In October 2023, Margaret Hagan presented at the International Access to Justice Forum, on “Paths toward Access to Justice at Scale”. The presentation covered the preliminary results of stakeholder interviews she is conducting with justice professionals across the US about how best to scale one-off innovations and new ideas for improvements, to become more sustainable and impactful system changes.
Pilots to increase access to justice are happening in local courts, legal aid groups, government agencies, and community groups around the globe. These innovative new local services, technologies, and policies aim to build people’s capability, reduce barriers to access, and improve the quality of justice people receive. They are often built with an initial short-term investment, to design the pilot and run it for a period. Most of them lack a clear plan to scale up to a more robust iteration, or spread to other jurisdictions, or sustain the program past the initial investment. This presentation presents a framework of theories of change for the justice system, and stakeholders’ feedback on how to use them for impact.
The research on Access to Justice long-term strategies
The presentation covered the results of the qualitative, in-depth interviews with 11 legal aid lawyers, court staff members, legal technologists, funders, and statewide justice advocates about their work, impact, and long-term change.
The research interviews asked these professionals about their long-term, systematic theories of change — and to rate other theories of change that others have mentioned. They were asked about past projects they’ve run, how they have made an impact (or not), and what they have learned from their colleagues about what makes a particular initiative more impactful, sustainable, and successful.
The goal of the research interviews was to gather the informal knowledge that various professionals have gathered over years of work in reforming the justice system and improving people’s outcomes when they experience legal problems.
This knowledge often circulates casually at meetings, dinners, and over email, but is not often laid out explicitly or systematically. It was also to encourage reflection among practitioners, to move from a focus just on day-to-day work to long-term impact.
Stay tuned for more publications about this research, as the interviews & synthesis continue.