U-Report is an SMS-based, user-centered social monitoring tool originally developed in Uganda and now being adapted in other countries around the world. It uses SMS systems to send poll questions, share results, and share other useful information to people who have signed up as 'U-Reporters'. It is designed to strengthen community-led development, citizen engagement, positive change and social accountability. U-Report allows citizens to speak-out on what is happening in their communities, provides a forum to amplify their voices through local and national media, and sends alerts to key stakeholders about the issues their constituents are facing.
The Evaluating C4D Resource Hub sits within BetterEvaluation and houses a growing collection of the available guides, toolkits, tools and methods to use for research monitoring and evaluation (R,M&E) of Communication for Development (C4D) initiatives. The Hub is structured around two combined frameworks:
C4D Evaluation Framework (represented by the circle) is an approach. It describes the values and principles that guide our decisions in C4D.
The BetterEvaluation Rainbow Framework (represented by the rainbows) is a structure. It organises the practical tasks into seven categories or 'clusters' and provides options.
While the resource recommendation below discusses the resource specifically in relation to its usefulness for evaluating C4D within the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub's C4D Framework, this resource may also be of use for people working in other contexts and with different frameworks.
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U-Report is both a social-accountability mechanism, ensuring citizens have a voice that is heard by governments and development agencies. It can also be a source of data in some monitoring and evaluation, especially in terms of generating quick snapshots of problems and priorities. U-Report runs through the RapidPro framework, another tool developed by UNICEF, that enables the international development community to have an exchange and flow of information through mobile technology. The RapidPro software allows development officers to collect information through SMS, manage contacts, visually map the information, and send messages on multiple languages.
Who is this resource useful for?
- Communication Officers
- Program Officers
How have you used or intend on using this resource?
Examples of participation outcomes from U-Report have included Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW) response, Ebola outbreak response, assistance for an emergency situation in the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement, improving community disaster preparedness, and the Children Act Amendment.
- Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW) Response With BBW response: U-Reporters’ participation enabled real-time mapping of the BBW outbreak and dissemination of methods to contain its spread. Targeted efforts were made towards communities in which the incidence of BBW was reported to be highest, and extension programs were oriented towards these communities.
- Ebola Outbreak Response During the Ebola outbreak: U-Report was able to spread information about the outbreak and refer participants to the Ministry of Health for additional information. They had sessions to solicit feedback about the community Ebola response. Some responses provided expressed desire for the government to utilize U-Report to respond to more viruses aside from Ebola.
- Emergency in the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement: U-Report is an especially important tool for refugee camps, as alternative opportunities to shape public decision-making and to increase agency are limited.
- Community Disaster Preparedness In this application: U-Report was utilized to map risk-prone zones and improve community disaster preparedness. Communities were provided with training on how to properly identify, report, and respond to emergency signals/signs. 100 volunteers were leveraged to expand the reach of the community disaster preparedness initiative.
- The Children Act Amendments: For the creation of the Children Act Amendments, public participation was used to gauge parliamentary approval for the legislation regarding corporal punishment in schools. Members of Parliament that requested more information were subsequently invited to a workshop on the issue. This tool was used to incorporate participation into amendment provisions.
Why would you recommend it to other people?
The U-report initiative is consistent with the C4D Framework in the following ways:
- Accountable: U-Report supports social accountability by providing a platform on which citizens can voice concerns and priorities and provide feedback to governments, development agencies and other decision makers.
- Complex: The U-Report system of open communication complements other C4D and RM&E work being highly sensitive to emergent changes (such as outbreaks) and issues that had not been identified (such as a need to respond to viruses in addition to Ebola).
- Learning-Based: The real-time nature of the information and feedback enables an emergent, learning based approach to be used to adapt initiatives towards improvement.
- Participatory: The system values the knowledge and perspectives of the U-Reporters. U-Reporters are able to raise issues as well as respond to them.
- Realistic: U-Report capitalises on technological innovations to make mass engagement with citizens feasible. The system is free for U-Reporters to use.
The C4D Evaluation Framework would also suggest considering the following:
- Critical: It is important to continually consider possible constraints and limitations of particular communication technologies. Who has access and who is excluded from this system? Do marginalised and minority voices get heard or overpowered with the use of polls and other survey tools? Who has power in the system (to for example, set questions and decide results to promote)? What would other, non-technology based, forms of communication offer that is different?