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Count the Nation

USC Annenberg Innovation Lab

Non-profit organization

We're engaging a movement embracing our rights, needs and desires to Be Counted. Using the best elements of entertainment + tech we're (i) creating content that ties participation to tangible community benefits, while acknowledging and addressing fears (ii) amplifying influencers in HTC communities as they share their own authentic census messages (iii) leveraging content across tech platforms to elevate good content and “down vote” false/misleading narratives.

What does your organization do?

We’re creating and leveraging media + popular culture to increase census awareness + participation in LA’s hard-to-count (HTC) and historically marginalized communities leading up to the 2020 Census.

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • Wise Entertainment

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

A great example comes from our team member Mauricio Mota who co-created and produced East Los High (ELH), which is a groundbreaking, six-time Emmy nominated Hulu series that revolves around the lives of teens navigating their final years at a fictional high school in East LA. A industry game-changer, ELH was the first high school drama in English with an all-Latino cast, creators, and writers and born out of the recognition that Latino audiences in the US are underserved and fatigued by their stereotypical representation in film/television.

The ethos of ELH: to be addictive AND thought-provoking on a social level matches the DNA of CtN. The team behind ELH used research & meaningful partnerships with >25 local & national non-profits to inform the development and production of the show. Connecting to the community and “on-the-ground” experts helped them and will help us keep a finger on the pulse of what is most important to the audience and what will compel HTC groups to participate in the census. Through these partnerships, the show was able to thoughtfully cover important issues that were deeply impactful to their audience.

The show also created a robust, multi-platform extension that allowed fans to take direct action on social issues featured. For instance, ELH partnered with Voto Latino to do a comprehensive voter registration campaign in the show and online in advance of the 2016 election season. One fan later posted: “I am currently waiting in line to vote because of East Los High.” This method of creating content that is compelling, accessible and actionable is key to our ability to reach the breadth of HTC communities with authentic messaging.

ELH has 4 years’ worth of summative evaluation data that demonstrates the show’s significant impact on viewers. During the 1st month that ELH aired, more than 27K people clicked through to Planned Parenthood’s website from, and direct traffic to (a website that informs teens on sex, relationships, and birth control) increased by 53%. Most notable from the research was that transmedia was the most effective format of narrative presentation, significantly over and above all other formats in educating participants about condom use.

Which of the live metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Healthcare access
  • Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard
  • Resilient communities

Will your proposal impact any other LA2050 goal categories?

  • LA is the best place to LEARN
  • LA is the best place to PLAY

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

How will your project make LA the best place to live?

Census deeply affects community life: data is used to determine over $800 billion in annual federal funding across 125+ programs, apportionment of congressional seats and redistricting. Count the Nation (CTN) is focused on making sure these specific HTC populations receive their fair share: children under 5, Millennials & renters, racial and ethnic minorities, and immigrants / non-English speakers. In LA County alone, these groups are estimated to be upwards of 30% of the population, according to the Census Bureau, making it the hardest-to-count county in the US.

CtN is:

(i) Developing evidence-based story material and integrating it into the work of entertainment media leaders, social media influencers, and content creators. Some examples of the media we are and will spur: long form (e.g. scripted/unscripted TV shows, movies) and short form (e.g. infographics, trivia, surveys, short movies for digital and social channels, news articles) content.

(ii) Creating a library of video content by engaging a wide group of influencers to create short form content around select themes and messages, and create paths of action for audiences who want to mobilize on a personal scale (e.g. create their own content, take a pledge to be a census advocate in their communities).

(iii) Partnering with diverse civil society organizations, media creators, and technology companies to create large quantities of content optimized for digital spread.

(iv) Planning block parties in collab with front-line entities to make filling out the census fun. At these parties, census advocates will offer assistance in filling out the digital or paper forms and will answer questions about the impact and perceived risks included in participation. We will acknowledge the very real fear of an enumerator knocking on doors and turn these block party events into a communal moment of unity.

Phase 1 (January-March 2019)

In our first week of launch we were able to gain exposure of 7M on Instagram alone. We have also seeded and launched various creative + tech communities focused on creating and spreading census content in Los Angeles and beyond. So far these have yielded spreadable media in the form memes, shorts, and we have plans for diverse and longer pieces in the works (e.g. a modern-day census focused Schoolhouse Rocks).

Phases 2-3 (April 2019-March 2020)

Conducting workshops for key media execs, showrunners, social media platforms, influencers and major guilds to seed content. Continuing online social campaigns with 16 -20+ content drops/month. Growing Influencer campaigns & incorporating general audience campaigns & contests. Increasing HTC non-profit collabs.

Phase 4 (April - December 2020)

Supporting content creators with data, transmedia extensions & connections with census and their partners. Increasing online social campaigns 24+ content drops/week. Growing audience campaigns to include B Corp brand collaborations. Community block party activation (April-May).

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Lateral application (testing feasibility of a proven action/solution to a new issue or sector)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

The Census Bureau is targeting a self-response rate of 60.5%. CA’s goal is to far exceed this. Our singular goal is to help CA do just that, knowing that the media, social spread and movement we create will cross all state borders. To meet this goal, the tangible metrics of success we have set are:

  • Generate $60-70M in donated media

  • Secure commitments from showrunners to develop integrated content - across 6-10 properties - to inform and activate audiences.

  • Generate engagement rate of 15+% per post starting in 2Q19-3Q19 and grow to 30% in 4Q19-4Q20.

  • Generate 250-500k views per Influencer posts starting in 2Q19-3Q19 and grow to 1 million views minimum in 4Q19-4Q20.

Additionally, we are:

  • Creating a network of senior advocates to support showrunners in including census content in their programs

  • Developing earned media opportunities; sharing census related ideas and data with news organizations

  • Nurturing creative-hacking communities in 5-10 cities across the nation; in partnership with the US Census Bureau’s Open Innovation Lab

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Access to LA2050 community
  • Host public events on the topic your organization’s issue area (e.g. access to capital, education reform, clean energy, etc.)
  • Communications support, including traditional media, social media, and LA2050 newsletter
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Capacity, including staff
  • Strategy assistance and implementation