The Hispanic Institute

The Hispanic Institute's 2012 Civic Engagement and Leadership Initiative

The Hispanic Institute’s 2012 Civic Engagement Program


The 2010 Census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States, making up 16.3% of the total population. The nation’s Latino population, which was 35.3 million in 2000, grew 43% over the decade. The Hispanic population also accounted for most of the nation’s growth—56%—from 2000 to 2010. The dozen states where Hispanics are the largest share of the population include seven where Latinos are more than 20% of the states’ residents—New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Colorado.

The states with the largest percent growth in their Hispanic populations include nine where the Latino population more than doubled, including a swath in the southeast United States—Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina. The Hispanic population also more than doubled in Maryland and South Dakota.

There were 33.3 million Hispanics ages 18 and older in 2010, a 45% increase from 2000. Hispanics made up 14.2% of the adult population in 2010, compared with 11% and 23 million people in 2000. Racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 91.7% of the nation’s growth over the decade; non-Hispanic whites accounted for the remaining 8.3%.

The Hispanic Institute (THI) is a non-profit organization that realizes and understands the challenges for this emerging American population group. The mission of THI is to provide an effective education forum for an informed and empowered Hispanic America. The organization has and continues to be at the forefront of issues of concern to all Americans. THI has begun to develop programs to politically and economically empower Latinos in this country. The Hispanic Institute manages ongoing projects on Consumer Fraud Protection, Civic Engagement, Technology and Telecommunications Research, Media Monitoring and the Study of Hispanic Economic Contributions.

The Hispanic Institute has expanded the Civic Engagement Program developed in Nevada in 2010 and created Centers of Civic Engagements in five additional states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Texas. In addition, The Hispanic Institute has established a Training Institute which incorporates components such as leadership development, skills training, national and local partners, social media training, and core cultural competencies including collaborative curriculum development, best practices for retention, accountability and transparency, and diversity.

The Hispanic Institute has had remarkable growth as an organization in the past decade and continues its expansion of programs in all areas.


During the recently completed 2010 election cycle, The Hispanic Institute developed and implemented an intensive Civic Engagement Pilot Project in the state of Nevada. This model, which commenced in August 2009 fifteen months before the November 2010 election, undertook the challenge of engaging Hispanics with an extensive and methodical approach to relationship building. One reason for this early kick-off was to be a recognized as a trusted, reliable and informative partner in the community. THI established a Center of Civic Engagement in a significant social and business nerve center of the Latino community in Las Vegas.

This Center of Civic Engagement Project implemented four core programs:

  1. A Training Program
  2. A Community Outreach Program
  3. A Voter Registration Program
  4. A Get-Out-The-Vote-Program

Previous efforts by other organizations for voter outreach and get-out-the-vote have not attained significant success, in part, because organizations attempt to come in at the “last minute” with a limited focus and blitz effort. These initiatives lack fundamental and essential features: a credible, established presence and in the community. While THI was developing, evolving and implementing its programs and outreach, this Center became an integral and vital resource center for the Hispanic community hosting a series of community meetings and discussions, Census 2010 information distribution, immigration and citizenship education, community town halls, a social media center, as well as partnering with other national and local organizations. THI’s Center of Civic Engagement became a community champion.

The Hispanic Institute partnered with a few national organizations to create and conduct a town hall in Spanish on green jobs and how to prepare for the next generation of jobs. Although this effort was a different type of engagement for the Latino community, it was a helpful learning experience.

The Project created two teams of Civic Engagement. First, a bilingual and multi-generational team focused on Latino outreach and second a culturally diverse team of Hispanic youths focused on the issues of education and community outreach. A key element was the effective use of bilingual social media for both outreach groups.

A distinctive component for the project was that all staff members who participated in THI’s Civic Engagement efforts were:

  • US citizens
  • Eligible registered voters
  • Trained and certified by Clark County as Voter Registrars

An important aspect of the fifteen-month program in Nevada was the use of consistent and regular training and education which produced a high level of retention and enthusiasm of the workforce. In fact the THI Project became a training partner for the Clark County Board of Elections.

