Efficient provision of services to underserved populations requires the same skills and planning as any well thought-out marketing campaign. Multiple strategies, persistence, sensitivity to audience response, and a willingness to learn are successful strategies for reaching a target audience regardless of whether the goal is to sell automobiles or publicize available services.
Having a Plan
Any effective outreach begins with a plan, and marketing plans begin with a thorough look at the target audienceþdemographics, values, concentration, habits, income, and general level of education. If, through surveys or other research, it is discovered that compared to other ethnic groups disproportionate numbers of Hispanics are not using state assistive technology project services, a review of the project’s marketing plan is in order. The question of how to target this population must begin with a thorough understanding of who they are and why they are not using project services. Is there a language barrier, a breakdown in communications, a cultural antipathy to your approach? None of these questions can be answered until more is known about the target audience.
General knowledge about the Hispanic culture as well as specific facts about Hispanic individuals in the local community can be easily found and used to develop a cogent outreach program–one that delivers useful services in a manner compatible with the target audience. For instance, the very term “Hispanic culture” is at best a general phrase for the many different subcultures that comprise the Hispanic influence in America. Differences across the nationalities exist although similarities across these subcultures contribute to the development of values and cultural norms characteristically called Hispanic. The similarities include:
- Use of the Spanish language;
- Importance of the family and religion in daily life;
- The male role which is sometimes more dominant than in other cultures;
- Protocol in social relationships which can frequently be more elaborate than in casual mainstream America; and the
- Personal nature of relationships, even business ones.
However, like any other culture, the Hispanic population is comprised of individuals. As such they may hold positions which vary from the commonly understood cultural similarities of the group. This is an important consideration as marketing plans are developed. While recognition and consideration of cultural similarities is essential, it is equally important to guard against perpetuation of sterotypes. Marketing plans, to be successful, must always consider the individual consumer. A suggested reading list on various ethnic groups in America follows this article and a more extensive list is available from the Project Reaching Out Office.
Following a thorough lesson in Hispanic culture, it is necessary to gather particular facts about the Hispanic Americans in the state or community:
- What part of the general population is Hispanic (both number and percentage)?
- Which Hispanic subcultures are significantly present (e.g., Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Central or South Americans?)
- In which neighborhoods do Hispanics live? Are they concentrated in certain areas or counties?
- To what extent are they literate in Spanish and English (consider verbal as well as written skills)?
- What portion of Hispanics are considered low-income by federal guidelines? What portion appear to qualify for entitlement programs or other assistance programs?
- What assistance are they now receiving and how have these programs reached them?
- To what extent are Hispanics with disabilities getting needed services?
- Do gaps in services exist and if so, why?
The answers to these questions range from simple statistical data to more subjective responses. The purpose in gathering this information is to ascertain gaps and the reasons for them. Statistical data are available from several sources:
- Statistical Abstract of the United States published annually by the U.S. Census Bureau provides information on a national level. Contact the U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau, Public Information Office (301-763-4040).
- State-level data can be found in the State Data Center Program Book, available from the State Data Center Program, Bureau of the Census (301-763-1580).
- For area-specific information the County and City Data Book is available from the U.S. Printing Office (301-763-4100).
Major libraries may carry these federally funded statistical profiles. Also, other state or local service providers may have information on the local area, perhaps even on Hispanics with disabilities.
A general look at statistical data may uncover which ethnic groups or specific populations are not using project services. If a group emerges as underserved from this review, then an outreach program tailored to the group’s specific profile is in order.
Reaching Out Into the Community
Once a knowledge base about Hispanic culture and local demographics is established, outreach efforts can be planned. Project Reaching Out’s own experience this past year to identify and test strategies to reach the Hispanic community confirm what experienced marketers know and practice: There is no single approach that will be successful in reaching all individuals in the community. Even if local data indicate that all the Hispanics in the community reside within a five-block radius, differences in age, gender, nationality, education, literacy levels, and family status would still preclude the success of a single outreach effort within those five blocks. Various approaches and the flexibility to adjust those approaches will be needed no matter which underserved population is targeted.
