Subcommittee on Demographic Change
2012 to 2013
Town leaders wanted to understand the issues raised by demographic changes, particularly the dramatic increase in the percentage of residents of Asian origin and their low participation in local government.
Lexington's 20/20 Vision Committee chartered a Subcommittee on Demographic Change to identify real or perceived barriers preventing participation of Lexington's Asian residents on Town boards and committees, and to suggest steps that would lower these barriers.
Since their report was completed and widely publicized throughout the community, a greater number of Asian-Americans have enrolled in the annual Citizens' Academy, run for elected office, and been appointed to committees. These numbers are expected to increase as continued discussion results in a clearer understanding of the ways volunteers can participate in local government.
To identify barriers to civic participation by residents of Asian ancestry
- Structured interviews of approximately 20 residents of Asian ancestry who serve on Town elected and appointed bodies
- Structured interviews of approximately 20 residents of Asian ancestry who serve on Parent-Teacher Association/Organization (PTA/PTO) boards
- Interviews with Town officials (e.g. Police Chief, Fire Chief)
Primary barriers to civic participation are:
- Demographics of Asian residents - relatively few older residents with time to volunteer
- Culture - A lack of comfort with speaking up and being in the spotlight as well as a limited tradition of volunteering in civic affairs
- Lack of awareness: Not aware that much of the work of running the Town is performed by volunteers; lack of information on the work of committees and on the skills being sought by the committees.
To Town authorities that appoint members to committees:
- Clarify charters of committees and qualifications to serve on the committees
- Actively seek qualified Asian residents
- Increase communications with Asian community organizations
To PTA/PTO leaders:
- Increase collaboration with Asian community organizations with the objective of increasing participation of Asian parents on PTA/O boards
To Asian community organizations:
- Encourage participation and support those who do participate in Town and School affairs
- Strengthen communications with Town and PTA/PTO leaders
To 20/20 Vision Committee:
- Monitor progress in civic participation of Asian residents
- Launch a study of steps taken to increase civic participation in communities in the USA. with relatively larger Asian populations.