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In September 2019, the DC Bar Foundation committed to this visionary goal:

 To transform the civil legal aid network, working closely with all stakeholders, 
so District residents have a fair and equal legal experience. 

The Foundation seeks to realize this goal using the following five strategies.

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1. Engage all stakeholders in the work

The DC Bar Foundation will work with existing and identify new partners to support the civil legal aid network by providing data, identifying needs, sharing observations, serving as a sounding board, and developing solutions to meet the community civil legal aid needs.

Recent activity:

  • In September 2022, the Foundation and Visible Network Labs (VNL) conducted a second mapping of the District's civil legal aid network.  In June 2021, VNL did an initial "network mapping" of the inaugural 75 DC Legal Aid Transformation Network (DC LATN) members to assess what partnerships already existed and how to strengthen them. By September 2022, DC LATN had grown to 103 organizations. VNL invited these organizations to participate in a second network mapping survey to understand what had changed due to DC LATN's quarterly convenings and other activities. We learned that the network sustainability is supported by the change in structure and composition over the last year. Additionally, the perceived trust and value among collaborating partners within the network also increased. The DC Legal Aid Transformations Network Fall 2022 Comparison Report details the survey results. 

  • ​On December 14, 2022, the DC Legal Aid Transformations Network (DC LATN) was convened for the seventh time. Ariel Levinson-Waldman, Founding President and Director-Counsel at Tzedek DC and Co-Chair of the Consortium, and Joseph Schieffer, CEO of A2J Tech, provided updates on the Coordinated Intake and Referral System (CIR) and technology infrastructure.  DC LATN subnetworks used the meeting to plan for 2023. The next quarterly convening is on March 8, 2023. 

  • The DC Bar Foundation and the Greater Washington Community Foundation continue to co-lead the DC Eviction Prevention Group, with facilitation by the Urban Institute. These local efforts grew out of the June 2021 White House Eviction Prevention Summit. On February 1, 2023, the DC Eviction Prevention Co-Leads Group released "A Collaborative Framework for Eviction Prevention in DC," highlighting a cross-sector approach to resolving matters related to eviction and displacement on behalf of DC residents.

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2. Identify the unmet civil legal needs

The civil legal aid needs of District residents are vast. DCBF will identify barriers to accessing services by those who need them most and support the development and launch of a coordinated intake and referral system to improve access to civil legal aid services. DCBF will also work with its stakeholders to use data generated by this system and engage the larger community to identify community priorities.

Recent activity:

  • Held focus groups in late April and early May 2022, in collaboration with Bread for the City, DC Rape Crisis Center, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and District Alliance for Safe Housing to gather feedback on the design and implementation of a Coordinated Intake and Referral System

  • In late 2022, the Foundation invited legal services providers to update their information in the new Provider Directory database. More than half have either fully completed or have more than 80% of their profiles complete.

  • In March 2023, we completed the first round of user testing for the Coordinated Intake and Referral System (CIR) with DC residents. Participants had the opportunity to use the CIR System as a client and provide feedback on improvements that can be made to make the system more seamless and efficient. NPC Research also held focus groups with the following stakeholders: Existing intake and referral networks among legal services providers; legal services intake specialists, and clients and community members.

  • In March 2023, the Foundation will release a report highlighting findings from an online customer feedback survey for tenants who used the Landlord Tenant Legal Assistance Network (LTLAN), administered between July 2021 and December 2022. Results from the data analysis indicate that participants were satisfied with the LTLAN, would use it again, and would tell others in their community about the service. Further, the data confirm that the LTLAN is an access point to various legal services, not just representation. Specifically, close to 60% of participants contacted the LTLAN because they faced an active eviction case, and over 40% reached out because they were looking for answers to questions such as whether they could be evicted or what to do when they had a problem with their landlord. These findings confirm the success of the LTLAN. In addition, because the LTLAN is a functioning coordinated intake and referral system, this study's results can serve as a source of information for our efforts to create a Coordinated Intake and Referral system in the District.


3. Infuse racial justice and equity in our work

DCBF will evolve its practices and culture to learn, reflect, unlearn, and change its practices to pursue justice. Initially, DCBF will study best practices to learn about racial justice and equity initiatives. DCBF will also explore local partnerships where there are opportunities to align efforts to develop a plan to integrate racial justice and equity initiatives.

Recent activity:

  • In August 2022, the Foundation adopted five core values, including "We Stand Against Anti-Black Racism. We must work within ourselves, our networks, and our institutions to challenge anti-Black racism with each decision we make. We must actively change behaviors, policies, and procedures that perpetuate anti-Black racism. Understanding and addressing anti-Black racism will help reveal solutions to eradicate the manifestation of all forms of bias, racism, and hate."

  • In FY23 (which began October 1, 2022), the Foundation is entering our fifth year of working with Service Never Sleeps to provide a six-part Racial Equity 101 training for our grantee community. Over the past two years, we have also offered a five-part Racial Equity 2.0 in partnership with the Interaction Institute for Social Change.

  • As the Foundation kicks off the FY23 grant year, we have begun assessing grantees' racial equity agenda to determine where and how the Foundation can add value.


4. Fund with intention

DCBF will identify and articulate what it wants to achieve through its grantmaking. By working with its stakeholders and piloting a few interventions that address the most significant needs, DCBF will better understand effective strategies and make more strategic grantmaking decisions. DCBF will adapt its investments as additional data and feedback is gathered, and experience dictates what can and should be scaled.

Recent activity:

  • Completed a second cycle of grantmaking in April 2022, including $4.3 million to six Civil Legal Counsel Projects Program grantees for collaborative work on upstream eviction diversion efforts to benefit 5,000 District households. The project aims to prevent evictions by partnering with community-based organizations to reach tenants at risk of displacement as early as possible and connect them with the support and services they need to stabilize their housing.

  • In February 2023, the Foundation disbursed $25.3M in grants to 36 organizations. These grants will fund 75 projects that increase access to justice for District residents. The Foundation also disbursed $1M in General Support grants.

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5. Demonstrate that people who need services are getting them

By integrating evaluation into every aspect of its work, DCBF will position itself to describe how it is changing and improving the lives of District residents and identify areas in need of improvement. DCBF will generate data on program delivery, measure the effectiveness of services, study outcomes, determine the level of impact, and share those findings with our partners and stakeholders.

Recent activity:

  • In July 2022, released a report summarizing the feedback received during client focus groups held from December 2021 – April 2022, highlighting legal aid access challenges users have experienced and their recommendations for the design of a Coordinated Intake and Referral System.

  • ​In September 2022, released a report in partnership with NPC Research, compiling input from legal services providers, allied organizations, and individuals about designing a Coordinated Intake and Referral System for civil legal services in the District of Columbia. 

  • In October 2022, released the Civil Legal Counsel Projects Program Biannual Progress Report, in partnership with NPC Research. The report covers the period from January 1 to June 30, 2022, which is significant because the eviction moratorium ended in January 2022. Across the 261 eviction cases with outcome data, 228 (87%) tenants retained possession of the unit and reverted to the landlord in 33 (13%) cases. This result is encouraging and is higher than the percentage of cases from all the prior periods that ended with tenant possession (77%).

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