The THI Nevada 2010 Project was a success measured by any credible metric. The Project succeeded in adding over 8,200 new voters to the Nevada Voter registration rolls. In addition, the organization led the way in insuring that Hispanic voters as a percentage of overall voter turn-out not only attained the previously high mark of 15% in 2008, but increased the turnout to 16% in 2010, avoiding the usual drop off for midterm elections.

As a member of Nevada 501(c) 3 Table, convened by America Votes, all voter registration data generated and compiled by THI was appended and uploaded to the Voter Action Network (VAN). The New Organizing Institute has analyzed and verified the results of THI’s efforts in Nevada as part of its National Voter Registration Analysis ’10 report.


The registration rate for Hispanics in the six states targeted by the 2012 Project, as well as throughout most of the Nation, runs significantly below registration rates for the general population. Historically, turnout rates for Hispanics have run at levels below turnout rates for the general voting population. Therefore, it is important to have early civic outreach and engagement programs in place. It is doubly important to have a professionally-trained workforce to improve registration rates and turnout in the Hispanic community. This is critical to improving Hispanic civic engagement in the targeted states and for the national race in 2012.

The Hispanic Institute, through the Nevada 2010 Project, has already demonstrated its ability to develop a trained professional workforce, collaborate with national and local organizations, and increase both registration and turnout in targeted areas. The Hispanic Institute Civic Engagement Training Institute The Hispanic Institute Civic Engagement Training Institute (CETI) has incorporated components such as leadership development, skills training, partnering with national and local organizations, social media training, and developing core cultural competencies including collaborative curriculum development, and best practices for retention, accountability and transparency.

The Hispanic Institute collaborates with partners in the following areas:
  • Curriculum Development
  • The Identification of Partners in the Communities
  • Incorporating and Securing Community Input in the Training Sessions
  • Community and Participant Outreach
  • The Identification of Instructors and Experts

The goals for the participants in the CETI are the following:

  • Understanding the core values of grassroots advocacy
  • Developing a clearer understanding of the meaning and nature of community
  • Developing specific practice-based communication and leadership competencies
  • Developing a better understanding of their own interests, talents, and skills

The training sessions and curriculum are not a one-size-fits-all program. The CETI is a hybrid of the existing models that are currently being employed by many organizations. The foundation for the CETI is the Marshall Ganz model for organizing from The Hauser Center for Non-Profit Organizations at Harvard University. CETI has developed core cultural competencies to address such issues as developing and retaining a culturally diverse workforce, cultural awareness, and peer communication. In addition, CETI has integrated an electoral component to the curriculum model that is necessary for civic engagement.

The CETI explores the theory supporting dialogue and group communications to better understand the value of developing dialogue within local groups as well as exploring several models of dialogue useful for community based organizations. Some of the greatest challenges facing any organization relate to planning, developing and sustaining community input and involvement in the organization’s activities. Community cultural planning is a crucial aspect of grassroots advocacy. These training sessions provide the participants with an overview of the cultural planning process from surveying community resources and services, to identifying challenges and developing solutions within a community context.

In addition, the CETI provides program development and technical assistance for national and local organizations to develop and host a series of community town halls and community discussions impacting the Hispanic community such as the Economy, Education, the Electoral Process, and Immigration and Citizenship Education.

Centers of Civic Engagement

The Hispanic Institute established Centers of Civic Engagement (CCE) in six states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. These CCEs will develop and produce a trained workforce for Civic Engagement, Voter Education, Voter Registration, and Get-Out-the-Vote to motivate these newly-registered as well as existing voters for the November 2012 General Election.

Program 1: Develop Project Plan/Project Infrastructure

THI’s resources are deployed to target Latinos in the six states, chosen after a careful analysis of the eligible voting-age populations. The plan in each of the states is to focus on areas that can be expected to yield the largest numbers of eligible Hispanic voters, as well as registered non-voting Hispanics. THI also opened centers in the targeted areas and entered into agreements with appropriate local and statewide entities in order to access voter data. An extensive program is developed to ensure that all THI staff is properly trained before deploying as voter registrars.

