Abstract: The Role of Nonprofits in Shaping Municipal Identification Card Policies (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

The Role of Nonprofits in Shaping Municipal Identification Card Policies

Thursday, January 17, 2019: 3:45 PM
Union Square 18 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Angela Garcia, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, IL
Yanilda Maria Gonzalez, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, IL
Marci Ybarra, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background & Purpose: Access to cities’ institutions, services, and supports hinges on residents’ ability to produce valid, government-issued identification. Such identification is often out of reach for groups already excluded from full participation in society—undocumented immigrants, residents who do not identify with their gender assigned at birth, and those who are formerly incarcerated, homeless, or residentially unstable. To provide all city residents with access to valid, government-issued identification, 48 cities across the United States issue municipal identification cards to city residents. Emerging studies suggest that municipal identification cards enhance social inclusion, access to city services, and cultural institutions, such as public libraries and museums. Despite nonprofit groups’ advocacy for marginalized groups, influence on city policy, and vested interests in supporting constituents’ need for formal identification to access social and city services, their role in shaping cities’ municipal ID policies remains unclear.

Methods: To address this gap in the extant literature, we draw on thirty semi-structured interviews (average duration: 1 hour) with leaders of nonprofits in Chicago who collaborated with the city in the design and implementation of Chicago’s municipal identification card, CityKey. This approach leverages the uniquely collaborative nature of the CityKey program. Agency leaders were asked questions related to CityKey in the following domains: 1) motivations for collaboration with the city 2) perceptions of how CityKey would help (or not) their constituents 3) perceptions on promises and challenges in collaboration with the city 4) perceptions on how the program has helped (or not) constituents in its first year. 5) recommendations for improving collaboration, design, and implementation of Chicago’s municipal identification card.

Results: Preliminary results suggest agency leaders were motivated to participate to serve the specific needs of their particular constituent groups. For instance, immigrant serving nonprofits wanted to ensure that program participants were not asked about citizenship or immigration status to secure an ID. While nonprofit leaders focused exclusively on their own constituent groups, broad areas of agreement emerged in their partnership with the city. For example, leaders overwhelmingly recommended avoiding the inclusion of a pre-paid debit card feature in the card because of the high fees associated with this service. Nonprofit leaders overwhelmingly reported they believed CityKey would help their clients’ access to services, discounts, and/or amenities that were previously out of reach. Interviewees also reported the difficulty in collaboration across stakeholders with different constituents and therefore different perceived needs.

Conclusion and Implications: Our findings demonstrate that the inclusion of nonprofit advocacy groups critically shaped the design and implementation of CityKey, leading to increased participation in the program by vulnerable communities who may otherwise distrust government. This study suggests that partnership with organizations that are trusted by and have a deep knowledge of the communities the government wishes to reach is a fruitful strategy for overcoming structural barriers that often limit marginalized groups’ access to social inclusion, services, and institutions within cities.