Measuring the justice outcomes that survivors of intimate partner violence seek


Measuring the justice outcomes that survivors
of intimate partner violence seek:
An updated prototype

January 26, 2023

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Executive summary

People-centred, outcomes-based justice is justice that addresses the people’s underlying needs and resolves their most pressing legal problems. In order to assess whether people-centred justice is being delivered, we need to be able to measure it. This cannot be done with administrative or case-level data, which only tells us about processes implemented and procedures followed. To understand and improve the quality of justice services in a particular community, it is necessary to track the positive results or changes in well-being that people in that community achieve through the resolution process.

In this policy brief, we build on previous research to offer an updated prototype that enables practitioners working with survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) to do just that. This survivor-centred outcomes measurement tool helps to reconcile the practitioner perspective – which tends to be professionalised, short-term, and strategic – with the way ordinary people live their lives and experience justice. By providing insight into the justice outcomes IPV survivors seek and the resolutions they reach, it enables practitioners to work across disciplines and deliver more responsive and holistic justice care. 

The approach to measurement we set out below is an example of what outcomes-based working in the justice sector can look like. We hope to engage innovative practitioners to pilot this approach in their work and provide us with the feedback we need to improve it. In the meantime, the prototype we offer provides a basis for justice leaders, policymakers, and researchers to radically rethink how we assess and deliver justice to the people who need it most.

How can working outcomes-based help the justice sector resolve people’s legal problems more effectively?

In our recent policy brief, “Focusing on outcomes for people,” we made the case for outcomes-based working in the justice sector. By justice outcome, we mean a positive result or change in well-being that a person with a legal problem achieves through the resolution process. People-centred justice outcomes are a departure from the status quo in that they reflect the needs and goals of people seeking justice, rather than the processes and priorities of legal institutions. Working towards people-centred, as opposed to institutional or administrative outcomes helps bring us closer to SDG 16.3 by narrowing the gap between the supply and demand for justice.

Our survey of the research on procedural, distributive, interpersonal and informational dimensions of justice suggests that the following eight outcomes are generally sought by people faced with a legal problem:

Because justice is highly personal and specific, we found it important to understand not only the general justice outcomes people look for but also those sought by people faced with particular types of legal problems. Through interviews and focus groups in Uganda, Nigeria, and the Netherlands, we identified 21 outcomes that survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) typically seek. You can read about this research and what we learned from it in the case study, “Focusing on outcomes for survivors of intimate partner violence.”

Developing an outcomes framework for a specific legal problem is only a first step towards a justice sector that centres on people. The next is to operationalise these 21 outcomes by answering difficult questions about how, when, and by whom they can realistically be measured.

Why is measuring the justice outcomes that people seek important?

Measuring progress towards standardised sets of people-centred justice outcomes benefits people with legal problems as well as practitioners who want to help them.

People faced with a pressing legal problem generally know what kind of help they need, but they are not always motivated or empowered to access it. Some have low expectations of what justice services can achieve, and others may simply not be aware of the kinds of assistance available to them. Measuring people-centred justice outcomes creates an opportunity for people with legal problems to make their needs known and be connected with appropriate sources of help in their community.

Practitioners, on the other hand, are limited by their professional skills and in the kind of help they can provide. A lawyer may be able to obtain a restraining order that protects an IPV survivor from her abusive partner, but the same lawyer is not necessarily equipped to help her heal psychologically from the violence she experienced. A tool for measuring outcomes gives practitioners a holistic understanding of the kind of help their client needs from the moment they meet. Based on this information, they can tailor their intervention or make a referral. Later, they can use the same tool to assess whether their client was able to resolve the problem, or whether he or she still needs help.

If over time, practitioners from a range of disciplines begin working together to achieve a shared set of outcomes for people with legal problems in their community, a more responsive, holistic, and effective justice system can begin to emerge. Shifting our focus from what the current justice system can provide to the kind of help people really need can eventually make way for legal and regulatory changes that more fundamentally transform and integrate the way we deliver justice services.

Why start with intimate partner violence?

We focused our outcomes research on intimate partner violence (IPV) – a type of domestic violence that can include physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence or abuse – because it is a particularly prevalent and impactful legal problem that presents unique challenges for measurement. 

