Civic tech platform Mobilize launches a census hub for the 2020 count’s critical final stretch – ProWellTech
With the already narrow window of time remaining to complete an abruptly interrupted census count by the Trump administration, getting every person living in the United States to fill out the form, already a run in a normal census year, is a complex challenge in 2020. .
The once every decade critical count determines everything from congressional representation to Pell grants to funding for school canteen programs – and as of this week, up to 60 million families remain missing. Left untouched, those individuals and their communities will be invisible when the time comes to allocate vital federal resources.
To meet this challenge, the Progressive Volunteer and Campaign Coordination Platform Mobilize is launching a central resource hub to empower census volunteers during the final six weeks. The civic tech startup noted that a handful of census nonprofits were already bringing campaigns to the platform, and the new site, GetOutTheCount.com, will expand those efforts and collect them in one place.
Speaking with ProWellTech, Mobilize co-founder and CEO Alfred Johnson describes the task, reasonably, as “Herculean”.
“Organizations are trying to reach out to communities and help them understand what will be asked of them in the census, what will not be asked of them by the census and make sure … deadlines and they can be counted, “Johnson said. “Because we know that being counted is such a fundamental element to be included in our democracy”.
One of the biggest challenges of this census year is focusing on reaching historically underestimated Black, Latino, and indigenous communities – a key goal if the 2020 census is to capture U.S. demographic changes and allocate resources and representation accordingly. With the shortened deadline, the pandemic and tens of millions of “hard to count” families not counted, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
“We are facing this monumental challenge, particularly with COVID underway,” Johnson said. “It is always difficult to do the census every 10 years and make sure you get accurate counts.
“Plus it’s hard to do if there’s a once in a century pandemic that prevents people from answering mail, answering the door, all the things they could [lead to] a more representative count. ”
The mobilization was launched in early 2017 amid the wave of post-Trump left activism and has quickly become ubiquitous among progressive causes and candidates. In the 2020 Democratic primary contest, Biden, Bernie, and everyone else relied on the platform to mark campaign volunteers and lead supporters. In January, the civic tech startup raised a $ 3.75 million Series A round led by the Higher Ground Labs progressive tech incubator. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, a major Democratic donor, and the lower case Chris Sacca also contributed to the round.
The digital platform aims both to be a unifying resource for democratic and progressive campaigns, and to do what the events page on social networks like Facebook cannot. For Mobilize, this means translating into action what may remain an ambitious online business on a different platform. It does this by sending reminders to volunteers, prompting them to invite friends, and staying in touch even after taking actions to keep them engaged in similar campaigns.
Groups already coordinating their census campaigns on Mobilize include the NYC Census Bureau, CensusCounts and Fair Count, an organization founded by Fair Fight founder and former Democratic candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams. Fair Count’s mission is to reach out to the “hard to count” communities in Georgia, including the historically underestimated black male population, to get the state the resources and representation that reflect its reality.
GetOutTheCount.com allows anyone to type their zip code to see coordinated local census mobilization efforts between those organizations and others. It makes sense that if you are willing to phone the bank to reach people who have yet to be counted for one group, you would probably be willing to do so for another with overlapping goals.
For Mobilize, the decisive push to the final census is a kind of crucible for the power of the platform in a year that has gone fully digital. Johnson saw virtual events skyrocket on Mobilize as COVID-19 took root in the U.S. Before the pandemic, about a quarter of events were virtual, now all of them are.
Johnson acknowledges that the “headwinds” against an accurate census count in 2020 are very real, both politically and logistically, and particularly now that the Trump administration has cut the deadline. But he hopes Mobilize will be able to help organizations harness the power of the platform’s network effect and scalability during a national crisis that has a nation locked up instead of knocking them.
Despite the crisis, or perhaps because of it, Mobilize has seen a sharp increase in volunteer enrollments between the months of April and July and expects August to be even bigger once the numbers arrive.
“2020 is a very difficult year for many people for very real reasons,” Johnson said. “I think it is actually motivating even more civic engagement by virtue of the fact that people want to see circumstances change and help their friends, neighbors. [and] community in this moment of existential crisis, on whatever axis you are evaluating it. “