DC BAR FOUNDATION LAUNCHES NEW INITIATIVE: NEIGHBORS DESIGNING JUSTICE



UPDATE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Neighbors Designing Justice will launch in September 2020. If you are interested in learning more about this project, please contact Imoni Washington, Director of Programs, at washington@dcbarfoundation.org.

March 3, 2020

Last September, the DC Bar Foundation committed to a strategic goal, pledging to “transform the civil legal aid network, working closely with all stakeholders, so District residents have a fair and equal legal experience.”

DCBF will embrace five key strategies to do so:

  1. Engage all stakeholders in the work

  2. Identify the unmet civil legal needs

  3. Infuse racial justice and equity in our work

  4. Fund with intention, making strategic investments to strengthen and expand legal services in DC

  5. Demonstrate that people who need the services are getting them

Now, the Foundation is readying to launch a major step towards our goal – a new initiative called Neighbors Designing Justice. Neighbors Designing Justice will bring together community members and providers along with DCBF grantees in Anacostia, a predominantly African American and low-income Ward 8 neighborhood that is facing intense displacement.

The Foundation is embarking upon user-centered problem-solving to engage the client community and other stakeholders in more creative thinking, more innovative solutions, and more successful, user-friendly services. What makes this process work in the access to justice setting is legal aid and other stakeholders working in tandem from the very beginning with low-income, vulnerable community members in their own communities in a creative problem-solving process that gives everyone a voice.

In January, we awarded more than 25% of our $10.5M in legal services grants to benefit residents of Ward 8. By taking a deep dive into the past, present, and future of Anacostia, DCBF and its grantees will build trust and strengthen relationships with the community’s members, its social services providers, government agencies and its healthcare, education, and cultural institutions.

Research shows that a majority of people with legal issues never seek legal help, primarily because it never occurs to them that the problems in their lives might be resolvable with legal information or assistance. With a fuller understanding of community issues from a resident’s perspective, a clearer picture will emerge as to which unresolved legal problems are the biggest barriers in peoples’ lives. We will learn directly from our DC neighbors how legal information and assistance could be delivered to the community in the most easily accessible and usable ways.

If you are interested in learning more about our strategic direction or this project, please contact Imoni Washington, Director of Programs, at washington@dcbarfoundation.org or 202-853-9023.

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