However, once the targeted population is researched the message to them can be formulated, both in content and approach. Content should be clear and concise. Avoid using terms unfamiliar to the general public. For example, “assistive technology” means little to the average citizen and should be used only with careful explanation in outreach materials. In pilot training programs, Project Reaching Out staff discovered that the terms most readily recognized by the public were “adapted equipment,” “adapted devices,” or “products/devices/equipment that make life easier for persons with disabilities.”
The approach can vary with the nationality but certain aspects are obvious, such as the use of the Spanish language to reach Hispanics. Also, a Hispanic person with strong cultural ties to the community will be a more effective spokesperson. Bilingual and Hispanic staff help to decrease language barriers, validate the program to those Hispanics who may not be comfortable outside their own cultural milieu, and they increase the programþs capabilities to serve all of the community.
The specific message and approach points the way to avenues of communication. Is there a local television or radio station that broadcasts in Spanish; is there a Spanish-language newspaper? If so, then public service announcements may be a good outreach effort. Flyers and posters in predominantly Hispanic areas and in popular Hispanic gathering places may also be effective. Perhaps there is a local Hispanic-run graphics business that would (for a reduced or waived fee) assist you in creating colorful and eye-catching brochures or PSAs (public service announcements). Even cartoons may be used effectively as attention-getters.
Also, one should not overlook the personal touch. Because of the value placed on personal relationships and personal respect in Hispanic culture, this is an especially important area for Hispanic outreach efforts, and one that should not be overlooked for any targeted group. Staff visits to Hispanic community organizations and leaders can spread the word of the program’s existence and its capabilities to help. A social service agency active in the targeted area may also be tapped to help with referrals. This agency needs to be thoroughly familiar with the program’s services. A presence at Hispanic festivals and other community events and strong contacts with community-based Hispanic organizations must be ongoing and personal.
Be Ready for Success
Successful outreach is just the first step. It is also necessary to deliver the goods! Once Hispanic individuals begin contacting the program, you must be ready to respond to phone calls and visits by Spanish-speaking clients. Bilingual and, if at all possible, Hispanic staff should be on hand. Regardless of the targeted population, a willingness to be guided by that particular culture’s ways of communicating and a sensitivity to the individual’s right to equality and fair treatment “cultural sensitivity” need to guide the program’s fulfillment efforts just as they guided the outreach efforts. Quality services delivered efficiently and effectively to everyone making up the American community is a goal which needs no clarification.
This article is reprinted from the A.T. Quarterly, Volume 5, Number 1
The Hispanic community, which now represents almost six percent of Virginia’s population, has grown more than 100 percent since 1990. Because many Hispanics are recent immigrants with misconceptions about the process of buying a home, REACH Virginia outreach to the Hispanic community is focused primarily on identifying and preparing those not yet ready to purchase with increased knowledge about the homebuying process and its potential pitfalls.
Outreach efforts include, but are not limited to:
Informing Virginia’s Hispanic population about the advantages of homeownership education and loan programs designed specifically to help remove the common barriers to homeownership.
Promoting the creation of — and standing ready to help build the capacity of — organizations interested in promoting affordable housing in areas with a growing Hispanic population.
Identifying and cultivating relationships — while expanding existing ones — with faith-based organizations throughout the Commonwealth.
Reaching out to non-profit organizations serving the Hispanic community, and developing and/or expanding working relationships to provide support and increase capacity.
Collaborating and developing joint strategies with local governments and housing agencies to increase and improve outreach efforts to the community.
Advising other departments on how to develop initiatives and programs to better serve the housing needs of the Commonwealth’s Hispanic population.
“Blancos” entre nosotros en la crisis del voto
En el cruce de esta crisis anti-mujeres, anti-negros y anti-hispanos, es importante recordar un par de hechos históricos sobre los hispanos. A la mayoría de las personas se les ha olvidado que los blancos fueron los intrusos en las Américas cuando como minoría huyeron de su “civilización” europea en busca de una “libertad de religión” en América que después ellos mismos forzaron en los verdaderos americanos: los indios. Algunos que pretenden ignorar la historia, sin embargo, parecen querer apropiarse del país por medio de una simple inferencia de color cuando en realidad esta es América India, tierra de pieles oscuras. No estamos en Alemania o Austria! El hecho de que arriba de 70 millones de piel oscura fueron asesinados por los que reclamaban venir en el nombre de Dios y la civilización europea no cambia la historia. Aun estamos aquí entre los ilegales históricos de aquellos días que mataron a los indoamericanos y les robaron sus tierras. Aunque los anglos se segregaron de los verdaderos americanos y los mataron o pusieron en reservaciones, aún estamos en pie. Los españoles vinieron, cometieron los mismos crímenes y al usar a los indios como esclavos procrearon a la raza híbrida de los mestizos, mexicanos o latinos que cada año se multiplican en todo el continente. Esto quiere decir que nos hemos multiplicado en ellos y nuestra sangre aun está grandemente arraigada en esta tierra. Quinientos años no nos han obliterado, como querían hacer los puritanos. Esta fue y sigue siendo nuestra tierra y como las montañas siempre estaremos aquí. Votaremos y nos haremos sentir!
