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What we Learned from the 2019 Legal Empowerment Network Annual Survey

Each year the Legal Empowerment Network conducts a survey to take stock of where our movement is and where we need to go.

The world has changed dramatically since we first disseminated the latest annual survey at the end of 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the context in which our Network members work and the challenges they face. But one thing has remained steadfast: our community’s shared commitment to advancing equal access to justice for all.

With this unwavering vision, assessing where Network members were at the close of last year and in what collective direction they wanted us to go remains an informative venture. Here are five key takeaways.


Land & environmental justice and women’s rights continue to be the top thematic issue areas

In line with last year’s results, Network members continued to voice strong support for our network to continue to focus on learning opportunities related to land & environmental justice and women’s rights. Over 70% chose at least 1 of the 3 challenges associated with land and environmental justice, while 59% chose women’s rights as their chief challenge. We are working on some exciting new learning opportunities in these areas and plan to continue to include these as primary areas in the virtual Legal Empowerment Leadership Course (LELC) this year.


Community organizing and training support are critical areas to improve

Community organizing & empowerment, and training & supporting community paralegals were the top two areas of practice for the second year in a row. Members want more resources and opportunities in these areas, both of which have increased in importance and difficulty within the context of the pandemic. The Legal Empowerment Leadership Course will also include sessions devoted to these topics and we hope to announce more resources and virtual opportunities in the coming months.


Funding sustainability continues to be increasingly difficult

The 2019 survey results mark the worst funding snapshot since our survey began. A combination of inadequate funding, lack of access to new sources of funding, and over reliance on one funding source put many Network organizations in a vulnerable position. Only 20% of respondents said that their funding situation had improved since the year before, while 35% said their funding situation had worsened.


The pandemic has since made this dismal funding scenario even more grim. In response, Namati and the Legal Empowerment Network, have launched the COVID-19 Grassroots Justice Fund in partnership with The Elders, Pathfinders, and the Global Fund for Human Rights.

The Network-powered Justice For All campaign made significant headway in advocating for increased funding for grassroots justice defenders in 2019 and will continue their work in the year ahead.


The Network’s learning activities are having an impact

Over 80% of respondents said that the Network helped them to learn new knowledge and skills. Capacity building opportunities remain a top priority for us as a community and that will continue to be our top focus.


Our African members are more engaged and vocal in this year’s survey

While members responded to the survey from all corners of the globe, members in Africa dominated the results this year in particular. We are thrilled that our African comrades are making themselves heard —let’s see how other regions try to catch up!



The PDF of full survey results can be viewed and downloaded here. 

July 27, 2020 | Legal Empowerment Network

Region: > Global