Our case study revealed that survivors of IPV have a complex and diverse set of needs that typically change over time. Research shows that they are often contradictory in the sense that achieving one outcome, such as increased safety, may require sacrificing others, such as harmony in the community. These complexities make IPV a good test case for people-centred justice outcomes measurement. A tool that can safely and effectively measure progress towards outcomes as multidimensional and dynamic as those sought by IPV survivors can likely be adapted to monitor other problem-specific outcomes. 

The unique nature of IPV also means that the added value of a tool that can highlight and reduce gaps in people-centred justice delivery is high. IPV is vastly underreported, and many survivors never seek help from practitioners or are inadequately served by them. This makes individualised treatment particularly important. A practical tool for measuring IPV-specific outcomes can help practitioners ensure that the services they deliver are accessible to survivors and responsive to their self-reported needs and goals for the future.

What research supports the approach to outcomes measurement we recommend?

In a previous policy brief, “Focusing on outcomes for people: An opportunity for the justice sector,” we offered two rudimentary prototypes to show how an outcomes measurement tool – essentially a satisfaction survey  – could look. The purpose of this research was to improve the IPV-specific prototype based on the feedback and advice of experts in empirical legal research, restorative justice, and outcomes measurement. A list of the eight experts we consulted to update the prototype can be found in Annex A.

Based on a limited review of the literature on measuring justice, we identified three core research questions that guided our in-depth interviews with these experts. They included:

The experts’ answers to these questions – combined with HiiL’s experience in people-centred justice programming – informed the changes we made to the original prototype. The resulting  tool for measuring survivor-centred outcomes can be found in Annex B and is introduced in the next section. After describing the tool’s key features, we discuss challenges we expect to face in the implementation process. We conclude by outlining next steps for outcomes-based working in the justice sector, and invite innovative and ambitious practitioners to pilot this approach.

Key features of the updated prototype

The updated prototype we offer in Annex B is just that: a prototype. This means that our journey towards designing a tool that measures outcomes for IPV survivors is ongoing, and we expect to continue iterating based on the feedback we receive.

Why not just deliver the final product? Our interviews with experts revealed that many of our questions about the optimal design and administration of the tool cannot be answered at the outset. Asking about people-centred justice outcomes in a valid and reliable way requires field testing. In order to be properly understood, it is important that the language we use is as clear as possible and reflects the way that regular people in a given community talk about their experiences of IPV and justice. Proactive accommodations for IPV survivors who are deaf, illiterate, or do not speak the language in which the tool is administered may also need to be made. 

For these reasons, the prototype we recommend should not be understood as a definitive solution. Rather, it is the starting point of a collaborative testing and development process involving IPV survivors and practitioners who help them. If this describes you, we are interested to hear from you about how we can improve. 

In its current form, the updated prototype has five key features. It:

A survivor-centred tool to begin working outcomes-based: preview of the prototype

1. Is intended to measure the impact of practitioners working together rather than in isolation

One of our initial aims in developing a tool for measuring people-centred justice outcomes was to be able to compare the effectiveness of different practitioners at meeting the needs of IPV survivors. In discussing this with experts however, we learned that attributing outcomes and measuring impact in this way cannot be done reliably without experimental or randomised research. 

People live complex lives – especially when faced with a pressing legal problem like IPV – and this makes it difficult to isolate the impact of any particular intervention or service on the outcomes they are ultimately able to achieve. Evidence that survivors of IPV tended to see, for example – improvements in their safety while they received shelter or support from a particular practitioner – would not by itself prove that those improvements were not caused by other factors. Funders in the justice sector might therefore be reluctant to award funding on that basis.

Knowing that randomised research of the kind expected by most funders would be costly and difficult to organise ethically in a justice environment, we adapted the prototype to focus on where it can add the most value. Rather than attempting to measure the contributions of individual practitioners working in isolation to people-centred justice outcomes, the tool we developed is designed to help networks of practitioners more holistically understand and address the needs of IPV survivors in their communities. 

