Alpha Launch of U-Report Sierra Leone

The U-reporter community of Sierra Leone brings youth to the forefront of the Ebola response–and makes their voices heard

Stuart Campo
Mariama Conteh, director of The Happy Centre, Sierra Leone
28 November 2014

Today was an awesome day: we soft launched U-report in Sierra Leone!

When we arrived in Freetown on Monday, the idea of launching U-report by week’s end seemed like something caused by overexposure to chlorine fumes. As the week progressed, all of the pieces fell into place. And here we are, 75 users strong and growing fast.


We’ll write more next week about how our awesome Sierra Leone team–led by Shane, the Innovation Lead based in the Child Protection team here in Freetown, and one of the most recent additions to the UNICEF Innovation network–laid the foundations for the big launch. For now, here’s a recap of how the launch this morning went down:

  • Thanks to the impressive mobilization efforts of Fatou (@thefatoublog) from our awesome U-report partner agency MamaYe, 18 young people from high schools, universities and organizations including West African Medical MissionsJob Search Sierra Leone, and Sierra Leone Medical Students’ Association (SLEMA) came together around 10am
  • We kicked off the day by doing a quick analog data collection process (picture hands raised, us counting them one by one, and writing the results on flipchart paper)  to have some basic demographics of our group (we would later capture the same information through U-report registration, so there was a method to this madness…) 
  • Then we asked each member of the group to choose one word to complete the phrase; “Young people in Sierra Leone are ________” 
  • Then the participants listed all of the different places they tend to get together. These days, gathering is difficult, as there is a ban on coming together in large groups and young people have to avoid many of the places they used to hang out.
Basic group demographics
Responses to "Young people in Sierra Leone are..."
Places that participants get together
  • While movement is somewhat limited, young people have no lack of communication channels available. Check out the host of information sources they listed below.
  • Despite this plethora of information channels, rumours and misconceptions about Ebola abound. Here is a list of the main rumours that came up in the brainstorm this morning.


Modes of communication listed
Misconceptions about Ebola
Misconceptions about Ebola


  • This abundance of rumours unfortunately came as no surprise. A study on Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices (KAP) recently conducted by UNICEF found that “Across the board, knowledge levels were lower and misconceptions were higher among women, youth aged 15-24, and those living in Western Area.” (Western Area is where Freetown is). This is one of the main reasons why U-report has such promise here: engaging young people in a way that they trust, are excited about, and can own themselves should help improve knowledge, attitudes, and practices — just as U-report did in Nigeria.
  • After discussing the rumours for quite some time–tough questions, not always easy answers–we moved on to unveil the U-shaped elephant in the room…
  • Within five minutes, everyone had joined. Augustine (below) was the first one to complete the registration process–and he was pretty stoked.
Join U-Report
UNICEF/Sierra Leone
Augustine just completed the U-Report registration process!
UNICEF/Sierra Leone
Augustine just completed the U-Report registration process!

With our first 18 U-reporters in the country registered, it was time to develop some poll content. The youth split into 6 groups and got to work. The assignment: pick one topic, design 3 questions (with multiple choice options), and make sure they are SMS-friendly.

The groups did an amazing job and came up with a great variety of questions, the majority of which focus on Ebola.

Poll topics and questions development
UNICEF/Sierra Leone
Poll topics and questions development

They agreed on an inaugural poll–the roll of young people in the fight against Ebola–and this went out earlier today. Check out the results in real time here:

With flyers in hand and energy running high, the young people left the session with a challenge: register 15 new U-reporters each by Monday morning. As of this writing, the number of U-reporters has already grown from the original 18 to 75, and the registrations are still coming in. Looks like we’ve got an ambitious new cadre of leaders on our hands–and the opportunities are endless. Watch this space for more as the U-reporter community of Sierra Leone brings youth to the forefront of the Ebola response–and makes their voices heard.