The Accountability Lab and Liberia’s ‘Ebola Chalkboard’

Ebola continues to ravage West Africa.  It has had a severe impact on Liberia- one of the Lab’s focus countries- but although it is affecting the implementation of our work, one of our projects has been at the forefront of international press coverage on the crisis.

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By: Brooks Marmon, Accountability Architect, Liberia.

Ever wondered what the deal is with the chalkboard that media pieces on the Ebola crisis in West Africa are using with great frequency in pieces such as this one by the BBC?

The chalkboard, known as the Daily Talk, is located in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.  Founded in 2003, it is curated by citizen journalist Alfred Sirleaf (not a close relative of the President who bears the same surname). The Accountability Lab has been working with Alfred and the Daily Talk for over a year to support this creative project that serves as a critical news outlet for Liberians who may not have the financial means or sufficient level of education to navigate print media and the internet.

The Daily Talk is strategically located on Monrovia’s primary thoroughfare, Tubman Boulevard, very close to Liberia’s main public hospital which has been devastated by the Ebola crisis.  Liberia’s Nobel Prize winning President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf passes by it every morning in transit from her private residence to her office at Liberia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Since late July, the Daily Talk has kept a running “scorecard” of the government’s response to the virus (this information is positioned in the center of the board, serving a function similar to a headline/front page). Ebola reached four points before the state countered with its first score, when the government first instituted a series of stringent actions (border closures, transit restrictions, hygienic measures, etc.) to stem the virus. 

The sides of the billboard contain local news stories (supplemented by the occasional international piece), written in Liberian English and usually accompanied by pictures. The board employs chalk that can withstand the frequent Liberian rains and stories are published every 2 – 3 days.  One panel covers civic education topics that are jointly designed by the Accountability Lab and Alfred.  In recent months, this section has covered several public health-related topics such as the location of hospitals in Monrovia and best practices on sanitation and hygiene.

The Daily Talk is a recurring feature on our Social Impact Tours of Monrovia.   The Lab has been collaborating with Alfred to expand the Daily Talk to a second high impact location in Liberia’s capital and the deployment of a second chalkboard is expected soon.

If you would like to support the Daily Talk or any of our other change makers in Liberia who are struggling with the escalating adverse consequences of this unprecedented outbreak of Ebola, you can make a donation here.

Daily Talk map* The Lab provides Alfred with financial and technical assistance.  Aside from a section on civic education, it plays no role in the formulation of Daily Talk content.

About Accountability Lab

Making power-holders accountable in the developing world

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