San Francisco Department of Emergency Management

“Okay To Call” Public Education Campaign

Equity Centered Research and Successful Implementation of a Public Safety Campaign 


As in many big cities, residents of San Francisco grapple with what to do when they see someone in crisis on the streets. Civic Edge was hired by the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), in coordination with multiple city agencies and the Office of The Mayor, to develop and implement a public education campaign designed to inform and engage the people of San Francisco about the City’s commitment to enhancing its response to individuals experiencing mental health or substance use crises on the streets.  


The Civic Edge team worked closely with city staff to develop a public education campaign highlighting San Francisco’s various initiatives supporting people experiencing crisis on the street and ultimately to direct the public on who to call when they are worried about someone’s safety. Our discovery efforts led to a key question: did the City’s twelve or so individually named homeless outreach and alternatives to policing programs need to be identified by the average San Franciscan?

Through robust focus group research, we concluded that a streamlined, branded initiative, ultimately called the Coordinated Street Response Program (CSRP), would help San Franciscans know that the City was responding without getting mired in the details. Thanks to our research, we also recommended a simplified message: “Call 911 for emergencies, 311 for information.”

We Hear You

At every stage of this campaign development, we convened interviews with key community leaders and focus groups with city agencies and members of the public. For focus groups involving youth, seniors, people with disabilities, and community based organizations, we offered stipends for participants and the supporting nonprofit. Focus groups were also hosted in Cantonese, Spanish, and Tagalog/Filipino to engage non-native English speaking communities. Attendees shared feedback about how our draft messaging and graphics, helping the team create thoughtful campaign materials that resonated throughout San Francisco.

By the Numbers

  • 100,000s of social media impressions 
  • 25+ interviews and focus groups  
  • 30+ hours of targeted merchant outreach 
  • 4 videos showcasing different aspects of CSRP  
  • 1 new website 

Project Expertise

  • Crafting an equity-centered community engagement strategy 
  • Facilitating productive focus groups 
  • Conducting effective merchant outreach 
  • Messaging campaign 
  • Branding 
  • Collateral and materials development 
  • Social media strategy