Summary of the Innovating Justice Challenge 2021 Pitch Events in Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine.
On 13 and 14 July, 32 innovators from eight countries across Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine pitched their justice innovations to a panel of regional experts and general audience. The Pitch Events serve as part of HiiL’s 2021 Innovating Justice Challenge which launched on 15 March and provides justice sector innovations a chance to compete for a place in the HiiL Justice Accelerator Programme.
Following a rigorous selection and interview process, the shortlisted candidates enrolled in a 1-week Bootcamp that interactively discussed the fundamentals of business, including how to deliver an elevator pitch. Shortlisted innovators showcased their innovations virtually to a regional and global audience during the two-day Pitch Events, and got to engage with experts in the field of justice innovation.
The cohort of innovators focused on people’s everyday justice problems including land, crime, family, public sector, money, employment, neighbour and consumer issues. Their game-changing solutions have ranged from community justice and online information platforms, to user-friendly contracts, prevention programmes, and one-stop dispute resolution mechanisms. This year’s Pitch Events were also an opportunity to discuss region-specific issues in the maturing field of justice innovation. The Pitch Events were hosted by the HiiL Innovation Hubs based in each of the five Justice Accelerator regions.
In West Africa, the conversation examined how outliers can be the most effective Gamechangers. HiiL Justice Accelerator alumna Funkola Odeleye, co-founder of DIYlawNG, a tech company focused on access to legal services and information, proved the point. Drawing from her experience with her founding partner Ondunoluwa Longe, the Head of the HiiL Innovation Hub West Africa, Funkola described the perfect pairing of a “love-preneur” (n. a lawyer with love for entrepreneurship & entrepreneurs) and a “hustle-preneur” (n. a lawyer with love for a good hustle).
Founder of Kickoff Africa, Fola Olatunji David provided a timely reminder that the world already has “too many wise men, not enough fools,” and emphasised why it’s important for innovators in a niche sector like justice innovation to take the leap, to “jump; and measure and learn along the way”.
In Southern Africa, keynote speaker Mr. John Jeffrey, the South African Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, addressed the need to “think outside the box” to help people resolve or prevent their justice problems. He described how technology can be used to empower initiatives and innovations that strive to “improve access to justice services for all”. Weighing in on the innovations that were pitched, Panelists Tshanelo Tsoaedi from CAOSA, Simphiwe Mntambo from Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, and Darryl Bernstein from Baker McKenzie, praised the “simplicity” and “sustainability” of the solutions presented by the innovators to the justice problems they are tackling, and encouraged all to collaborate and learn from each other where possible.
Representing the MENA region, under the theme of “Technology & Diversity to Bridge the Justice Gap,” HiiL alumnus Anis Kallel of Kaoun spoke about the importance of asking “different questions” and how the HiiL Justice Accelerator dares innovators to self-reflect, assess and revise the impact their ideas have on people’s lives and access to justice. Amel Saidane, president of Tunisian Startups reminded the innovators that while it is an uphill battle, the justice sector in the MENA region is ripe with opportunities, precisely because it is the last to revisit and innovate how it works. International business lawyer, Rany Sader, and Hayfa Sdiri, a UNDP Youth and Innovation Programme Analyst spoke about the importance of targeting innovation on the local justice systems to build a strong foundation before setting sights on globalisation.
In East Africa, the panellists discussed “Creating an enabling environment for justice innovations to thrive”. Samira Saidi from FOUNT spoke about the importance of local investment in spurring local innovations. Esther Mwikali from ASSEK spoke about the role hubs play in supporting innovators to build on their ideas, and become investment ready, as well as the need for innovations to “double-down” on what they need to prioritise, and the support they receive from a hub instead of jumping from hub to hub. Rodgers Kidiya from Tax Justice Network spoke about the impact of taxation schemes on startups, the innovation sector and the importance of applying a progressive taxation system.
In Ukraine, the keynote speaker Roman Romanov, Director of the Human Rights and Justice Program at the International Renaissance Foundation, underscored “that together with HiiL, we are looking at justice as a foundational value, not a court system”. The panel discussion explored how justice innovations can improve people’s awareness of their rights. HiiL’s alumnus and CEO of Pravoman, Regina Bondarenko, gave an example of how increasing legal awareness became part of their business model with 50 percent of users coming back and learning about their constitutional rights. Olga Osinska, from the Ministry of Digital Transformation in Ukraine, pointed out that the educational series, « Digital Lawyer’s »raises awareness of innovations among lawyers which at the end of the day helps to increase legal awareness of people. And Alexander Baranov, the acting Director of the Coordination Center for Free Legal Aid, shared how they support legal aid services in Ukraine with innovations like the WikiLegalAid portal and legal aid app.
Altogether, the Justice Accelerator’s Pitch Events detailed the expansion of justice innovation underway around the globe. The two days also reaffirmed the knowledge exchange that is strengthening a network of justice sector entrepreneurs and professionals and their commitment to SDG 16 – equal access to justice for all.
Looking ahead, HiiL’s Justice Accelerator team will welcome select startups to join a 4-month long “acceleration” programme and receive grant funding of 10,000 euros. Connect with us to get the latest updates and learn more about how you could join the next generation of HiiL-supported innovators working to advance user-friendly justice.