Program 2: Establish the Center for Civic Engagement as a Community Resource

THI instituted a cultural planning process from surveying community resources and services, to identifying challenges and develop solutions within a community context. The results of this planning process is the identification of community issues and a community outreach plan.

Program 3: Develop and Host Community Town Meetings and Discussions

THI develops and hosts a series of community town halls and community discussions in partnership with national and local organizations on issues impacting the Hispanic community such as the economy, education, the electoral process, and immigration and citizenship education.

Program 4: Conduct Door-to-Door Registration

THI deploys trained, authorized voter registrars in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods to visit the homes of unregistered eligible Hispanic voters. They also visit the homes of registered Hispanic voters to identify and register any other eligible members of the household and to motivate them to participate in the electoral process. Additionally, the program targets under-participating and non-voting Hispanic citizens. The THI staff carries a message of the importance of voting as a civic duty and as an effective way to achieve community empowerment. The staff also develops and maintains a database of new registrants for Get-Out-The-Vote efforts.

Program 5: Identify Local Opinion Leaders

THI identifies local opinion leaders whose extensive networks within the neighborhoods mark them as respected and influential. Using that influence such individuals encourage registration and voting. THI provides collateral materials to support these efforts. Small business owners, priest and evangelical pastors, labor leaders, student activist, immigrant right leaders, local elected officials, Hispanic media personalities, and community elders are among the opinion leaders whose influence will be sought and engaged.

Program 6: Stage Registration Events

The Hispanic Institute mounts registration events at locations frequented by members of the Hispanic community, such as churches, sporting events, and shopping malls. THI is prepared to register new voters on the sites of the events and add their names to a master list for use in the “Get-Out-The-Vote” program outlined below in Program 8.

Program 7: Voter Education Seminars

It is often said that the most difficult election to get a voter to participate in, is their first. Language and cultural factors exacerbate the challenges first-time voters encounter. In order to help address these problems, and facilitate the participation of first-time voters, THI conducts voting seminars directed at potential first-time Hispanic voters. Where possible, THI provides access to live demonstrations on voting machines (or whatever method is used for voting in the targeted jurisdiction), and informs the new voters of their rights and responsibilities.

Program 8: Implement Get-Out-The-Vote

THI staff asks all newly registered voters to sign a “Voter Pledge” postcard, promising to vote in the 2012 general election. During the “Get-Out-The-Vote” phase of our project, these postcards are mailed back to these voters as reminders of their pledge to vote. During the “Get-Out-The-Vote” phase, THI employees follow up by 1) Visiting the homes of targeted voters (the newly registered and pledged voters, as well as other targeted underperforming and non-performing voters), 2) making vote-reminder calls to the targeted households and 3) assisting Hispanic voters in getting to the polls.

Program 9: Conduct Ongoing Polling and Real-Time Analysis

THI provides quality, cost-effective, research-based polling, real-time analysis and communications advice to drive messaging, registration efforts and Get-Out-the-Vote activities.

Program 10: Distribute GOTV Direct Mail

During the Early Vote and GOTV phases, targeted voters (including new registrants) will receive three direct mail pieces encouraging them to turn out on Election Day or to vote early where it is available.

Program 11: Use Social Media Engagement

While Hispanics trail the rest of the population in overall Internet access, they are the most avid users of mobile broadband. According to a study released by The Hispanic Institute, Hispanics use mobile Internet access more heavily than other groups of Americans. Eighty-three percent of Hispanic adults use a mobile device to send and receive text messages, compared to 72% of all American adults. In addition, 36% of Hispanic adults access social networks on mobile devices, compared with just 23% of the general population. Taking advantage of heavy mobile Internet use by Latinos, The Hispanic Institute uses social media and Web 2.0 to augment the voter education programs.

