans to engage local communities of color in responding to the census had to change. In-person gatherings and door knocking strategies went out the window, and in ushered a mix of online and high-touch, family-to-family outreach.

She landed on Facebook Live as a low-barrier, minimal-risk way of getting people’s tough questions answered. Turning to trusted voices within networks she built prior to COVID 19, she coordinated a series of ongoing digital gatherings. After a Census Day Facebook Live event that brought together Andrew Virden, director of census operations and engagement for the State of Minnesota, and LatinX Mayor Maria Regan Gonzalez of Richfield, Nobles County saw a significant boost in census response rates.

In addition to digital outreach, Jessica doubled down on her pre-COVID 19 efforts to encourage local youth of color to be census champions in their homes and neighborhoods. Since door knocking was on pause, the youth played a key role in making personal connections in undercounted communities.

Click below to hear from Jessica on how the shift to online organizing is impacting response rates in Nobles County.

How has your community named resources, built networks and identified priorities to stay strong and resilient during challenging times? Use our 9 Dimensions Community Resources Conversation Guide to boost your work!

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