Lo que es extraordinariamente escandaloso es que ahora una pequeña minoría de estos invasores históricos quiera obliterarnos nuevamente en la casilla del voto diluyendo y obstruyendo nuestro voto porque piensan que el país les pertenece. Hay 51.5 millones de hispanos en los Estados Unidos, y estamos creciendo cada día, ¿quién puede detenernos? ¿Es el intento de suprimir nuestro voto un segundo genocidio para volver a tomar el país otra vez? ¿Por qué no pueden las mujeres, los negros y los hispanos compartir el gobierno sin que los ataquen como lo hicieron con Hilary Clinton y ahora con el Presidente Obama? O tenemos un país democrático libre donde todos tenemos los mismos derechos y oportunidades en el voto, o no tenemos democracia y un país libre. O todos tenemos derechos, a pesar del color de nuestra piel o género, ¡o nadie los tiene! Por dos años algunos han estado librando una guerra abierta en contra las mujeres y los hispanos pieles oscuras, y los han perseguido, aun cuando estos son la base de la pirámide económica que produce servicios, y beneficios para los ricos de arriba. La obvia pregunta es ¿por qué tantas leyes pasadas en contra nosotros, persiguiéndonos como a animales en todo momento? ¿Por qué tan llenos de rencor en contra las mujeres, los negros y los hispanos? Entre estos tres grupos nosotros somos la mayoría en el país, y recuerde la grande minoría hambrientos del poder; nosotros les permitimos entrar al país cuando tenían hambre la primera vez que llegaron a nuestro país, ¡y les dimos de comer!
Es tiempo que de todas las esquinas de este país reconozcan nuestra existencia, en vista que estábamos aquí antes que todos, y entienda que, como todo ciudadano, demandamos la dignidad y derechos que cualquier ciudadano de los Estados Unidos.
Professor Josué Sánchez
Newspapers in the Arab countries can be divided into three categories: those that are government-owned (together with semi-official papers such as al-Ahram in Egypt), those owned by political parties, and the “independent” press.
Very few of the privately-owned newspapers can be considered editorially independent; they are often owned by wealthy individuals who have political aspirations or seek to wield influence. Qatar, for instance, has six newspapers – all of them technically independent but actually owned by members of the ruling family or businessmen with close ties to the ruling family.
In general, Arab governments seek to keep a lid on political discourse and activity – especially any that might be perceived as a threat to the established order – though the degree of control varies from country to country. Besides the more obvious methods such as censorship and suppression, a number of bureaucratic and legal devices are used to restrict freedom of expression.
In most Arab countries newspapers and magazines cannot be published without a government-issued license, and in some cases the licensing requirement also applies to printing presses and even journalists themselves.
Basically, licensing creates an appearance of freedom by allowing independent newspapers to exist without direct government censorship, while creating a regulatory system which facilitates various kinds of government interference – the ultimate sanction being withdrawal of a license. This provides the authorities with a variety of tools for exercising control in ways that appear less crude than formal bans and direct censorship – though the effect is much the same. It means newspapers can be disciplined on technical grounds for infringing the terms of their license, even if the real reason is that they have offended the government.
The closure of Addomari (the Lamplighter), a satirical weekly in Syria, was one example. Launched in 2001 shortly after Bashar al-Asad became president, it was the country’s first independent newspaper in thirty-eight years and for a while each issue sold more copies than all the official dailies put together.
