This story is part of an occasional series to showcase the work that communities, governments, organizations and businesses are doing to help the U.S. Census Bureau count everyone in 2020.
When Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh was asked earlier this year to chair a committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, her first inclination was to say no out of concern that it would take her away from more pressing matters at home.
Then someone asked Pugh: "Well, how about the 2020 Census?”. That was enough for Pugh to reconsider taking on the challenge.
“I said yes because I realized it was something important to my city, but really, it’s important to all cities,” Pugh said.
"Complete Count Committees are essential in emphasizing the local importance of this giant federal effort.”
— James Christy, assistant director for field operations at the Census Bureau
This fall, Baltimore became one of the latest cities to partner with the U.S. Census Bureau by launching a Complete Count Committee (CCC) in support of the decennial census.
Pugh leads the committee for her city while chairing the 2020 Census Task Force for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which has allowed her to make a difference on the national stage while putting Baltimore first.
CCCs are volunteer committees established by tribal, state and local governments as well as community leaders or organizations to increase awareness and motivate residents to respond to the 2020 Census. CCC members are local trusted voices who play a key role in ensuring a complete and accurate count.
"Many people answer the Census because it is important for the health and well-being of their local community,” said James Christy, assistant director for field operations at the Census Bureau.
“Complete Count Committees are essential in emphasizing the local importance of this giant federal effort," he said. "The work of the CCC is self-driven and focused on their own community, which creates a powerful motivation for people to respond to the Census - because they see the connection to how this affects them every day."
Baltimore’s CCC kickoff drew more than 100 organizers from across the city’s neighborhoods. The participants included leaders from the city’s business, nonprofit and faith-based sectors who came to strategize ways to reach hard-to-count residents in their communities.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh with some of her constituents.
“One of the messages I continue to send is that it really is about authentic voices,” Pugh said during the first CCC working meeting held in September. “Authentic voices in neighborhoods and communities help us get the count right.”
While meeting with other mayors, Pugh said she learned that Baltimore is one of the nation’s largest cities to launch a CCC before October. She said she wanted to lead by example to demonstrate that CCCs must form now in towns and cities – large and small across the country – to tackle the work that lies ahead.
“We’ve started early, but not early enough,” she said.
CCCs have three primary communication phases as they develop their outreach strategies.
From 2018 through late 2019, CCCs engage in the education phase. Census Bureau partnership specialists are contacted by local CCCs.
Specialists provide training and informational materials about the importance of the census and why a complete and accurate count is important. During this period, CCCs begin drafting strategies to reach their respective hard-to-count communities.
In January 2020, the awareness phase begins. CCC members and other trusted voices participate in public activities highlighting the message that responding to 2020 Census is easy, important and safe.
Census Day is April 1, 2020. By March of that year, the motivation phase begins.
During this phase, CCCs implement activities through trusted messengers in government, the faith-based and business organizations, nonprofits and the media, to motivate the members of their community to promptly respond to the census.
Because trusted voices are often among the most high-profile leaders of a community, Baltimore’s CCC honorary members include current and recent members of Maryland’s congressional delegation.
At the CCC kickoff meeting last month, former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski stressed the importance of the census to the nation while emphasizing the impact the work of the CCC would have for Baltimore residents.
“We need to localize, organize and strategize now so that when we do the census, we are ready to roll,” Mikulski said. “We don’t want anyone overlooked or undercounted. In this city and in this country, everybody counts and everybody should be counted.”
Nesreen Khashan is a team lead at the Census Bureau.