While the Network for Justice (NFJ) is not an entirely new initiative, it has undergone significant development over the last 12 months. You may have heard about us in our previous guise – the Litigant in Person Network, an unfortunate name as we weren’t a network for litigants in person! Instead, the NFJ was created to support organisations who were working with people who were struggling to navigate the justice system, and who weren’t able to afford or access legal advice services.
As LawWorks Quarterly readers will know, the access to justice sector is populated with passionate and dedicated individuals with a steadfast commitment to supporting people to access the legal system and use the law as a tool to resolve societal issues. Innovation and progress in developing and delivering services is happening everywhere. However, the lack of capacity of frontline organisations who are oversubscribed and under resourced often means that successful developments and scalable solutions are not shared across the justice community. There is consequently a risk that important developments and resources are being missed which can lead to duplication or gaps.
The NFJ aims to address some of these challenges by supporting members to work more effectively together, and use its collective knowledge and expertise, to address some of the common issues experienced by the justice community, and its users.
We do this by focusing our activities in three key areas:
- Connecting: we proactively connect our members to experience and expertise, this could be to other members and initiatives, or external sector intelligence.
- Coordinating: we provide an online platform which allows our members to share information and showcase their work, and we facilitate coordination of activities between members in key areas of interest and concern.
- Collaborating: we support different parts of the justice community to collaborate on shared interests, opportunities, and issues.
Our biggest success of 2020, alongside our rebrand, was the launch of our new online platform. This platform offers a space for members to find and connect with colleagues, access a community-built hub which shares best practice resources, seeks help and expertise from other community members, and keep up to date with who is doing what.
In order to ensure we are reacting to the needs of the justice community, the NFJ operates a (free!) membership model. Our membership is purposely broad, and while a big portion of our membership (36%) is from free advice service providers, our broader remit is demonstrated by the hundreds of other members from community services, court services, the judiciary, academic and research institutions, funders, and private legal services providers who find value in being connected to a wider justice community.
The NFJ approach focuses on being facilitative, and on amplifying the excellent work already being undertaken by the justice community. To ensure we achieve this, our community directs our work and priorities, and provides consensus on the issues the NFJ should be focusing on, that aren’t being addressed by other networks and initiatives within the community.
The Network for Justice is free to join for anyone interested in linking in and learning from the justice community. We also offer support to existing networks and community support initiatives by providing additional resources to promote and showcase their work and facilitating the growth and development of these initiatives within the broader justice community. The Network is supported by the Access to Justice Foundation (AJTF); the Foundation is an independent fundraising and grant making charity focused on supporting the free legal advice sector.