By 2003 the regime had taken a dislike to it and the information minister demanded to see the content of each issue before publication. Its owner, Ali Farzat refused and temporarily suspended publication. Later, when he tried to publish another issue without submitting it for approval, the authorities prevented its distribution. A government decree then rescinded its licence on the grounds that Addomari had “violated laws and regulations in force by failing to appear for more than three months” as required by the conditions of its licence.
Obtaining a license ranges from straightforward to almost impossible, depending on the country and/or the background of the applicant. Hisham Kassem, an Egyptian editor who was planning to launch a weekly news magazine, described his visit to the Higher Press Council, the official body that grants licenses to publishers in Egypt – if and when it feels inclined to do so.
A polite bureaucrat met me and explained the licensing procedures. I needed nine other partners holding equal shares to be listed on the license application. We would need to deposit LE100,000 (approximately US$25,000) for a monthly publication, LE250,000 for a weekly, and LE1 million for a daily.
The money would be set aside in a designated account and no interest would be paid on it while the application was being processed. Applicants could withdraw the money at any time, but in that case the application would immediately be nullified …
The problem was, as I explained to the polite bureaucrat, that I did not know nine other people who might be interested in investing in a startup press business with me. He told me I was lucky, because a recent amendment had reduced the total of founding members from two hundred to ten.
I asked him about the time frame for processing the application and he replied that he had not the slightest clue…
I asked, “When was the last time a publication was granted a license?” He said he could not remember.
I asked when the Higher Press Council had last convened. “Two years ago,” he said.*
Recognizing that in the previous ten years only four political weeklies and one monthly had been granted licenses, and that the founders of all four weeklies had strong connections with the government, Kassem decided not to bother applying for a license. Instead, he did what most independent publishers in Egypt do, and established his magazine, the Cairo Times, across the sea in Cyprus. Flying the printed copies back to Cairo was expensive and turned it into a “foreign” publication (meaning that each issue had to be approved by the censors before being allowed into the country), but at least it made publication possible.
Most Arab countries have press laws imposing boundaries on what may or may not be said in print. The rules not only tend to be very broad but are often vaguely drafted, allowing ample scope for arbitrary interpretations. The Yemeni Press and Publications Law approved in 1990, for example, included the following prohibitions:
• Anything which prejudices the Islamic faith and its lofty principles or belittles religions or humanitarian creeds;
• Anything which might cause tribal, sectarian, racial, regional or ancestral discrimination, or which might spread a spirit of dissent and division among the people or call on them to apostasies;
• Anything which leads to the spread of ideas contrary to the principles of the Yemeni revolution, prejudicial to national unity or distorting the image of the Yemeni, Arab or Islamic heritage;
• Anything which undermines public moral [sic] or prejudices the dignity of individuals or the freedom of the individual by smears and defamation;
• To criticize the person of the head of state, or to attribute to him declarations or pictures unless the declarations were made or the picture taken during a public speech. This does not necessarily apply to objective, constructive criticism.6
These reflect the typical areas of sensitivity in most Arab countries. Similarly, the “reformed” Kuwaiti press law, issued in 2006, criminalizes the publication of material criticizing the constitution, the emir, or Islam or inciting acts that offend public morality or religious sensibilities. This might be considered an improvement on the previous law in that it meant offenders would face heavy fines instead of jail sentences.7
Needless to say, the vagueness of the rules encourages self-censorship, with editors and publishers usually preferring to err on the side of caution.
Direct censorship is usually confined to material entering the country from abroad (this can apply to books and music CDs as well as newspapers and magazines). In Saudi Arabia, for example, offending material in newspapers – such as advertisements for alcohol or pictures of “inappropriately” dressed women – are obliterated with marker pens, or entire pages may be removed.
Harsh defamation laws are often used to protect high-ranking officials from media criticism. Defamation is – or ought to be – a civil matter between the parties concerned but in many Arab countries it is punishable by imprisonment. In 2009 a report by the International Press Institute noted:
Defaming or insulting state officials continues to carry prison time in many MENA countries. In Algeria, defamation of high officials and state organs has been criminalized since 2001, and as of February 2006, it is illegal to criticize actions during the 1990s by security forces in that country. In Jordan, defamation is punishable only with a fine; however, insulting the King or the royal family carries a sentence of up to three years. Criticizing the head of state, undermining public morality, defaming individuals or misrepresenting Yemeni or Arab heritage are all illegal in Yemen. Similar legislation also exists in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Chad, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman.
