The Slow Burn of Justice, the Power of Research

I am pleased to share with you the blog that I have guest authored for Namati’s special Resisting Injustice series. The blog, the latest entry in the 12-part series, examines the role of research in securing access to justice. It can be found here, on Namati’s webiste.

I encourage you to add comments and questions – now more than ever we need to prioritize access to justice and discuss how we can best do this together.

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Thank you for this piece, @AdrianDiGiovanni !

I found your allusion to the image of the flame to be a very powerful one. I also think the question you posed to be very pertinent: Are the fires of justice growing too weak or raging out of control?

Since the recent US Presidential election, there has been an increase of political engagement and activism from seemingly all sides of the spectrum. In this society that is now so focused on and concerned with “fake news” and “alternative facts”, I agree that the role of research and knowledge is more significant than ever.

I also agree wholeheartedly with you when you stated that “actors living closest to a set of challenges are best placed to understand them and identify solutions to bring about lasting change”. Often times I see organizations with great ideas, and good intentions, but that don’t incorporate those on the ground and therefore can’t offer sustainability.

I know you touched on this, but I was hoping you could elaborate more (and anyone else is welcome to engage as well!) on how average people in society or those working on the ground can best combat the distrust in reporting, research, and science that has seemingly increased in recent times? Especially, as you mentioned, when there is such suspicion and anger growing.

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Hi Kaitlyn,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful question! It really goes to the heart of the issue that many people are grappling with.

I can’t pretend to have any one or magical answer, but here are three initial reactions, and hopefully others can jump in with their ideas: (1) there does appear to be evidence emerging that low tech solutions like a brief conversation can help to change people’s perspectives on contested issues and break down divisions. I’m no expert on this topic and recent research has been the subject of some controversy. This post explains recent developments and findings well.

(2) on questions of justice and basic rights, I do think there is a role for ‘trusted intermediaries’ to help raise awareness, and facilitate those types of conversations. In addition, as I describe in the blog post, raising awareness in that way can be a first step in helping break down barriers and even empower people in society. Playing the role of ‘intermediary’ in a respectful manner, that gives expression to other people’s perspectives and desires, to be clear is easier said than done, and is a huge responsibility. How to play that role effectively in a climate of distrust in many ways restates your basic question.

(3) in a climate of distrust, being clear and transparent about methodology takes on greater importance. Being able to explain clearly how various conclusions and findings were arrived at can, at a minimum, help to establish their validity – i.e. that they aren’t solely based on opinion, or ‘alternative facts’. Debates around climate change, and arguments by climate skeptics, show that appealing to the rigour of methodology is by no means a certain or guaranteed path.

I hope these few initial thoughts help, though I realize I may raise more questions than I answer. Thanks again for your great question!

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