Program 12: Make Early Vote and GOTV Phone Calls

THI works with local Hispanic community groups to develop phone and email lists as well as communication centers. These groups are tasked with the responsibility of contacting their members. All targeted households will receive a series of reminders via email, text, social media contact, and live phone calls. THI uses social media websites for early voting and Election Day information education and dissemination.


Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Figueroa

Temo Figueroa is a partner in the Adelante Strategy Group, a minority-owned Public Affairs and Political Consulting firm with offices in Washington, DC and San Antonio, Texas. ASG played a crucial role, as the contractor for the Hispanic Institute’s Nevada 2010 Project, in increasing Latino turnout in 2010 in Nevada. The increased turnout was a crucial element to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's reelection. ASG also ran the successful campaign for San Antonio (Texas) Mayor Julian Castro, electing Mayor Castro to lead the nation's seventh largest city. The firm has also been active in various other public awareness and political campaigns across the country.

A veteran Political and Labor operative of nearly 25 years, in 2008 Temo Figueroa served as the National Latino Vote Director for the Obama Presidential Campaign, where he led an unprecedented outreach effort that resulted in record turnout and involvement from the Latino community. In the Presidential Primary, Mr. Figueroa served as the National Field Director where he developed the strategy to harness and expand grassroots support across the country. Temo spent many years in organized labor before joining the Obama campaign: he served as the Assistant Political Director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, AFL-CIO, where he was responsible for the multi-million dollar Independent Expenditure programs. He worked on many Federal, state and local political campaigns: in 2000 he served as the Coordinated Campaign Director in New Mexico where he led a successful 366 vote victory for Vice-President Al Gore. Before working in organized labor, Mr. Figueroa served as the Director of Policy and Communications for the League of United Latin American Citizens. He started his Washington, D.C. career working for the late George E. Brown, Jr. of California, serving as his assistant to the Agriculture committee. Temo is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles and the Kennedy School of Government, Senior Executives in State and Local Government

Andres Gonzalez, THI Board Member

Andrés González is a partner in the Adelante Strategy Group (ASG), a minority-owned Public Affairs and Political Consulting firm with offices in Washington, DC and San Antonio, Texas. ASG played a crucial role, as the contractor for the Hispanic Institute’s Nevada 2010 Project, in increasing Latino turnout in 2010 in Nevada. The increased turnout was a crucial element to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's reelection. ASG also ran the successful campaign for San Antonio (Texas) Mayor Julian Castro, electing Mayor Castro to lead the nation's seventh largest city. The firm has also been active in various other public awareness and political campaigns across the country.

He was the founder of Andrés González and Associates, a Public Affairs and Political Consulting firm he started in 1992. His firm was contracted by campaigns and political organizations across the country and is one of only three National Field Consultants, and the only minority-owned firm, to be contracted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to provide campaign field operations in 2004, 2006 and 2008 election cycles. The firm has also been contracted to work on various national and state races across the country, working directly for campaigns as well as for third-party organizations. Mr. González’s national political activities include serving in four presidential campaigns as State Director and in National Staff positions. Additionally he was the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee Hispanic Outreach Project for the 2002 Election cycle. Mr. González’s various governmental positions include serving as Special Assistant to U.S. Senator Robert Krueger (D-TX), White House Liaison for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Director of Agency Administration for the Texas General Land Office. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

Gus West, THI President, Board Chairman

Gus West serves as Board Chair and President of The Hispanic Institute.

Mr. West has been involved in government and in politics for more than 20 years, beginning with his service as the Assistant Sergeant-At-Arms of Nevada State Assembly and his tenure with the City of Las Vegas as a Senior Management Analyst. Mr. West later served at the U.S. Department of Commerce in the Economics and Statistics Administration, the Economic Development Administration, and in the International Trade Administration. In 1997 he formed a Governmental Affairs consulting practice that he continues to manage in Washington DC.

Mr. West was born in Managua, Nicaragua.

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