In some instances the defamation concept has been extended beyond individuals to cover “defamation” of a country or religion. One famous case in 2008 involved an Egyptian democracy activist, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who was sentenced to two years in jail for “defaming Egypt”.
Beyond government interference
A well-functioning press has an important role to play in any society by asking awkward questions and teasing out the answers. Despite some significant steps forward during the last decade or so, this is a goal that the Arab media as a whole is still a long way from reaching. It is also a role that it would still be ill-equipped to perform even if all the government restrictions were suddenly lifted tomorrow.
This is due to a number of factors: lack of expertise, the difficulty of obtaining information in a political system that is particularly opaque, and social conditions that discourage a “culture of questioning”.
Another crucial factor is that Arab newspapers are in a parlous state: hardly any of them pay their way financially. The official press is heavily subsidized, both directly and indirectly. In Syria, for example, only a tiny fraction of the official newspapers printed are sold to the public on the streets; vast numbers are purchased by the civil service and the military in the hope that soldiers and pen-pushers will feel dutiful enough to read them. “Independent” newspapers are subsidized too, either by their owners for reasons of prestige and influence, or by other means. Lebanon, with its multi-faceted politics, has a tradition of media diversity and relatively little control by the state, but that does not necessarily bring independence. Magda Abu-Fadil, director of the Journalism Training Programme at the American University of Beirut, explained:
When there was only print, assorted Lebanese newspapers were the mouthpieces of regional governments – pretty much all of them. Lebanon being such a free country, they all started bashing each other through Lebanese media. They couldn’t do it on their own turf, and Lebanon was the perfect playground for that back in the 1950s and 1960s, what with Arabism and all the different “-isms”.
Paying newspapers to provide the required slant – by ignoring some stories and covering others, or covering them in a certain way – is a long-standing practice and “par for the course”, according to Abu-Fadil.
When the Lebanese civil war broke out some of those media moved to Europe and carried on the tradition. In fact, they wouldn’t have survived otherwise because it’s just so expensive to operate in Britain and France and Italy where they established their respective headquarters.
Payments would be channelled through proxies so as not to be directly attributable to their source, though the real source was usually obvious from the content of the papers. Along with the newspapers themselves, writers and editors sometimes received subsidies too: the Saudis in particular were noted for their “envelope parties” for Arab journalists working in London. To what extent these practices continue today is difficult to judge, though gossip within the profession suggests they are not particularly uncommon.
How many Arab newspapers actually make a profit? Very few, according to Abu-Fadil. Asked if she could name any that definitely do, she replied:
Not really. I’ll tell you why, because in most of the Arab world the main media are state-owned – the subsidy comes from the government. What exists as so-called independent media can barely eke out a living (a) because they don’t have enough of a following, (b) because of government restrictions, bans, constraints, harassment and assorted other obstacles, (c) because advertising isn’t enough and they certainly don’t have enough circulation [revenue] if we’re talking about print.
It’s even more difficult for broadcast and unless they have adequate subsidies – usually from different sources – there’s only so much in the advertising pie. If there is a falling out between one country’s government and another, advertising from that country dwindles to a trickle.
Advertisers’ influence can have a damaging effect on the media’s independence anywhere in the world but the problem is exacerbated in the Arab countries because their advertising markets are more politicized than most. Not only are publishers and broadcasters susceptible to pressure from advertisers but advertisers themselves are susceptible to pressure from governments and politicians. In addition to that, governments and people associated with them are often major advertisers in their own right.
This is one reason why al-Jazeera television, despite its vast region-wide audience, has trouble attracting advertising. Al-Jazeera, of course, is lucky in that it can survive without – thanks to a generous benefactor in the shape of the emir of Qatar. A small weekly magazine in Lebanon, however, was less fortunate. “At one point it was very left-wing and very anti-Hariri [the late Lebanese prime minister],” Abu-Fadil recalled. “Being the multi-billionaire that he was, who bristled at criticism like any other politician, Hariri saw to it that advertising halted – what little advertising there was for the magazine. So they almost went under.” At that point, Hariri came to the rescue and bought up the magazine. “After that it was all accolades and praises and cheerleading for Mr Hariri.”
