That's a wrap! The third annual Legal Empowerment Leadership Course comes to a close

Justice champions & expert grassroots practitioners from all over the world came together for the third annual Legal Empowerment Leadership Course this month. For five days, sixty-three justice practitioners from 29 countries joined together for a week of inspiring, interactive, collaborative sessions exploring the increasingly complex landscape of legal empowerment.

The course is the only one of its kind in the world. It brings together leaders dedicated to legal empowerment to reflect on history, strategy, and evidence, with the goal of identifying strategies to strengthen access to justice around the world.

This year, the theme was “Law and Organizing” and was a collaboration between the CEU’s School of Public Policy (SPP), the Open Society Justice Initiative, Namati, and the Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at New York University School of Law.

The course featured a comparative exploration of common themes across three case studies, in addition to the overall course theme of law and organizing. Themes included legal empowerment methods; training, support, and supervision of frontline staff; learning and evaluation; financial sustainability; gender; and pathways to scale.

Case study topics and readings included:

The paralegal movement in the Philippines. How the movement of community-based paralegals have adapted and innovated over the decades, to bring about large-scale change in the Philippines.

Institutionalizing community-based justice services. This session focused on how the paralegal profession can be recognized, institutionalized, and publicly financed by governments through a case study from Ontario, Canada.

Ensuring effective delivery of essential services. How a women-led movement of grassroots advocates, lawyers, and activists is enhancing accountability and advancing the rights of health, food, and housing to marginalized communities in India.

Cross-cutting sessions and readings included:

Cross-cutting sessions addressed special challenges faced by the movement for legal empowerment.

Introduction to legal empowerment. This introductory session explored what we mean by legal empowerment. It addressed basic concepts, history and philosophy. The session offered a vocabulary and a set of questions returned to throughout the course.

  • An essay in Foreign Policy, proposing four principles for overcoming the challenge of delivering legal empowerment at scale.

The intersection of law and organizing. This session explored how legal empowerment groups have combined strategic litigation and legal services with community organizing.

Learning from program data. This session looked into monitoring and evaluation techniques and innovative ways of applying evaluation data to improve programming and research efforts.

Translating grassroots experience into systemic change and back again. This session investigated the use of grassroots experience from legal empowerment work towards advocacy and long term systemic change.

For those of you who could not attend, do stay tuned for future online and in-person learning opportunities from the Global Legal Empowerment Network. We will post them here in community discussion forum, on Twitter, and on Namati’s Facebook Page.

Below are a few more photos from the week. For those who attended, feel free to share your own on this thread too!


Great post. Love the links to the articles!


Thank you for posting this and links to reading materials - looking forward to dive in when I return to work post-sabbatical!