Learning Agenda Convening: March 2023 Recap

In March 2023 we held the first-ever in-person convening of Network members engaged in the learning agenda for legal empowerment. Participants from 13 organizations in 12 countries–who are taking up the most burning questions facing our field–came together for a week in Nairobi, Kenya to share learning about “what works” with each other, and collectively generate evidence and solutions to big challenges that keep us up at night.

The learning agenda includes action research projects across 16 countries, which are tackling a diverse set of problems, ranging from salmon farming industry abuses in Chile, to police abuse in Malawi, to refugee empowerment in Thailand. What they all have in common is that they’re using research and learning to answer big, shared questions like “how do you go from grassroots legal empowerment to systems change?”, “how do you build community power” and “how do legal empowerment strategies fight repression and deepen democracy?”

Over five days in Nairobi, we shared practical strategies, workshopped live challenges, found common themes for collective reflection, and most importantly, built solidarity and had fun! Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Shared language allows us to learn from each other. Learning agenda participants are tackling a range of complex issues across very different contexts. But developing some shared language and a deeper understanding of each other’s work allowed us to dig into common learning themes, like how are we engaging the State in different ways? What strategies are effective to increase community participation in public decision-making?

  2. Learning must be grounded in grassroots struggles for justice. Over the course of the week, we were able to see how the questions and themes we were discussing play out in real life. We visited the work of Akiba Mashinani Trust in Mukuru informal settlement Kituo Cha Sheria in Korogocho, and the work of Nubian Rights Forum and Namati Citizenship team in Kibera. Hearing directly from community members, community paralegals and mobilizers allowed us to see how the research projects are directly linked to everyday struggles for justice, and that the ultimate measure of impact is whether the lives of communities are better off.

Site visit to Mukuru informal settlement

  1. There’s no replacement for an in-person connection. A powerful sense of solidarity and community emerged among participants. Across continents and issue areas, we found commonalities in the challenges we’re facing and our goals and hopes for the future. We forged relationships to carry forward into our future work. We also got to know each other on a personal level, leaving the week feeling joyful, energized, and hopeful.

Public Event “Strengthening the Global Movement for Grassroots Justice”: To make the most of the powerhouses of the legal empowerment movement being together in person, we partnered with Kituo cha Sheria and the Paralegal Society of Kenya to put on a public event at the University of Nairobi Faculty of Law. The all-star cast of speakers included the Chief Justice of Kenya (through a representative), the Canadian High Commissioner, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Meg Sattherthwaite (@MegSatt), learning agenda cohort members @sheformento @macarenamartinic @AntoniaBerrios and @JaneWeru, and inspiring grassroots justice advocates @anthonynjenga, David Mwangi and Juliet Kisilu. Watch the recording here.

A panel of grassroots justice advocates @anthonynjenga, David Mwangi, and Juliet Kisilu

Participants included @AdrianDiGiovanni @AimeeOngeso @anthonynjenga @AntoniaBerrios @Anujoshi @ApatsaMangwana @AtienoOdhiambo @CatalinaMarino @erinkitchell @francescaferuglio @ImmatruphKiminza @IvaPetkova @janetkosgei @JaneWeru @lizelmones @lucianabercovich @LynnKamande @macarenamartinic @martaalmela @MaureenMusya @MegSatt @mschapman @naithanawat @NELSONNCUBE @pablovitale @PatrickNjoroge @poorvichitalkar @PaulWaiswa @Pratiwi @rahma @RuthKaima @sheformento @SmithOuma @Tom_Weerachat

Those who were there, tell us:

:star: What was the highlight?

:star: What did you take away?

:star: How will you implement the learnings from this convening in your work?

The foundations laid at the global convening will continue to guide reflection and exchange on our shared learning priorities. Learning from each other will help us be stronger, and solve big challenges together.

Drop them here :point_down: