IDEAS Academy at Houston Community College's West Houston Institute provides students with opportunities to develop the mindsets and skill sets used by innovators, designers, and entrepreneurs to enable them to become leaders in today's digital and global society.
For the past two years, IDEAS Academy has partnered with the Houston Mayor's Office to provide HCC students with a real-world design challenge with local and global impacts.
2020 Census: Erase the Undercount
In Spring 2019, Mayor Sylvester Turner challenged HCC students to design ways to inspire schools and communities to participate in the upcoming 2020 Decennial Census and help erase Houston's historic undercount. Full participation in the Census would provide billions in additional federal funding and increase the number of elective representatives in the region.
IDEAS Academy's Alief Early College students, along with traditional HCC students in Technical Writing and Government classes, accepted the challenge and worked throughout the semester to develop communication strategies targeted at specific populations, including youth aged 14-19, international residents, and minority communities.
Research: Understanding the Census & the Undercount
Lack of knowledge and understanding about the Decennial Census is a fundamental barrier to participation. Students began by researching the problem–learning more about the Decennial Census and the impact it has for the region both in terms of federal funding and elective representation, as well as studying the available data on the demographics of their own communities using tools like ROAM to understand what underlying issues might contribute to the undercount.
Survey: Lunar New Year Houston
Event Hashtag: #CanWeCountOnYou?
Participation in existing community events was identified as a way to engage people and address the general lack of awareness and understanding surrounding the upcoming 2020 Census.
HCC students were provided with a pavilion tent at the 2019 Lunar New Year Houston festival by Glenda Joe, event organizer and Erase the Undercount Director.
The goal was to prototype some early messaging and to learn more about people's attitudes and beliefs about the Census. Students created several fun activities to generate interest with all ages at the event. They also developed a survey given to adults to gather insights from participants.
Engaging Through Fun
Students attracted festival-goers with informational games and activities and provided fact sheets about the upcoming 2020 Census to educate visitors.
Learning from the Community
Students also conducted a short survey developed in Qualtrics to better understand participants attitudes and beliefs about the Census, they community priorities, as well as their preferred information and communication channels. Students had 127 respondents complete their survey.
Activity: Targeted Surveys
Alief Early College High School Survey
Students further iterated the survey used for the Lunar New Year event and distributed it to Alief Early College High School in late February. Over 240 students from their school responded, representing a little over 50% of the student population.
HCC Technical Writing Community Surveys
HCC Technical Writing students created a general survey that could be given to their peers, as well as their families, friends, and communities. This activity was meant to provide personal insights about the attitudes and beliefs of those in their immediate sphere of influence towards the Census.
Activity: Persona Development
Personas are a powerful design method used to provide creative teams with authentic profiles of the kinds of people who are likely to be users of their solutions. Designers use personas in the early stages of their work before they have actual users to test their ideas.
Based other research findings, IDEAS Academy students developed unique personas representing young people, women, ethnic groups, and specific communities. These personas were used to summarize findings from Exploration Phase as the design work moved to the ideation stage.
Activity: Top Ten Census Facts
Recognizing a need to address the basic facts about the 2020 Census, students developed a Top Ten list of topics they decided were the most relevant and meaningful for students.
Activity: Ideation of Deliverables
IDEAS Academy utilized the West Houston Institute's Collaboratorium to brainstorm ideas for each of the deliverables for their youth communication campaign.
Activity: AECHS Multicultural Night
In addition to participating in community events, established school events and activities can be another way to promote awareness about the 2020 Census.
Alief Early College students took what they had learned from their involvement with the Lunar New Year Houston event and put together a table at their high school's annual Multicultural Night in March 2019. Their goal was to recognize that all of the cultures in a community are important and that by aligning this fact with participation in the Census, people may better understand what this civic duty can represent.
Partner with School Administration
AECHS Principal Brandi Brotherton and her staff are all aware of the challenge IDEAS Academy students are designing for this semester. This has enabled the cohort to get traction quickly on their activities related to this initiative at the school.
Partner with Student Organizations
IDEAS Academy has learned to collaborate with active student groups, including leadership organizations as well as interest groups on campus. These can be important partnerships that help connect activities across campus.
- Create individualized communications that use authentic voices from the community to connect with people.
- Take advantage of free tools to create social media posts, flyers, and posters to visually represent information about the Census in a way that is relevant to current tastes.
- To engage youth, find existing school events and activities and find ways to participate - align your presentation with the theme of the activity.
IDEAS Campaign Canvas
To wrap-up the Imagination Phase, students were asked to summarize the elements of their awareness campaign using the IDEAS Campaign Canvas, a modified version of the Business Model Canvas focused on social innovation. This document was used to clarify various aspects of their proposal through a process of critical reflection. Like the personas, the Campaign Canvas helped focus activities as design teams moved into the final stages of their creative process.
Phase III. Create the Change!
The final stage of the IDEAS design process is where the concepts that best address the challenge are developed into working prototypes that can be launched into the world to be tested with real users and further further refined through a process of iterative design.
Early College students took what they had learned from the previous design stages to create a brand and concept for a student initiative called, "Make Youth Count," to provide high school students with a means to organize and lead youth events at their schools to engage their peers, families and neighbors in learning about the 2020 Census and the importance it plays in their communities.
Brand & Logo
Our lead brand and graphic designer developed a look and feel for the "Make Youth Count" logo that would be relevant for students and could easily be incorporated into other communications for specific activities and events. And "Make Youth Count" also stands for Make "YOU" Count - it was important for young people to know that each person counted as individual as well as what could be accomplished by youth collectively.
Our merchandising team used the profiles developed in our student personas to develop a line of items that would be desirable and used by students to promote the "Make Youth Count" initiative and server as reminders and conversation starters once the Census begins in 2020. Items included t-shirts, keychains, magnets, cups, lanyards, pop sockets, and phone cases. The team used IDEAStudio to design and bring several concepts to life pictured below.
Handouts & Posters
Census Palooza Student Event
Alief Early College students closed out the semester with a pilot student event called "Census Palooza" where over 150 high school students participated in fun and engaging activities where they competed for prizes as they learned more about the census, its importance for their community, and how they can get involved to help get a complete count in their neighborhoods.