Prepared for California Community Foundation by Engage R+D and USC Dornsife Equity Research Institute
Los Angeles County has historically lagged behind the state in previous census counts not only as the nation’s most populous county but also due to the diversity of its population. This report highlights noteworthy attributes and assets of the We Count LA (WCLA) campaign that provide valuable insights for future census counts and large-scale civic engagement efforts. In fact, some of these lessons have already been applied to the state’s COVID rapid response and vaccination campaign. The WCLA campaign exemplifies the power of partnerships and a robust ecosystem of trusted messengers, community organizers, and networked allies to ensure those most at-risk of exclusion and the adverse impact of the pandemic are reached.
We Count LA provides important lessons for philanthropic strategies that take a community capacity-building approach to achieve a common goal. Recommendations for building on the region’s readiness for the road ahead are:
- Massive engagement campaigns like the census require considerable planning and coordination.
Trust is a fundamental building block for civic engagement and census participation. Trusted messengers, community organizing, and ongoing civic engagement are key ingredients to build social capital and restore trust.
- Strategic communications, tailored messaging and continuous surround sound are critical components of census outreach and education.
- The census is part of a civic engagement arch and a critical opportunity to build durable long-term capacity, power, and civic infrastructure.
- The census and other large-scale civic engagement efforts require a robust ecosystem of cross-sector partners.
When it Counts: An Evaluation of the 2020 We Count LA Campaign
Read our other publications by research area
Immigrant Integration & Racial Justice
Our work on immigrant integration and racial justice brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public to advance immigrant integration and racial equity.
Economic Inclusion & Climate Equity
In the area of economic inclusion, we at ERI advance academic theory and practical applications linking economic growth, environmental quality, and civic health with bridging of racial and other gaps; produce accessible and actionable data and analysis through the data tools; and establish research partnerships to deepen and advance the dialogue, planning, and actions around racial equity, environmental justice, and the built environment.
Social Movements & Governing Power
ERI’s work in the area of governing power includes: conducting cross-disciplinary studies of today’s social movements, supporting learning and strategizing efforts to advance dialogues among organizers, funders, intermediaries, evaluators, and academics, and developing research-based social change frameworks and tools to inform—and be informed by—real-world, real-time efforts towards a vision of deep change.
In 2020, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) merged to form the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI).
The full list of publications published under our previous and current names can be found in our publications directory.