Without financial viability or a hands-off benefactor it becomes extremely difficult for the media to assert any kind of independence. That, in turn, lessens credibility in the eyes of the public – which keeps sales low and perpetuates the need for subsidies.
Unfortunately, though, it is not the only problem. To do their job properly, journalists need facts, and for Abu-Fadil this raises a series of questions: “Do they know how to dig for facts?”, “Have they been trained adequately?”, “What facts are there that can be obtained?” In most cases, she said, facts are few and far between – “and especially from official sources, basically because people like to cover up misdeeds and all sorts of problems”. As with the economics of the media, this creates a vicious circle: when facts are hard to come by there is not much point in making the effort to find them. The result, much of the time, is a bland style of reporting based on statements, meetings, conferences and other set-piece events, with little attempt to probe beneath the surface by explaining the significance and the issues at stake or scrutinizing the validity of what has been said.
Source: What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East, by Brian Whitaker (Saqi Books, 2009).
* Kassem, Hisham: ‘How the Cairo Times came to be published out of Cyprus.’ Chapter in The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development. Washington: World Bank Publications, 2003.
Front-line workers are people who want to turn neighborhood barriers into gateways that allow neighbors to pass both ways.
Though it may be difficult to openly recognize, everyone comes with an ethnic background. Many people like to believe their way of thinking, speaking, dressing, and acting is the right way and that people who think and act differently are somehow foreign, wrong, and inferior. Too often differences between people become barriers when they might make for richness.
The guide sees a neighborhood as a place where people live who have characteristics distinguishing them from other people living in other neighborhoods. Distinguishing characteristics may be race, color, religion, language, education, geography, work situation, traditions, age, and/or political belief.
Often combinations of characteristics are lumped together and called “ethnic” Neighborhoods where many people have similar characteristics are called ethnic neighborhoods.
When the number of people in an ethnic group is smaller than all the other ethnic groups combined it is often called an ethnic minority, living in an ethnic minority neighborhood. All this means is that the people are in some way different from people living in other neighborhoods. One easy marker for an ethnic minority neighborhood is its grocery store selling particular foods neighbors like. Another is restaurants that cater to special ways of preparing food.
Too often names of neighborhoods carry different meanings than intended. Slum, ghetto, barrio can be more than a simple way of labeling an area. People who live in the neighborhood and call it “home” may hear these names as a put down and be offended. It is best to call the neighborhood by the name its inhabitants give it.
Neighborhood boundaries may not be clear but they are real. Once you enter a neighborhood the neighbors expect you to understand what they are doing in their words from their point of view. Without help, visitors may fail to meet this expectation, and find unexpected barriers. Barriers include failure to understand the special meaning of race, geography, lack of education, particular views, color, money, or lack of interest in the neighborhood.
Make no mistake, the gap between an outsider who is reaching into a neighborhood and the neighbors that live there can be vast. Outreachers from the white majority or workers of different ethnic backgrounds should not be surprised when their motives are suspected, greetings ignored, and expressed goals dismissed by the neighbors who live there.
Understandably neighbors may see “outreach” as “invasion.” Just consider if African-Americans were to go door-to-door in white neighborhoods as outreachers. This turnabout may sound unlikely but it does uncover some of the “do-gooder” prejudices that make barriers where openness is wanted.
As a diverse nation of many neighborhoods, we need coordinated action to govern ourselves. Seneca Indians in Brooklyn, New York, Samoans in Los Angeles, African-Americans in Anchorage, all live in neighborhoods bound together with countless other neighborhoods that make up the U.S. Even if every neighbor has a vote, voting is not worth much unless voters know why the election is important to their neighborhood and to neighborhoods of others.
Shared goals, an open attitude, and hard work can build effective civic ties between majority and minority neighborhoods. Helping each other means helping neighbors learn, if they do not already know, how to successfully change the government of their neighborhood and the greater government.
Only as neighbors cross over to other neighborhoods do we have a common government. Outreach, crossing back and forth between neighborhoods, is important for those who seek good government.
Know What You Are After
“Outreach is about achieving change the neighbors value.”
