A Week in the Life of an Innovation Colleague: Part 2

Scoping a project means engaging with all kinds of users to support the Response for Venezuelans

Vicky Maskell, U-Report On The Move Coordinator

22 July 2019

The Morning of Day 3: To The School

It becomes very apparent very quickly on visiting Antônio Ferreira school that there is a segment of the Venezuelan population in Boa Vista who have settled and integrated fully into local society.

A group of 10 students aged 14-16 sit around a table covered in a red and white chequered tablecloth, with student lockers lining the wall behind. Five of this group are Brazilian, five are Venezuelan.

Miranda, 13, who has been in Brazil for almost 18 months and lives in rented accommodation tells us: ‘None of my Brazilian classmates understands what it is like to pack up your belongings into one suitcase, walk out of your front door, knowing that it is unlikely you will ever go back… but my best friend is Brazilian, we’re all friends here.

Venezuelans and Brazilians who have been at the same school for over a year discuss how U-Report can amplify the voice of youth.

We’ve made a demo of how U-Report might work, this group test it, they tell us what we like. It feels like the perfect focus group, and an all encompassing sensation that ‘this project will work here’ comes over me. And that’s the thing – here, in this setting, it will work. Here U-Report can be used just like we use U-Report in dozens of countries round the world. It can be used for social mobilisation, and gauging opinion and participation. But this is the easy group. These aren’t the most vulnerable. Yes, we want to reach these young people, and amplify their voices, but this is bread and butter U-Report… and actually, the tool we’re trying to create is the one where we reach those who are normally marginalised, those who don’t have a voice.

The Afternoon of Day 3: To The Interiorisation Camp

Interiorisation is a word that conjures up terrible things – but actually, it’s simply the process for people who are moving on to the interior. It’s the people who are going to Sao Paulo, to Rio, to Caíco, to Porto Velho… to the tens of towns I’d never heard of. There’s a whole camp, called Rondon 2, of people who are waiting for Interiorisation.

Venezuelan adolescents in Rondon 2, the Intertiorisation camp, talking about not knowing anything about the cities they are being relocated to.

This was easily the tensest camp we went to. People feel they are in limbo. They are waiting. For days… for weeks… for months. They, quite simply, don’t have access to the information we want. We held a focus group here, and Luis, 14, told us: ‘I’m going to Sao Paulo. I don’t know anything about Sao Paulo. I don’t know when I’m going. I don’t know what the weather is like there. I wonder what my school will be like.’

Trust here felt low, and the UNICEF t-shirt which often opens doors and starts conversation felt like the conversation-stopper here. Not in a harsh way, but because the official systems were not giving these people what they wanted – which was quite simply, information. The infrastructure for a tool like U-Report is here – there were charging points, computers and the possibility of a WiFi system. There was a camp radio and volunteers to run it. The challenges seem many, but none unmanageable.


The cogs are whirring again.


Continue reading Part 3 here or return to Part 1 here