IMPACT REPORT:Restless Development Community Mobilization Ebola Response
by Jean Manney,
Restless Development – US Country Director
The Rockdale Foundation supported the initial Restless Development Ebola response, whereby 200 community mobilizers were trained and dispatched to reach 360,000 people in the four districts surrounding the initial quarantined zone. The training curriculum and lessons learned from this experience formed the basis of a much larger intervention by the newly created Social Mobilization Action Consortium (SMAC), a consortium made up of agencies with extensive experience in Sierra Leone in a national integrated Ebola response effort. Members included the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), GOAL, BBC Media Action, Restless Development and others. SMAC targeted a variety of platforms – community-led, local and religious leadership, local and national radio and regular monitoring consultations with the community. This integrated approach ensured consistent and targeted investment to end Ebola.
Through the SMAC partnership, Restless Development was able to take our unique Ebola response efforts to 1.9 million people and reach 55% of communities across Sierra Leone. It was not basic door-door awareness-raising. It was a sophisticated community-led response where our teams worked with each community several times over the months. The approach aimed to empower communities to do their own analysis and take their own action to become Ebola-free. We focused on triggering collective action by inspiring communities to understand the urgency and the steps they could take to protect themselves from Ebola. This was done through a process provoked by people from within and outside the community.
Unlike previous mobilization efforts, which had mainly used health education and one-way communications to raise awareness among individuals, our approach focused on the community as a whole, and on the collective benefits of a cooperative and community-led approach. Social solidarity, cooperation, and mutual support are vital elements of community life in Sierra Leone, which contributed positively to Ebola response efforts. Our volunteers encouraged the community itself to take responsibility and take their own positive actions. It started by enabling people to do their own appraisal and analysis of the Ebola outbreak, its effects, and the likely future impacts if no action was taken. This helped to create a sense of urgency and a desire to develop a community action plan. Communities themselves decided how they would protect families, ensure safe and dignified burials, utilize available health services and create a supportive stigma-free environment for survivors, vulnerable children and others directly affected by the disease.
Restless Development went from never having led a humanitarian crisis response, to leading a nationwide mobilization to reach over half of the communities in the country – with a cutting edge curriculum we designed – and worked in consortium with major partners to ensure an integrated approach. All in 5 months! Our networks of former volunteers and relationships with communities, combined with our youth- and community-led model, enabled us to do it. The Rockdale Foundation’s early recognition of the potential of our Ebola response and their support made it possible for us to achieve the scale and ultimately, the impact of stopping Ebola in Sierra Leone.