[LELC 2019] Legal Empowerment + Community Organizing sessions (Day 1)

Dear all,

Today was the first day of the Legal Empowerment Leadership Course 2019 ! The snow joined us in this very first day covering the streets in white. Today’s host team (@joeansu @katielam @Thip @hananvandril @oleseaharti) kept the energy in the room with their ice-breakers as we put a start to the course.

What happened today? We share some key highlights

Introduction by Zaza Namoradze (Director of OSF Justice Initiative)

  • The need for legal empowerment to become a global policy priority
  • The need to build a global movement for legal empowerment
  • The need to commit to supporting legal empowerment (including financial and other kinds of support)

Session I: Conceptual framework – Introduction to legal empowerment by Vivek Maru and Marlon Manuel

  • Legal empowerment is about putting the law into people’s hands so that they can know it, use it and shape it
  • 3 transformations
    • Knowledge
    • Agency
    • Governance
  • Legal empowerment is a cycle, it isn’t necessarily a sequence that goes from knowing the law, to using the law, to shaping the law, but can happen in multiple ways. When the opportunity is presented we need to seize it.
  • Agree-disagree exercise (different statements and the participants position themselves in the room whether they agree or disagree with the statement): “hearing each other speaking I could resonate, there were different interpretations of the same statement. We can take the same statement and take a different approach to it”.
  • Knowing the law: even if the law is unjust, you are still learning, knowing it, while you are doing the analysis

Here are some amazing graphic notes by @poltenko

Session II: Legal empowerment, organizing and social movements by Gicola Lane

  • Organizers facilitate and let people make their decisions
  • The role of the organizer to draw people towards leadership (from constituency, to base, to member, to leader)
  • Participatory defense
  • Reflecting on how we have done things, what would I do differently now, looking at things in a different way

Here are some amazing graphic notes by @poltenko

Working Groups session

  • Realization that there are lots of similarities between us, we have similar problems. Together we can find solutions, advice each other, help each other solve our problems
  • Space for deeper reflections, more time to share and contribute

Some key takeaways for the day:

  • Cycle of learning and movement building can be inserted into all the work we are doing. How I am exploiting the wisdom and expertise of other to inform transformation of a system and how I use it, and build movements around it.
  • Working in an institution founded by criminal lawyers, the difference is how to have a dialogue with the people affected by the situations.
  • Reflect on how can we learn from each other
  • Going beyond fighting for legal empowerment on a case to case basis and going for structural change

More coming tomorrow, stay tuned!


Thank you @hananvandril and Monday’s host team for sharing the highlights of the day, and thank you @poltenko for the amazing graphic notes!

Here I share some other elements that appeared during the different sessions:

  • The need to demystify law, to help communities take ownership of the process
  • Knowing, using and shaping the law as interlocking gears that activate each other
  • The need to build a vertical network that connects communities, paralegals and lawyers, and to build an ongoing relationship of support with each other

Here I leave some quotes for the day:

  • On legal empowerment

“Legal empowerment is not only about solving people’s issues, but also changing people’s perspectives and ideas regarding justice”, LELC 2019 participant

  • On the need to demystify law

“I’m a lawyer myself too, but our profession is part of the problem, and there’s often a resistance from the professional lawyers to the democratization of law”, LELC 2019 participant

  • On the work of paralegals and lawyers

“Not all of us can appear in court, and there are certain cases where you can litigate. There’s limitations to what paralegals can do”, LELC 2019 participant

“We probably don’t need to eliminate the need for lawyers, but the dependence on lawyers”, LELC 2019 participant

  • On community organizing and participatory defense

“We want to build a movement of people that’s re-shaping what’s happening in our communities”, Gicola Lane



Very interesting and very insightful development. I am so moved on how the presentation is being done and simplicity of explanations.

I’m a lot :wink:


Thank you for sharing! These concepts are incredibly important to our movement. Hearing the voices of participants makes it feel like we are seated there with you all.


Really awesome! Although I wasn’t there, but from this resume and super cool graphic note from poltenko that help me to understand and it’s like I’m a one of participant of LELC 2019🤩 can’t wait for second session to brainstroming my knowledge about legal empowerment✊🏻


Hello everyone, Can I participate in the course? Thanks, Alexandar

Hi guys this was very interesting and very insightful development one to participate at. I am so moved on how the presentation is being facilitated and simplicity of explanations.

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Dear Sender,

Thanks a lot for sharing this information.

I hope you safely arrived in your country. Regards, Joseph

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Hi Alexandar! The course has now concluded. We organize it annually so do plan to apply next year! In the meantime, there is plenty of good material being shared here on the forum emerging from this year’s course so feel free to take advantage.