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Addressing Legal Aid Through Innovation

This past spring, the Foundation’s Advisory Committee welcomed five new members, all with expertise in different areas: law, community development, banking, fundraising, and communications. A diverse range of professional experiences will undoubtedly help guide DCBF as we continue to think strategically about our impact on the District’s legal aid community.

A topic that piqued interest during the Advisory Committee’s most recent meeting was how the Foundation can better incentivize innovation among the city’s network of legal aid providers. A number of programs, including the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation and Legal Services Corporation’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund, have been established in recent years to provide resources and collaborative outlets for organizations addressing new and emerging legal issues. For instance, the ABA’s Center helped create a phone app to provide victims of Louisiana’s 2016 flooding disaster with information on how they could acquire legal aid and FEMA assistance. Our Advisory Committee member Tiana Russell has volunteered to lead an Innovation Task Force that, over the next few months, will explore how DCBF can learn from these initiatives and identify areas of opportunity. To inform this effort, we recently surveyed our grantee community, asking questions such as what they consider to be barriers to innovation and how DCBF can combat those barriers. The responses have been tremendously insightful and ultimately will help us identify next steps.

Other Advisory Committee members on the Task Force include Barbara O’Reilly and John Tucker.

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