What we’re doing

The Open Society Foundations support legal empowerment activities across the world: from helping indigenous communities in the Philippines claim their ancestral lands, to ensuring that Roma communities have adequate access to health services.

In 2009, the Open Society Justice Initiative helped establish the Global Legal Empowerment Initiative to coordinate efforts and build a global movement for legal empowerment.

Its key activities include:

Establishing Namati. Namati, a global legal empowerment organization, was launched in 2012. It receives core financial support from the Department for International Development (DFID), the Open Society Foundations, and Australia’s AusAid, and will receive initial institutional support from the Open Society Justice Initiative. The organization will focus on innovation and research, and on building a more robust international movement. It will implement and evaluate innovative legal empowerment interventions in several countries. Learn more at: www.namati.org.

Fostering a global legal empowerment network. Many legal empowerment programs work in isolation, and do not benefit from empirical evidence or the experience of others. In collaboration with the Open Society Justice Initiative, the DFID, AusAid, the UN Development Program, and the World Bank, Namati is hosting a global network of legal empowerment practitioners, and providing support and capacity building. The network will provide a platform for sharing research findings, training materials, monitoring and evaluation tools, case management systems, and advocacy strategies. The network will combine extensive outreach, user-friendly technologies, and timely content to cultivate a vibrant, supportive community, which will in turn enrich and expand the legal empowerment field. Join the network at www.namati.org/network.

Supporting legal empowerment innovations and research. We are advancing a number of specific country projects, to test the boundaries of legal empowerment methodologies in a range of contexts, and learning from and strengthening work done across the Open Society Foundations globally.

Improving exchange and learning among donors. Legal empowerment work is being done all across the world, under different guises: as legal empowerment per se, as access to justice, poverty reduction, women’s empowerment, legal aid, human rights, governance, the environment, and civil society, among others. It is done in an unsystematic manner, and there is relatively little coordination. There are significant opportunities to further develop the field, and to make it more evidence-based. We are working with DFID and other donors to explore the possibility of improving donor exchange and learning, building a stronger evidence base through a joint research agenda, and developing a coordinated finance mechanism for legal empowerment.