Hybrid innovation drives measurable improvements in U.S. Census response rates among rural and Native American populations

Leveraging proprietary technology and messaging connects and engages with hard-to-reach populations.

In 2020 the U.S. Census Bureau began its constitutionally required decennial national population count. In states like New Mexico, the rural and remote nature of the population, including 23 Native American Nations and Tribes can make achieving high response rates difficult. With fewer than 45 days remaining before the Census deadline, the State of New Mexico, several counties, and tribal leaders discovered that response rates fell short of 2010 levels and 2020 targets putting communities at risk of losing important federal funding and program access determined by Census counts. The lack of rural high-speed internet and minimal household technology had prevented direct contact with potential respondents.

With a long history of developing campaigns designed to connect with difficult to reach populations, Agenda developing a series of targeted digital campaigns directed at mobile devices that could receive content via mobile service providers. Because most of the targeted communities had high mobile phone penetration but low Internet connectivity, this strategy proved crucial.

To encourage Census form completion, Agenda developed a web-based gift card disbursement system and deployed it through our proprietary delivery platform which had been previously deployed in Europe to counter mis/dis/and mal information. We ran highly targeted digital ads promoting the Census which ultimately increased response rates.

Our approach compiled geographic information data from multiple sources to build extremely detailed GPS border coordinates for each Tribe and Pueblo which allowed for very narrow geotargeting to reach these populations.

The Census is an underappreciated but vital part of public policy, determining aspects of American life like congressional districting, funding for social assistance, and vital government services. In support of that mission Agenda helped the Census meet its response targets among targeted native American tribes.  We delivered more than 13 million impressions with more than 55,000 engagements with across New Mexico and employed new tools and not previously used to increase engagement and Census response rates.