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17th Dec 2020

Strengthening our research & evidence base: next steps for 2021

I have been commissioned by Justice Lab, an initiative of The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF) to design the elements of a strategy that will develop the data infrastructure and data use of front line organisations working in the access to justice sector. In part one, I identified areas of need and key challenges to working with data as a frontline organisation focussed on improving access to justice. My next goal is to identify the activities and initiatives that are most likely to be effective in addressing these challenges.

Having the ‘data/digital foundations’ in place- starting with a clear understanding of goal & problem definition- are an essential prerequisite for organisations to continue to develop their services in the digital age; and to take advantage, or to critically assess the new technologies which are being presented as a solution to the access to justice crisis. This second blog outlines the areas I will be investigating to inform the strategy development. Key to this is a focus on supporting people to fully manage and utilise data to support their work. The activities I intend to work on will explore how to build up the data maturity of the sector, with a core focus on data/digital skills; leadership; and culture. Over the next 8 months, I will explore potential solutions- drawing on work from other sectors and countries and where possible testing approaches to check that they fit with the needs of the sector:


  • Programmes aimed at developing and supporting data champions within organisations
  • Strategies for increasing the sector’s awareness of what AI is- the benefits and the risks


  • Schemes to build up the the digital/data skills of leaders


  • Case studies- How effective are case studies in raising awareness of what is possible and encouraging organisations to use data in new ways?


  • Data standards: which data standards exist and how useful are they?
  • Data sharing models- which arrangements and frameworks?

Data Uses

  • Common outcomes frameworks: do they exist in the  access to justice sector, are they fit for purpose and how might they be improved?
  • Quality measures and standards- How useful are they? What do organisations feel a good quality access to justice service looks like?
  • Guidance on measuring need and demand- what exists, what is needed? Exploring the role for consistent guidance in measuring need and demand
  • Partnerships between organisations and data experts: how well do they work now, how might they be improved?

There are a lot of areas to cover, however the intention is to explore what is already out there, and what needs to be developed through undertaking quick literature reviews and interviews with people who are already working in these areas. As discussed in part one, the approach is one of collaboration and not to replicate existing work, but to explore how access to justice frontline organisations can be supported to develop their data maturity. To this end we will seek a small cohort of organisations to work with. More details to come next year!

Underpinning all this work, is a clear understanding that we’re working in extraordinary times, projects involving front line organisations need to be respectful and value their time. Over the coming months I will also support TLEF to engage in national policy discussions around data (such as the national data strategy), and lead work to develop relationships with funders working in the digital and data space. I will also support work on mapping the ecosystem of organisations working in the access to justice space- to understand what data is held, and what their needs are.

Priorities for spring

In spring, I will focus on skills– data champions within organisations; and exploring how to raise awareness of the impact of AI for people on low incomes. For skills, I’m keen to look at the communities of practice model and speak with data/digital support organisations. For the AI work I’m keen to start with Michele Gilman’s report Poverty Lawgorithm; A Poverty Lawyer’s Guide to Fighting Automated Decision-Making Harms on Low-Income Communities and explore could/should this be applied to UK settings and to review previous work conducted at TLEF. Overall I’m looking to connect with the people who are already doing this or are interested in these areas and find out how TLEF can support their efforts.

As always feel free to get in touch to tell me how right/wrong I am! I’m going to do my best to share my findings and learn out loud, so expect mistakes, U turns and some contrition! My e-mail is tracey.gyateng[@]