Appendix A: Community Conversations


One-on-one exploratory conversations were conducted with 19 community leaders across the City of Houston/Harris County. These individuals were selected from Houston In Action member organizations, local civic club and super-neighborhood leaders, as well as leaders of local community-based organizations. Each community leader was sent an email requesting to schedule a conversation and explaining the purpose of the conversation. Respondents then replied to the email if they were interested, and conversations were subsequently scheduled.

The exploratory conversations were conducted from June 2018 to September 2018, and both telephone and in-person approaches were utilized to engage with respondents representing a diverse cross-section of community leaders actively involved with civic engagement efforts. Conversations examined leaders’ perceptions of civic life, such as voting activity, community engagement, and Hurricane Harvey-related concerns, as well as barriers they perceived in these areas.

Key Barriers Identified During Exploratory Conversations

  1. Voter registration requirements and laws
  2. Voter identification laws
  3. Illness
  4. Work and family responsibilities
  5. Changes in polling locations, polling times closing too early in the evening, being unsure of the correct voting location
  6. Transportation
  7. Ineligibility, specifically in terms of immigration status, criminal record
  8. Language challenges: education and media coverage around elections all done in English; rarely in other languages
  9. Cultural differences regarding participating in the election process
  10. Apathy: Political goals keep changing; feeling of not really belonging in the process
  11. Lack of knowledge; lack of voter confidence
  12. Intimidation
  13. Cybersecurity: Potential for hacking of election results

Exploratory Conversations: Highlights


  • Leaders perceived that most members of the community that they live or work in did not vote in recent presidential or local elections.
  • Most felt that votes from members of the community are useful or helpful.
  • Issues that make voting difficult for members of the community include the following:
  • Election process
  • Transportation
  • Confusing registration
  • Illness
  • Lack of proper identification
  • The majority of community leaders have tried to persuade a friend about campaign related issues.

Government Involvement

  • Less than half of the leaders felt that others in their community have tried to change local politics.
  • Participants felt that about 40% of community members have ever contacted an elected official or attended a government meeting.

Volunteering/Community Engagement

  • Participants provided additional thoughts about strengthening volunteering:
  • Enhance communication and volunteering
  • People working for the general good instead of personal motives
  • Making sure to include bilingual/multi-lingual volunteers
  • 80% of leaders felt that community member involvement with their community or organizations is useful/helpful.
  • The following were suggestions of what could be done differently to improve the value of community member involvement:
  • Educational awareness
  • Communication strategies: social media/contact people
  • Transportation
  • New leaders

Impact of Hurricane Harvey

  • Hurricane Harvey impacted residents in the leaders’ communities. Some communities did not experience home flooding, but many did.
  • Those surveyed felt that a majority of the members in their community or constituency tried to contact elected officials or attend government meetings about Hurricane Harvey.
  • A majority of respondents felt that there was no effect on voting in recent elections due to Hurricane Harvey.

Key Findings


1. Did most of the members of the community/constituency you work with vote in the recent presidential or local elections? (n=15)

Why or why not?
Common themes centered around a lack of awareness, education, and disenfranchisement.

2. Do you feel that the votes of members of your community/constituency are useful or helpful? (n=15)

Why or why not?

  • People don’t vote because they don’t feel like their community votes are useful.
  • People felt like the reason for voting needs to be explained better so people can actually go out and vote.
  • Respondents believed that the potential for change influences voting.

3. What makes it difficult to vote for members of your community/constituency? (n=15)

Volunteerism/Community Engagement

4. For community members that you feel have contacted an elected official or attended a government meeting (e.g., city, county, school board, state), what do you think led them to do so? For those who have not, do you have a sense of why they haven’t done any of the listed things (n=15)

  • If the volunteering directly impacts them, they will volunteer.
  • On the other side, many feel as if volunteering does not help.

5. What percentage of community members tried to persuade friends about an issue that was discussed during a campaign? If so, what led them to do so? (n=15)

For those who have not, do you have a sense of why they haven’t done any of the listed things?

  • Lack of familiarity or personal connection
  • Political corruption
  • Poor current community/ neighborhood conditions

6. What percentage of community members have tried to change local policies in a place like a school, workplace, or your neighborhood/community? (n=15)

If so, what led them to do so? For those who have not, do you have a sense of why they haven’t done any of the listed things?

  • Leaders felt that over 40% of their community members tried to change local policies.
  • Most of the community members tried to change policy if it was pertaining to their community or job.

7. What percentage of community members do you think worked with others or volunteered in the community to solve a problem in the last couple of years? (n=15)

If so, what led community members to do so?

  • Leaders felt that volunteers like to help to feel better or to support causes of interest.

8. Is community member involvement in your community or with organizations useful or helpful? (n=15)

Community Leader Responses:

  • “Absolutely. We need to have trusted representatives in government. For example, diversity in government hiring more Asian Americans and appointing them to government agencies, more disability for people to feel comfortable.”
  • “I absolutely do. Our community has showed that being engaged and educated on local issues can allow you to make changes. It is critical to be involved in local community because if you don’t show up, elected officials won't’ know you care.”

10. Would you like to share any additional thoughts or comments about volunteering in your community? (n=15)

Prompt responses:

  • “Put away personal feelings and do things for the greater good.”
  • “Difficult to work on policy when there are so many changes happening especially on the immigration front.”
  • “There has to be more volunteer time, a lot of people don’t like volunteering for free. For example, walking from door to door and asking people to vote.” 

Icon For Arrow-up