2021 Legal Empowerment Leadership Course (1st Virtual Edition)

April 30 - May 17, 2021

As the world continues to react to the effects COVID-19 and attempts to build back better, unfortunately for most communities, the justice gap continues to widen. The exacerbation of justice issues has led to more than five billion people living outside the protection of the law and lacking meaningful access to justice. We are witnessing rising cases of gender based violence and police brutality, lack of access to essential services, not forgetting unfair distribution of vaccines and health services. We seek to turn this tide through legal empowerment; enabling people to understand, use, and shape the law.

The Legal Empowerment Leadership Course is a unique opportunity to take stock of our collective knowledge and build upon it to strengthen a global movement for justice. As of 2019, the LELC had been held annually for five years. But in 2020, due to the coronavirus, we took a break and used the opportunity to change our delivery strategy for this great learning opportunity.

We are pleased to announce that this year, the course will be held virtually for the first time. In this pilot virtual course, we will be working with a select group of participants who will engage in collective learning in a ten-day-long online program.

This course hopes to cultivate a global cadre of leaders who are committed to legal empowerment, and who share a common understanding of the field, including history, methodology, and evidence. A faculty of respected practitioners and academics will lead course participants in an in-depth exploration of key themes, including the conceptual framework of legal empowerment, community organizing and social movements, and community driven data collection and analysis for advocacy.

The participatory course design will also emphasize peer-to-peer learning through small online working groups and special skills sessions around virtual community organizing, promoting legal services remotely, power mapping and innovative financing.

Stay tuned for more updates. :slightly_smiling_face:


The 6th Legal Empowerment Leadership Course, our first virtual leadership course, is a wrap! The virtual gathering stretched over 2 weeks and included upwards of 80 participants from 40+ countries around the world. You can find more background information on the course here, and you can see a list of participants here.

We wanted to share some takeaways and resources from the course with those of you who were not able to attend. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, or share your thoughts below. We encourage @leadership_course_2021_participants to share your thoughts on the experience with other members of the Legal Empowerment Network too!

Below is a rundown of the sessions with resources and graphic notes by the one and only @abigailmoy:

Session I: Conceptual framework - Introduction to legal empowerment

Faculty: @vivekmaru and @marlonmanuel

This introductory essentially explored the question: what do we mean by legal empowerment? It addressed basic concepts, elements, history, and philosophy, including the legal empowerment cycle, the role of community paralegals and some lessons learned from our movement over the years.

Some materials from the session include:

S1 - Intro to LE-2

Session II: Legal empowerment, organizing and social movements

Faculty: @GerardoReyesChavez @MatthewBlumin @TiffanyGoetzinger

This session explores the combination of legal services and strategic litigation with community organizing, and how paralegals and legal empowerment practitioners constitute an essential part of social movements.

Some resources and videos from the session include:

S2 - LE+Organizing (1)

Session III: Legal empowerment, land rights and environmental justice

Faculty: @vivekmaru and @sonkitaconteh

This session focused on legal empowerment programs that work with communities for the defense of land rights and the pursuit of environmental justice.

Some materials from the session include:

  • The New York Times article, India’s Barefoot Lawyers, by Tina Rosenberg from August 8, 2017.
  • Lifting a Curse, a short documentary about Namati’s work among communities in Sierra Leone affected by land grabs and unlawful pollution.


Session IV: Legal empowerment and gender justice

Faculty: @sarahossain

The session explained how women-led organizations comprised of grassroots advocates, lawyers, and activists have adopted legal empowerment strategies to advance women’s rights and gender equality advocacy with a focus on intersectionality.

Some materials from the session include:

Session V: Community-driven data collection and analysis for advocacy

Faculty: @MegSatt and @suktidhital

This session examined how grassroots advocates, lawyers, and activists have designed community-led data collection projects to define and generate data that reflects their realities, and how this data is essential to human rights advocacy, with case studies from @ImmaculataCasimero and the Wapichan’s fight to reclaim their land in Guyana, and Nazdeek’s fight for labor rights and improved health among tea pickers in Assam, India.

Some materials from the session include:

Session VI: Protection of Grassroots Justice Defenders

Faculty: @AlejandraAncheita and @LautaroCostantini

This session tackled the issue of growing threats to grassroots justice defenders worldwide and presents some models of community protection initiatives.

Some resources from the session include:

There were also Skill Sessions presented by various faculty leads, including:

Innovative Financing for Legal Empowerment by @mburnett and @zazanamoradze

Popular Education for Legal Empowerment by @marlonmanuel and @michaelotto

Providing Legal Services Remotely by @suktidhital, @poltenko, @SeiSalvador and @AnnetteMbogoh

Power Mapping and Advocacy Strategies by @AimeeOngeso, @staceycram and @lucianabercovich

All in all, it was an intense and inspiring couple of weeks, where we could take some space to reflect on the work we do, learn and share experiences with peers, and strengthen our legal empowerment efforts together. Our first virtual course was a success (even though we missed being in-person and are all very exhausted with Zoom!), and this is only the beginning…

We will be looking to offer many of the above sessions as smaller online courses to network members in the future too, so stay tuned for more news as that effort develops.

To close, an awkward virtual group photo! :tada: :camera_flash:



Es maravilloso, muchas felicidades!

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Thanks Michael,you have done a great job.

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Thank you all friends this was amazing though I was planning to join the virtual course and unfortunately I found the sessions are already ended :grinning:. But next time I hope I will be able.

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Hi @AhmedMohamed - this first virtual course was a bit of a test run and targeted for members working in environmental justice, gender justice and participatory action research projects specifically, but we will be planning more broad-ranging opportunities for members in the coming months!

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My pleasure @michaelotto

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