Be Counted, Represent! Take the ‘Census Pledge' engages young Latinos in Los Angeles

communities / Article

February 25, 2011 by Susan Mernit

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Did you know that, in California, more than one in three people are Latino,? And that Los Angeles county and surrounding areas have one of the largest number of young Latinos under 35 in the state?  Nevertheless, when  data collection for the 2010 Census began last March,  organizers at national non-profit Voto Latino recognized that it was going to take more that just a couple of public service announcements to make sure young Latinos understood the importance of participating in the census and they were prepared with a cool campaign to get the word out.

During Census-taking season, Voto Latino ran a  mobile-cell phone focused, event and music driven campaign called Be Counted, Represent! Take the ‘Census Pledge.’  Via a web site, a mobile/text campaign  called Text2Represent SMS , a set of star-driven video PSAs, some cool live events and incentives that included free music downloads, iTunes cards and t-shirts, Voto Latino--with support from  the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Community Information Challenge  in partnership with  The  California Community Foundation (CCF)  launched a viral marketing and education program whose goal was to have 70% of the young Latinos targeted actually participate in contributing data to the Census.

According to   Virginia Mosqueda, CCF program director,  young people working with Voto Latino--many from community partners such as MALDEF, the Mexican American Defense and Educational Fund--went door to door in their neighborhoods to get the word out, giving presentations to educate community members of the benefits of participating in the census. At the same time, Voto Latino launched a sophisticated viral campaign, using music and media to reach young Latinos.

Working with movie and television stars including Rosario Dawson, Luis Guzman, Demi Lovato (Disney’s Camp Rock franchise), Ana Ortiz (“Ugly Betty”), Wilmer Valderrama (“That Seventies Show”), and Jorge Garcia (“Lost”) Voto Latino launched a series of viral videos on being counted in the census, along with a mobile/web   census-challenge game that targeted  Latino youth to take an online pledge to be counted and gave them an opportunity to become virtual 2010 Census recruiters by tapping others in their social networks to do the same.

So, how did it go?

Pretty well.  According to Mosqueda, The campaign led to a  73% participation in the 2010 census by the target audience in the county, compared to 70% in 2000--and thousands of young Latinos in the LA County became more aware, and more civically engaged.

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