Post by Ross Sheil, UNICEF Digital Media Consultant
U-Report is a social messaging tool, pioneered by UNICEF, that is designed to give Jamaican youth a greater voice on issues of national importance. The tagline for U-Report is actually Voice Matters! In May, Jamaica became the first country in the Caribbean to launch U-Report, joining a movement of over 5 million U-Reporters.
How it works:
U-Reporters sign up voluntarily. There are currently two ways for anyone aged 13-29 to become a U-Reporter:
- SMS: Thanks to support from FLOW, their customers can sign up free via SMS, no data plan needed. Just message the word “JOIN” to 876-838-4897.
- Facebook Messenger: simply open the app and search for @ureportmessenger and begin the conversation.
On signing up, only three questions are asked: gender, age and parish. We do not ask for names because the data we collect is anonymous. Once signed up, the new U-Reporter starts receiving polls, which are sent twice a month. Each poll is delivered as a message conversation, i.e. we send a question and the replies prompt auto-generated responses from us until the poll is complete. A U-Report poll sent in the morning currently gains at least 500 replies by the end of the first day.
A team of young people help to run U-Report. This includes sharing their ideas on topics and questions for polls. Organisations are welcome to suggest polls on relevant issues affecting children and youth.
The data from U-Report polls is made available to the public in real-time on our website. We share results with colleagues, the media and partners, including government and NGOs.
Why it matters:
At the heart of U-Report is an acknowledgement that youth need to have a say in decisions about their own lives, and that, typically, decision-makers don’t ask for their perspectives.
Since our launch, more than 3,800 U-Reporters have opted-in. They’ve shared their voices on a range of issues. So far, the poll on Youth Mental Health and Suicide had the biggest response – with 1,090 U-Reporters weighing in – and kicked off a national discussion on the issue.
We are experimenting and learning! We know for a fact that the more we engage youth and stakeholders, the more effective U-Report can become. We’ve run hands-on sessions with youth to do custom/private polling, and done polls on behalf of partner organisations – requests are welcome! We are adding a new channel soon that we hope will significantly expand our pool of U-Reporters. And we are looking at how we can ensure that poll results lead to strong advocacy and tangible results.