Developing neighborhood outreach demands person-to-person talk, not newspaper print, tabulated polls, or flashy publicity. It is not the talk of the leader of one neighborhood agreeing with the leader of another. Outreach talk is for neighbors to hear and think about their problems.
Outreach talk should be easy and fun but the goal is more than talk that makes people feel good. The talk should get the project idea across to a reluctant listener—that is what outreach is all about.
Project idea. This neighborhood will have better police service from the city (town, state) if every neighbor votes.
Change. Get the citizens of the neighborhood to register to vote in the next election.
Here is a goal clear and sharp enough for the out-reach worker to say it in one simple sentence.
Goal. “I am here to get neighborhood voters to register to vote ”
The civil rights movement, complex and difficult as it was, could be summed up simply by every worker: “Get out the vote.” A health decisions outreach worker can, when asked, say: “Tell me what you want in health care.”
Dreams of a better neighborhood in a better nation require putting foundations under the dreams. Knowing what you are after and openly sharing it through person-to-person talk leads to constructive neighborhood change.
experience teaches that:
1. Reaching minority neighborhoods is difficult. Frequently minority neighborhoods are walled off by fears and prejudices of people inside and people outside the neighborhoods. Crossing those barriers takes work that is best done through existing community organizations and net-works. Minority hosts should begin all neighborhood gatherings. People want to see and hear people they know. People do not want to answer door-to-door pollsters and they do not want to fill out paper surveys.
2. Minorities can be activated. When properly approached, person-to-person, citizen-to-citizen, in our experience, Native Americans, Hispanics, and African-Americans become as fully committed to civic endeavors as majority people. For reasons that remain unclear, our work with Asian-American minorities while helpful in some ways did not reflect a significant level of commitment.
3. Minorities give time where it’s hard to give money. Minority groups have economically deprived members and consequently lower dollars than majority people but they do have time, an important resource for change.
4. Health care values differ from minority to minority. Problems of immediate access and costs loom large in the thinking of many minority people. In addition, the ethnic culture of the neighborhood contributes to the traditions, circumstances, and expectations of how the people value health. For example, the respect and dignity a Native American expects in receiving health care may be far different from that of white, Anglo, middle class people: It is the custom of some tribes to leave the deceased in their death bed for twenty-four hours to allow the soul to depart.
Know What It Takes
“Some people show different degrees of prejudice which makes sharing difficult.”
Success in neighborhood outreach depends on three essentials: BRAINS, MONEY, and TIME. It takes all three to support an outreach team.
Nobody on the team is expected to contribute all three essentials but every team member contributes something.
It takes know-how to form an outreach team, the same know-how that it takes to form a baseball or basketball team. The team leader starts by asking interested people to try out for the team.
Those with something to contribute make the team. Those without a contribution are thanked for their interest but encouraged to look elsewhere. This way team members know that every member is expected to think and work as a player on a winning team.
The team leader is expected to carry the ball, pointing out the goal line and showing the team members how to score.
Here’s an example:
Team leader to team members. “After meeting with the neighborhood ministers yesterday, I know we can count on them. We will check with each minister to figure out where and when they will help us bring their congregations to a neighborhood meeting. Starting tomorrow I want Charlene to join me in checking with the Northside ministers. Next week James would be a great help to me in lining up the Southside ministers”
To carry the ball the team leader must know the “community game,” what is and is not allowed for scoring, including any special turf rules of a target neighborhood. Knowing includes more than walk-around experience though that is important.
The leader must work the territory for its tough problems, places neighbors avoid, the way different gangs size up and threaten passersby. The leader must have a strong working knowledge of the neighborhood’s “flavor” in order to directly and quickly support team members in times of stress as well as to take full advantage of any unusual positive developments.
Visiting all the neighborhoods a project covers may not be possible for even the best of leaders. There are over 26 different Native American tribes in New Mexico; it is difficult for an outreach team leader to stay in touch with such varied ethnic territory. In this case at least one tribe should be visited repeatedly. The team leader’s know-how, as someone who meets people, attends their community meetings, listens to their leaders, and understands how to test “the neighborhood temperature,” should “rub off” on other members of the team.
Brains work best when supported by experience—and the team needs all the direct experience of the target neighborhood they can get.
