The Big Idea

Karimojong village in Abim district.

UNICEF launched their U-report in Uganda in 2011, a free SMS social monitoring tool for community participation, designed to address issues that people care about. It sends out texts with poll questions to volunteer community members serving as U-reporters to provide information on issues in their communities. Issues polled include health, education, water, sanitation and hygiene, youth unemployment, HIV/AIDS, and disease outbreaks. In Kampala, there are over 30,000 U-reporters and 72% of those are between 20-30 years old.

UNICEF gathered lots of valuable information from the U-Report but it needed to be put into use to make a difference. Given most of the U-reporters are young people, they decided to partner with Restless Development to pilot a youth-led accountability model where young people would use data from U-report to improve service delivery in target areas.  This project pilot became The Big Idea. 

Two regions were selected for the pilot: Northern Uganda and Karamoja. Northern Uganda is still recovering from almost 3 decades of conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda which greatly affected the social systems and the service delivery in the region. Karamoja is one of the most marginalized parts in the country. It is home to nomadic pastoralist communities which often lack the means to meet the most basic needs due to its history of insecurity, ethnic diversity, unpredictable climate and poor infrastructure.

How does it work?

Restless Development recruited and trained 10 youth per target community on research, advocacy and general life skills. These young people engaged in a thorough data analysis exercise using information from U-report to identify emerging issues in their communities. These young researchers validated these findings and collected additional evidence through focus group discussion (FGDs) with young people, local leaders and other community stakeholders.

After analyzing the additional evidence, they identified advocacy asks which were presented to duty bearers. Most of the target districts didn’t have structures where young people could engage in local development processes so Restless Development supported local government to create and coordinate platforms for meaningful youth engagement. Once these platforms were created and active, the youth shared their research findings and asked their leaders to take action on identified issues.

Restless Development is currently waiting to finalise a contract with UNICEF to scale up the Big Idea project up to 10 districts across all Uganda.


The young researchers followed up regularly on progress of their leaders’ commitments and these are some of their achievements per region:

In Northern Uganda:

  • The Alcohol Ordinance was enacted which regulated the type of alcoholic beverages sold in bars and the times these were open.
  • The youth training centre in Gulu committed to review their curriculum to ensure their program address the skill set gap identified by the research.
  • Youth-friendly corners were established in two regional hospitals to provide SRHR services to young people.

In Karamoja:

  • Napak’s local government passed a law to control access of young people to nightclubs and the time these were open.
  • The District Community Development Office developed an intervention in partnership with Save the Children to end early marriage in Napak.
  • The Police set up a team to stop child trafficking and 2 men were arrested shortly. 

 Check out Stefany's story of her time working with the Big Idea below:

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