Uganda Scouts lead the way with U-report, harnessing the power of Scouts as One Voice!
“Citizenship is not about having a birth certificate or a passport, that’s just about identity. Citizenship is about engaging and being involved in the development process - of themselves, of the community and of the nation that they come from.”
– Dr Sharad Sapra, Principal Advisor & Director, UNICEF Global Innovation Centre
In 2010, Uganda Scouts Association embarked on an initiative to strengthen the quality of Scouting in the country and to provide Scouts with opportunities to be active citizens in improving the quality of life of their local communities. The initiative also provided Scouts with the opportunity to acquire vital skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary for them to play a positive role in changing their world for the better.
This initiative was further enhanced when Uganda Scouts Association entered into a partnership with UNICEF under the Scouts for Social Change Programme. U-report was born as a result of the partnership.
U-report is a free youth engagement application via short-text messaging service (SMS) developed by UNICEF in collaboration with Uganda Scouts Association. It amplifies the voices of youth and allows them to communicate, share information and opinions as well as vote on local issues. It also provides a channel for strengthening communication and dialogue with communities around core development issues.
In August 2010, 200 Scouts were recruited and trained as “Pioneer U-reporters” at Kaazi National Scout Campsite. Since then, Uganda Scouts Association has been leading the rollout of U-report, recruiting and training Scouts and other young people to be U-reporters. It now has over 284,000 members.
The uniqueness of U-report is its provision of a channel for Scouts to “report and act” on social concerns in their communities. It gives them opportunities to contribute towards creating a better world, to find ways to be constructive – not to leave society to the care of others, when they themselves can be helpful.
At a joint meeting in February 2013, UNICEF Uganda, World Scout Bureau - Africa Regional Office, and Uganda Scouts Association agreed to rollout U-report through Scouting structures in the Africa region. The meeting was attended by UNICEF Country Representative, Dr Sharad Sapra; World Scout Bureau - Africa Regional Director, Frederic Tutu Kama-Kama; and Uganda Scouts Association team led by Chief Scout Prof Maggie Kigozi.
In March 2013, two defining events led to the expansion of U-report outside Uganda. The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) endorsed U-report as a platform to support Messengers of Peace, WOSM’s flagship initiative, and pledged the unwavering support of WOSM towards the rollout of U-report in Africa and beyond.
This was followed by the presentation of U-report as a vital tool for the amplification of the voices of youth in the UN Post 2015 Development Agenda to UNICEF’s country directors of Eastern and Southern Africa. Led by the Director of Uganda Scouts Association, Moses Engadu, the presentation received the commitment of UNICEF to work with the National Scout Organizations in their respective countries to launch U-report.
In May 2013, Uganda Scouts Association presented U-report to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, as a tool to promote meaningful youth participation in peace, security and economic development of the Great Lakes region.
The two leaders hailed U-report as a tool that enables young people to embrace and use mobile technology to empower themselves for active citizenship and community-led development, and recommended that U-report be used to support the Great Lakes Region Peace Process. Subsequently, Uganda Scouts Association, with support from UNICEF Uganda, hosted the 1st U-report Scouts Great Lakes Region Conference to explore how Scouting, through the Messengers of Peace and U-report, can play a key role in the Great Lakes Region Peace Process.
Since then, U-report has been launched in 11 other countries – Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, South Sudan, Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Through U-report, Scouts are now leading community change, connecting through a range of communication channels to voice their opinions about what is happening in their communities and working with leaders at community, national, regional and international levels to create positive social change.
In August 2014, the 40th World Scout Conference in Slovenia adopted a resolution for U-report to be used as a tool by WOSM to achieve its strategic priorities and initiatives, and enhance youth engagement.
Subsequently, on 18 November 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, WOSM and UNICEF signed a global partnership on U-report and Youth Engagement, paving the way for the creation of a global communications and advocacy network, and creating the possibility of having 40 million Scouts speaking as one strong voice.
“WOSM will leverage its network of 40 million Scouts in over 200 countries and territories, which it plans to grow to over 100 million by 2023, and encourage them to participate in global and national advocacy and mobilisation efforts through the U-report as part of efforts to create a better world”, said WOSM’s Secretary General, Scott Teare.
The input of these young “social monitors” on community reports and polls on issues via SMS will help UNICEF and its partners gather data on community services and issues. This feedback is analysed and summarized in real-time, provided to local government and authorities to make informed decisions about social development programmes and monitor issues that matter most to young people.
UNICEF and WOSM recognise the immense value of the engagement of Uganda Scouts Association throughout the development and rollout of U-report in Uganda and their ongoing support to further promote U-report globally and within the Scout Movement.
Scouting does not exist in isolation. It exists in a constantly changing and evolving world. Therefore, it is necessary for World Scouting to adapt and ensure that its programmes stay relevant to young people. U-report can contribute by providing real-time data on trends, needs and interests of young people and their communities, now and in the future.
Although it is still early days in the WOSM rollout of U-report, Uganda Scouts Association is confident that it will play a significant role in enabling Scouting to be sensitive to the changing needs of society, enabling it to respond quickly and effectively. Similarly, U-report will enable National Scout Organizations to identify the needs and expectations of their young people, assess and improve the motivation of their adult leaders, and deliver vital information to educate Scouts countrywide.
By Moses Engadu, U-report Global Coordinator, WOSM