Sacramento hopes to pay ‘community ambassadors’ to advise on policy, help with outreach

The city of Sacramento is hoping to pay residents a few thousand dollars to advise on policy and neighborhood issues.

It’s expanding it community ambassador program and is asking for people from underserved neighborhoods and hard-to-reach demographics to apply by November 30.

The program started last year with six community ambassadors, brought in to advise on the neighborhood impact of the Aggie Square project near the UC Davis Medical Center.

This year, it’s expanding the program to 18 ambassadors, who would help get word out about programs and recommend policy changes or plans in their neighborhoods.

“We realize opportunities and resources are only as good as folks knowing about them, so we are looking for people that really know their respective communities and people that the community knows, as well,” said Lynette Hall, community engagement manager for the city.

Ambassadors will receive an annual grant of $2,500 for their participation, with additional funds available for translation services and community events. They are expected to attend monthly meetings with city staff, and to help get the word out about programs.

Hall said this past year’s ambassadors have not only helped advise the city on the Aggie Square development project, they also assisted city leaders in understanding how to best reach certain communities.

“We learned from a lot of our Latino population, in particular our Latino business owners,” Hall said.

She explained, for instance, that Latino business owners are “super busy,” so email is not always the optimal way to reach them, so they focus on text messages or radio.

“We also learned our Vietnamese community was not comfortable with technology, so even though we were doing things via Zoom,” Hall said. “They did not trust that, so we really had to leverage our grassroots Vietnamese organizations.”

The city is hoping that with an expanded ambassador cohort, they can continue to connect with harder-to-reach and non-English speaking communities.

Kao Ye Thao served as an ambassador and represented the Hmong community. She said the program had pros and cons, but overall she had a positive experience and would be applying again.

“It was great to meet city staff focused specifically on community engagement, because I wasn’t aware that even the office of community engagement, I wasn’t aware of the office prior and I wasn’t sure about their role,” Thao said .

She adds that being a part of the program was helpful in connecting the Hmong community with specific city services and programs they might not have heard about had she not been an ambassador.

But she also said there were some drawbacks to the program that she hopes the city will address for next year. For instance, she said sometimes terms like “community engagement” and “racial justice” can be thrown around without much meaning behind them, and she hoped the city would have a stronger vision for ambassadors to play, and how their involvement can directly help the communities.

“I do want this space to change the way the city has done business, often when it does business it’s very one-way or transactional,” Thao said. “I just felt like there wasn’t space for community ambassadors to really have dialogue with the city, and among the ambassadors, to talk about the change we want to see to better serve our communities.”

Residents who are interested in the program can apply on the city’s websiteand the deadline is November 30.

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