Sensitivity to people is essential for effective team leadership. Sensitivity means knowing human limits, knowing how far workers can go without getting in over their heads. There is nothing but frustration all the way round if an unprepared worker is asked to go into a place that frightens them. That should be the job of another team member who feels comfortable enough to carry out the assignment.
Sharp sensitivity is needed to see hidden prejudices which may not be changed but certainly should never be aggravated. At the same time, many prejudices can be worked through by open, constructive response within the team, sharing the human problems of the team in taking on a tough goal.
A successful team needs a smart coach to help in the use of brains. In outreach, the coach is called a consultant for the team to bounce ideas and problems off. The coach works with problems the leader and team members run into in neighborhoods. The coach should be easy to get along with and able to take a question, any question, and come up with useful answers or know where to look for them.
Coaching discussions center on neighborhood problems, such as why some neighborhoods resist change. There is no limit on how to use the coach; there may be useful discussions about how the team is making out (personnel problems) and how to score (relating the work to the team goal).
Team members are expected to use their brains. No team member is expected to solve every problem that comes up but all are expected to be curious about answers. Smart team members learn to go where answers can be found.
For example, say a team member asks, “How come the folks on Delancy Street seem uptight? Everything looks pretty much the same as yesterday.” A school teacher who knows and has helped the team might answer, “Since the fight on the high school grounds last week the two heavy gangs think they have to go to war over turf.”
Finding answers can be both an individual and team effort. Team members can pass around tough questions, looking for answers from other members with neighborhood experience.
When it comes to questions without easy answers the team turns to people in the neighborhood, checking with school superintendents, church members, the officers doing community policing.
Question: Is there enough money to get the job done? Answer: Full budgets are rare, but there is generally enough to make do. Money is needed for salaries, office space, transportation, and communication.
The project’s staff should be paid the going wage, not expected to be semi-volunteers, without health insurance or on-time paychecks. The quantity and quality of their work is directly proportional to the project’s support.
Consultants should be paid the going wage. It is a false economy to either do without consultants or expect them to be volunteers. Coaches have bills the same as the rest of us. If they are taken away from their regular work to help, it is better for them to do a full job for full pay, rather than a half job, moonlighting at half price. Consultants can be priceless in anticipating hidden barriers others may not see, in keeping the team on track.
Neighborhood door openers, sometimes referred to as “two-culture” people, are an essential part of teach outreach. They are a special form of coach and should be treated the same way as any other project consultant. Frequently they are asked to do too much for nothing. They are absolutely necessary for an outreach project so the limited time they have available to help must be respected, treated as if it were gold, and reimbursed as is appropriate.
Most neighborhood projects rely on volunteers. Developing a cadre of volunteers takes care and thought. Volunteers respond to positive leadership, clear goals, and the way a project supports the volunteers’ needs.
Volunteers will work hard making telephone calls, stuffing envelopes, distributing flyers. But phones, envelopes, and flyers take dollars. A basic dollar budget is necessary to support free work.
Common sense says that ethnic minority people living this close to poverty can not easily afford volunteering. Like other people they get hungry and have to pay baby sitters. The project’s neighborhood meetings should provide free coffee, snacks, and baby sitters.
If there is a meeting for volunteers, make sure transportation, meals, sitters, and other out-of-pocket expenses of volunteers are provided for when needed.
Respect for volunteers is essential and comes with understanding the real situation. Volunteers’ contributions should be clearly, openly, and repeatedly recognized as part of a significant neighborhood effort.
Question: Is there enough time to reach the goal? Answer: Like money, there is seldom enough time to do everything but generally there is enough to make do.
The project needs both an overall schedule and a daily one; both should be detailed enough to indicate assignments and allow reasonable time for team members to complete tasks. The schedule does not apply to neighbors, who may have different ideas about time.
The project should fashion its schedule to the needs and customs of the neighborhood people, not the other way round. Neighbors who lack ready transportation can have trouble keeping appointments. People who do not show up the first time around may wish to attend but be minimum-wage working people trying to keep their family going on less than it takes.
Few project schedules adequately consider the time staff need to keep records. Estimate how long it takes to hear out a staff member after a neighborhood meeting and for staff members to write a report on a contact in the neighborhood, then double time to make a practical schedule.
By The American Health Decisions