[District of Columbia, February 24, 2023] – The DC Bar Foundation, in collaboration with Visible Network Labs, announces the release of the DC Legal Aid Transformations Network Fall 2022 Comparison Report. The Foundation convened the DC Legal Aid Transformations Network (DC LATN) in June 2021 to reimagine the delivery of civil legal aid in the District of Columbia and ensure that every resident has a fair and equitable civil legal experience. DC LATN brings together legal aid providers, funders, community activists, social service providers, and other stakeholders to build and sustain a network to advance a user-centered system grounded in wellbeing, anti-racism, and anti-poverty. The group's initial priority is to create a coordinated intake and referral system in DC. In June 2021, the Foundation invited Visible Network Labs (VNL) to conduct a "network mapping" of the inaugural 75 DC LATN members to assess their existing partnerships and how to strengthen them. By September 2022, DC LATN had grown to 103 organizations. VNL invited these organizations to participate in the second network mapping survey to understand what had changed due to DC LATN's quarterly convenings and other activities. Sixty-one organizations responded to the September 2022 survey for a 59% response rate. The full report is at this link. Findings include: 1. The structure and composition of the network have changed over time in ways that support network sustainability. In both 2021 and 2022, legal aid providers are the network's most common type of organization and have the most connections with other members. However, in 2022 there is a more diverse representation of organization types that are more active in the network than in the previous year. Although there will be more members in 2022, the average number of collaborative relationships per member has decreased, and the average levels of collaborative intensity within these relationships have also reduced. Although we typically think that more is better when it comes to networking, the opposite is often true because the most sustainable collaborative efforts don't require participants to increase the number and intensity of their collaborative relationships continually. 2. Perceptions of trust and value among collaborating partners within the network have increased over time. These perceptions are important because they facilitate effective information exchange and decision-making between partners and reduce duplication of effort among groups that may have previously competed. The 2021 and 2022 surveys assessed trust between network partners on three validated dimensions: reliability, mission congruence, and openness to discussion. The 2022 average trust score is high (3.68 out of 4.00), and the scores on each dimension also increased from 2021 to 2022. The surveys also assessed perceived value between partners according to three validated forms of network value: power and influence, level of involvement, and resource contribution. There were notable increases between 2021 and 2022 in partners' power, influence, and level of involvement, with an increase in the average overall value score from 3.00 to 3.31 out of 4.00. Network members across both time points consistently cited their organizations' community connections and justice system expertise as key resources they could contribute to the network. 3. Over the past year, DC LATN has succeeded in key metrics of importance to its members and has provided several benefits to member organizations. In both 2021 and 2022, network members identified the effective exchange of information and resources and the convening of diverse stakeholders as key aspects of collaboration critical to the network's success. In 2022, after a year of participation in the network, 66% of survey respondents rated DC LATN as successful in increasing knowledge sharing among members, and 57% rated the network as successful in increasing cross-sector collaboration. As a result of participation in the network, survey respondents noted several benefits for their organizations, including gaining new perspectives on the DC legal aid system, making valuable contacts with other stakeholders, and learning new ways to collaborate.
About the DC Bar Foundation: We are committed to transforming DC's legal aid network so that all District residents have a fair and equal legal experience. Through our network approach, we actively work to bring together all invested stakeholders to identify and address the unmet civil legal needs of underserved DC residents, create solutions with a critical eye for racial justice and equity, and demonstrate meaningful impact.