Struggle, survival, success. Lessons on engaging the justice sector

Justice Systems are struggling. With one billion new unmet justice needs every year, justice systems find it difficult to cope. They need new ideas.

There are brilliant people that are trying to fix elements of the problem in these systems. “Justice innovators” find new ways to help people resolve their pressing justice problems. But they are often blocked by the systems they are trying to fix.

An opportunity to scale solutions to close the justice gap. At all levels, our understanding of the justice gap is better now. The Task Force on Justice just released its report, Justice For All. We supported it with our data on justice needs, knowledge on how to innovate, and bringing people together. The report finds that 4.5 billion people are excluded from the opportunities the law provides; over 1 billion people lack legal identity, more than 2 billion are employed in the informal sector and the same number lack proof of housing or land tenure. An important thing we do to change these horrific figures is stimulating innovation and scaling what works best.

Our effort to champion justice innovation globally. Each year, we organise an international competition. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s the international Innovating Justice Challenge. The best justice innovations in a region or country are found and pitch their ideas before an expert panel. Winners go on to join our cohort for acceleration (business development training, mentorship, finance). This competition is held in West Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, Europe and Southern Asia. Even teams in the US and UAE apply. You can see our portfolio here.

What happens when you get those innovators together in a room? Each year, we put the best justice innovation on an international stage at the Innovating Justice Forum. In the busy days before the forum in February, we put 12 chairs around a living room rug, in the Hague Humanity Hub for a sharing session. What do a diverse group of innovators talk about? What trends, strategies, and roadblocks do they identify together? What would they share with other justice innovators around the world?

We will tell you. The discussion with these twelve innovators resulted in three key themes:

  1. Innovators need to connect with the justice sector. But these relationships are very difficult to develop. Innovators are, on average, dependent on the justice sector to reach scale: Many justice innovators design their services for the ‘mass markets’ of unserved citizens by justice systems. But their relationships aren’t developing as fast as they need them to. Those innovators who have created these relationship say: “start early, be consistent, and focus relationship building on where it matters.” Establish a map of where allies are within the government, and come up with a plan on maintaining regular contact – even when you don’t “need something”.

  2. Innovators identified a need to advocate for a “level playing field.” When governments decide what service to use in medicine or internet speed, they have objective standards to judge providers against. Justice innovators must advocate to be judged on objective criteria, (which is currently the exception, not the rule). Then, they can fairly compare the effectiveness of their innovation against existing justice services. Innovators need help from the international community to advocate for this level playing field, as it involves challenging those profiting from a stranglehold on the system.

  3. Don’t get knocked down; know the law and use the law. Know your rights, and assert yourself and your justice innovation before governments and the public. Be savvy: Understand the ins and outs of public-private partnerships, tenders, and partnership arrangements to know which can work best for you. This means when your adversaries attack – those invested in maintaining ‘business as usual’ – you will be able to respond in full knowledge of your rights, and the avenues to assert them. But be responsible in terms of the amount of energy invested in defence. Unless survival is on the line, don’t waste energy defending your position: “just get on with it” and show users and investors that you have a valuable service people need.

This is the second time we’ve held a discussion on this topic, see what last years innovators had to say here: 6 Recommendation For Working With the Justice Sector.

Do you have experience with some of the themes identified here? Let us know if these lessons are familiar experiences to you. You can talk to us on our media channels; Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. And of course, come a join us at Innovating Justice Forum on 5th February 2020.