The DC Legal Aid Transformations Network (DCLATN) started in June 2021 to reimagine a more equitable civil justice system in DC.
The network brings together legal services providers, social services providers, and other stakeholders to have in-depth conversations about how best to turn this goal into a reality. Since June 2021, DCLATN has held quarterly convenings and developed a group of nine subnetworks to further the work through specific legal aid focus areas.
In September, the DC Bar Foundation hosted its latest DC Legal Aid Transformations Network Convening. With 85 attendees, it was our most well-attended convening thus far. Fifty-eight of the day's participants were first-time attendees, and our goal is to continue growing this network, so we have a group of diverse voices and thought leaders involved in this work.
Our September meeting focused on general updates, network mapping, and subnetworks. We also gave attendees the opportunity to meet in breakout groups to discuss specific issues and make connections so they could continue collaborating outside the convening.
During the convening, we discussed the growth of our nine subnetworks and how they will help facilitate the work of the larger network. Subnetworks were established after the June 2022 Convening. We encourage these smaller groups to meet on their own between quarterly convenings to keep the idea exchange going and grow their networks. Some of the topics they focused on during the September 14 meeting were Coordinated Intake and Referral, how to provide more (or better) services in upstream work, and what would need to happen to participate fully within the group.
We aim to use these subnetworks to cross-pollinate and see what is possible within the network as we develop the Coordinated Intake and Referral system. A participant from the day's event said, "The small group meeting was productive. It was nice to meet some new people." The smaller subnetworks are an opportunity to foster relationships, brainstorm, and develop tangible ways to implement change within DC's legal aid system.
Our partner, Visible Network Labs (VLN), also discussed network mapping. Amanda Beacom, Ph.D., VNL's vice president of research and data science, explained how network mapping works and its purpose for DCLATN. Networking mapping was initially done when the network first launched (June 2021). With more than a year under our belt, it's time to do another network map to see how the network has evolved. We discussed the network map survey, which closed earlier this month, and why we need the data. Besides showing how the network has grown, it will also determine if new connections were made. Understanding how the network is growing is an integral part of doing the work more deeply and in ways that get to the root causes and center the needs of the users of these systems.
Finally, we highlighted (and celebrated) some key milestones the network has helped achieve related to the Coordinated Intake and Referral system.
1. The release of two new reports: Designing a Coordinated Intake and Referral System for Civil Legal Aid in the District of Columbia: Client and Community Member Input and Designing a Coordinated Intake and Referral System for Civil Legal Services in the District of Columbia: Input from Legal Services Providers and Allied Organizations.
2. An informational webinar we hosted in early September to discuss the CIR system provider directory database, which provided an in-depth overview of the database and how to make organizational updates.
It was a successful convening that produced insightful commentary and robust ideas about how we can work better together as a network and what actions we can take to eliminate the barriers many experience when accessing legal aid.
The DC Legal Aid Transformations Network is open to the legal aid community. Join us for our last convening of the year on December 14. Register here to attend!
You can join the DCLATN Slack Channel, where we ask questions and share ideas.
Finally, there's a Slack channel dedicated to Coordinated Intake and Referral for you to join.