The law foundation has donated $50,000 to Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone and $54,083 to Osgoode Hall Law School’s Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution to fund initiatives that support “innovative youth-led tech solutions to justice problems,” according to a statement from the law foundation.
“Access to justice remains a problem and it is something that we need to work to continue to improve,” says Kirsti Mathers McHenry, director of policy and programs at the Law Foundation of Ontario. “I think organizations like the Legal Innovation Zone and the Winkler Institute are taking new approaches to old problems and hopefully coming up with some new solutions.”
The two organizations were selected to receive the grants based on an application process through the law foundation. Mathers McHenry described the process as “not the sort of traditional call” because the law foundation first approached organizations with expertise around design thinking and technology, then selected the recipients.
The law foundation’s former CEO from 2007-2015, Elizabeth Goldberg, inspired the grants, which are funded by revenue from the interest of lawyers’ mixed trust accounts. The law foundation’s current board chair, Linda Rothstein, said in a statement that Goldberg was the first one in the organization who noted that technological innovation could lead to better serving and connecting with youth in the context of the justice system.
“Together, these projects will give the foundation insight into how technology can be harnessed to help young people facing legal problems,” said Rothstein.
The Ryerson LIZ will be using its grant for a project that’s geared toward improving access to justice for urban youth through workshops. They will be working closely with the law foundation and youth to hear about their experiences and specific needs when it comes to accessing the justice system.
From those conversations, the LIZ is planning to produce a white paper outlining the project’s methodology and the recommendations for tech-based access to justice solutions that it will be coming up with from these workshops.
“It’s a fabulous initiative by the law foundation and it’s making sure that youth are better connected with the justice system that’s supposed to serve them,” says Chris Bentley, executive director of the LIZ.
The Winkler Institute will be continuing work started by a youth-led initiative, Feathers of Hope, focusing on developing solutions for aboriginal youth in remote communities to access the justice system in a way that’s culturally sensitive. The institute plans to hold multiple meetings that will foster collaboration between aboriginal youth from fly-in communities and experts in youth justice and design thinking.
“I’m very excited about not just bringing the knowledge of the Winkler Institute to this project but learning a lot from other expertise, including the expertise of youth,” says Nicole Aylwin, assistant director of the Winkler Institute.