This month, d'Arcy Lunn has been in the UNICEF Ireland offices helping us figure out how to best involve you guys in making U-Report the best possible platform to express your opinions on! Hear more from him below:
U-Report - Empowering more young people for positive change
Can, and do, young people make a positive change to society? Yes, of course they do, especially if you give them access and opportunity to decision making, this is what U-Report Ireland aims to facilitate.
As a long time aid and development worker with UNICEF working in the field in Pakistan, India, Uganda, Kyrgyzstan and (this time last year) South Sudan, I always work with the lens of ‘how do we best support people to empower themselves, to then empower others’. I believe U-Report is one of, if not the, best tool I have seen for young people to find their voice and make it heard with decision makers.
Let me start with an example. In 2013 I was working with UNICEF Uganda on polio eradication and routine immunisation. Immunisation levels had dropped in the year previous due to a few reasons, with one of them being a not so wonderful Ministry of Health. During my short six months in Uganda I saw fully immunised child rates go from 34% to over 90%, and this certainly had very little to do with me! There were many reasons but one that I feel was essential was U-Report and the information we were able to capture on the understanding of immunisation and if an immunisation team has visited their home during a big immunisation campaign.
U-Report in Uganda, Ireland and around the world have joined up to U-Report by simply sending the word ‘join’ to a number, or as is the case in Ireland, via Twitter and Facebook. Participants then share their age, location and gender. U-Report then sends them polls on a weekly, bi-weekly or needs basis.
Poll results flow into a data base with full anonymity, intimacy and trust, as is needed for young people to voice their true and in-depth thoughts and feelings. Results became very clear, very quickly. In the case of immunisation in Uganda, there was a significant lull in the numbers of people who knew the routine immunisation schedule in the west of the country. As a communications specialist I was able to use the U-Report information to do more advocacy and awareness raising with communities, young mothers and soon to be mothers in those selected locations.
But U-Report is not just a tool for development in an east African country. Today there are over 22 countries signed up and using U-Report with over 2.2 million U-Reporters. In the case of Ireland, it is the first western European country and with a very specific objective to give young people a voice for their own empowerment, and to empower decision makers who make decisions on their behalf.
If we are truly going to make better choices, decisions and actions for young people for today, and most importantly for tomorrow, we need to make decisions with them, not for them.
U-Report Ireland is currently laying down the foundations for a diverse range of young people to get involved, and for decision makers to, not only take note, but act with confidence from the knowledge of how young people think and feel, rather than the often misguided guessing of what young people need and want.
An important step of the U-Report Ireland strategy is in bringing together a group of young people to be the Youth Steering Committee to be the poll makers, content monitors, advocacy leaders and U-Report ambassadors. In parallel with this will be an Advisory Panel made up of people in the youth empowerment sector including government, NGOs and those with their finger firmly on the youth pulse to recruit U-Reporters, support the Youth Steering Committee and help contextualise the findings so good decisions can be made with young people, from young people and ensure good intentions match good outcomes.
The young people of Ireland are already making positive changes in our communities. Through U-Report Ireland where young people can combine and amplify their voice, we can see more young people empowered and creating positive change in Ireland.
If you want to take part in U-Report sign up @UReportIRL on Facebook or Twitter, and if you'd like to create the questions for U-Report, attend our Introduction and Visionary Workshop next Friday, July 29th 2-6pm at the Ombudsman for Children's Office! Sign up here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdsBgLnJK4rFw3azz6vxhHjlpg-JJQTpNEdttFKUiff-vG1-Q/viewform