A few years ago, I invited a former student of mine to talk with a group about preparing for the world of work after graduation. Her presentation was smart, thoughtful and funny. Someone in the class then asked her what was the best advice she had ever received. Her answer was, “be ready to be ready.” Her father, an immigrant from China, had repeated these words over and over to his daughter when she was young, and it stuck.
Years later—this mantra, “be ready to be ready” sticks with me. It’s something I say (and think) all the time. It can be when my kids have a test coming up or a pop quiz feels eminent or when I learn of new issues from our grantees and think of all the ways we at Field can help. When ideas flow in our program meetings and my hand starts to sketch out the solutions in bright graphic designs. Even now, as every day brings a new challenge and we must rebalance our lives in new ways, we all live in a constant state of being ready to be ready.
Being ready today involves a mix of tending to the firehose of what is considered immediate needs and making sure to not sleep on what is critical long-term equity work and strategy. Getting our national infrastructure ready for the next decade falls into this latter category and why so many of us are urging folks to complete the U.S. 2020 Census.
Consider this: the U.S. 2020 Census affects funding for schools, roads and hospitals, firefighters, and resources for people who need it most. It helps elect community leaders on school boards and city councils.
We receive more than $20 billion of the $675 billion in federal funding through U.S. Census data annually. This funding is critical—especially for marginalized communities—be they urban or rural.
At Field, we are proud of our involvement in the IL Count Me In 2020 initiative at Forefront where dozens of foundations came together over the past year to generate more than $1.75 million in needed resources to nonprofit partners throughout the state—especially those working with hard to count communities to help get every person in Illinois counted.
We are also proud of so many in the nonprofit sector, many of our grantees, all of the community-based organizations who have spent the past year readying to get a sound count out despite rhetoric and mixed messaging. In this moment, competition for our attention is at an all-time high as the newsfeeds, tweets, emails and opinions crowd us all. There are so many questions to consider in this moment: Should you wear a mask? Do you wear gloves? Can I see my friends or co-workers? And, how can all the planning to execute a sound Census work in this quarantined world?
The moment calls for us to react quickly while preparing for an incredible new day on the horizon.
Illinois stands to lose out on tremendous resources and state representation in Washington. The Census isn’t just a document declaring who we are, it demands we are heard and given the power and resources we deserve. We must be ready to be ready, right now—from our homes—by going online, by calling the Census Bureau, or by filling out your paper form when it arrives in the mail.
If history has provided any insight for us, it is this—we will come through this and when we do, we can be better for it.
To learn more, please visit ilcountmein2020.org
To complete the 2020 Census, www.2020census.gov.
Vice President, Programs and Administration, Field Foundation
Co-Chair, IL Count Me In 2020