NYC Census 2020 outreach to immigrant and language-based communities via popular mobile messenger apps

New York:  NYC Census 2020 (Mayor’s Office of the Census) has embarked on an extensive and innovative digital organizing campaign via WhatsApp, WeChat, KakaoTalk, and Viber (WhatsApp+), to reach immigrant communities across New York City in 15 languages. This type of linguistic and culturally competent outreach and communication is particularly important at a time when in-person organizing efforts have been significantly hampered by the COVID-19 spread. 

Each of the WhatsApp+ language groups will be administered either by NYC Census 2020 or partners and will serve as a forum in which trusted community leaders will share vital information about the census, emphasizing that it is safe, easy, and important. Each group will recruit volunteers to organically share content with other WhatsApp+ groups and users, resulting in a hub for sharable and impactful content about the importance of census participation. 

“The Census is the only way we get the money and power that are rightfully ours. If we don’t know how many of us are there, or where we are, the government cannot plan to provide us with healthcare, transportation, education, and more,” said Julie Menin, Director of NYC Census 2020.

“In a city with more than 200 languages spoken, and where over one million New Yorkers have limited English proficiency, it’s vital that immigrant residents receive information about the census from trusted community members in their preferred languages,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “This pandemic has illustrated just how crucial a complete count is for our immigrant communities’ health and futures. Messaging applications like WhatsApp have also been critical tools for communicating COVID-19 updates and city resources available to all New Yorkers throughout this crisis.” 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to adjust outreach initiatives and use all technological tools available to reach as many New Yorkers as possible. Our efforts will be especially critical going forward since our City’s self-response rate lags behind the national rate,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson., 

“These digital town squares will help us achieve a complete count while we socially distance to save lives. We always knew it would take neighbors talking to neighbors to succeed in this endeavor. And with 15 such conversations taking place in 15 different languages, we are ensuring our immigrant neighbors are included,” said City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Co-Chair of the City Council’s 2020 Census Task Force.

Several community partners who serve as moderators of the groups include Adhikaar, Apna Brooklyn Community Center, New York Immigration Coalition, South Asian Council for Social Services, and United Sikhs.

The following South Asian language groups are now live:

LanguageLink to Join Group

Key facts about the 2020 Census

  • The census is available online and by phone this year: and 1-844-330-2020. 
  • New Yorkers can complete the census form online in 12 languages in addition to English, and each of these languages have their own dedicated, unique phone number on which callers can receive assistance. The U.S. Census Bureau has also published “explainer” guides in a total of 59 languages.

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