Though the tool’s primary purpose has shifted to improving the quality of local justice delivery, bringing about systemic changes in how justice services are evaluated and funded remains HiiL’s long-term objective. Fostering a shared sense of ownership among practitioners to achieve the justice outcomes their clients seek is a first step towards funding high-performing and interdisciplinary networks of practitioners, such as one-stop-shop dispute resolution platforms and community justice centres. HiiL’s previous research on gamechangers suggests that these integrated service delivery models have the greatest potential to increase access to justice at scale. Combined with other indicators, the outcomes data collected through the tool can eventually be used to make the case for greater investment in these gamechangers and in SDG 16.3: equal access to justice for all.

2. Integrates with existing service delivery processes

The updated prototype is designed to integrate seamlessly into the interactions that practitioners are ideally already having with people who come to them for help. At intake, the prototype facilitates a conversation between the practitioner and the IPV survivor about the outcomes that the survivor considers most important to achieve. This conversation supports both the practitioner and the survivor to think expansively about the different forms that justice in the aftermath of IPV might take, and immediately gives the survivor voice and agency in the resolution process. It also creates an opportunity for the practitioner to indicate which of the outcomes he or she can realistically help with, and which can be addressed through a referral. 

The result of this initial conversation is a service delivery/referral plan that is tailored to achieve the outcomes that are most important for resolving the problem. If the person administering the tool is an intake person working in a one-stop-shop or community justice centre, rather than a practitioner, the same conversation would be used to inform that person’s decisions about where to refer the IPV survivor. An adaptation of the tool for this use case can be found in Annex C. 

During or after service delivery, the prototype can be used to follow up with IPV survivors about whether their priorities in the resolution process have changed, and to measure the progress they have made towards the outcomes they identified as most important. At which specific points in the service delivery process this occurs depends on the particular practitioner and the opportunities they have to safely and privately engage with their client. The highly sensitive nature of IPV means that attempting to administer follow-up assessments electronically may jeopardise survivors’ safety. In-person follow-up is recommended. 

Ideally, changes in the survivor’s circumstances and priorities would be registered intermittently throughout the resolution process, so that practitioners have more than one chance to tailor the help they provide. If an IPV survivor returns for the same kind of help they sought previously, this is an opportunity for the practitioner to learn what has changed since their last meeting, and why the help he or she provided was insufficient to resolve the problem.

Especially when working with IPV survivors – who may be living in an unsafe environment or be highly transient – opportunities for in-person, outcomes-based working are likely to be limited. The flexibility of the tool allows practitioners to start from where they and their clients are at. With that said, it is best-suited for practitioners who provide support to IPV survivors over a sustained period of time and will have at least one follow-up interaction with them.

3. Empowers IPV survivors

IPV is a profoundly disempowering experience. This often extends into the resolution process: many of the survivors we spoke to as part of our case study were secondarily victimised as a result of incompetent or biased treatment by practitioners who were intended to help them. We therefore found it particularly important to design an outcomes measurement tool that would not only do no additional harm, but would actually add value to IPV survivors’ experience of justice. One way the updated prototype does this is by creating opportunities for the IPV survivors to describe their experience in their own words. 

The first opportunity comes at intake, when the practitioner asks the survivor open questions about his or her needs and goals in the resolution process. The questions are phrased in a general way so as not to imply that the outcomes IPV survivors want should in any way be constrained by what other people in their situation might find important or by the kind of help the practitioner can provide. Instead of a purely strategic interaction that anticipates or attempts to influence IPV survivors’ justice narratives, this approach allows outcomes the practitioners might not expect to emerge. 

Only after this conversation has taken place do we recommend that practitioners introduce the standardised list of 21 outcomes. The practitioner makes a first attempt to identify which outcomes in the form are most important based on what the IPV survivor has shared. The practitioner then invites him or her to make corrections and note down any outcomes that do not fit into the predefined framework in the “other” category.

Showing IPV survivors the full list of outcomes at this point in the process encourages them to think broadly about the kinds of help they might need to heal from harm they experienced. Implicitly, it gives them permission to ask for more than they might otherwise expect to receive. Only when the survivor feels satisfied with what the practitioner has written down does the conversation shift towards how those outcomes can best be achieved.

Later in the outcomes measurement and resolution process, IPV survivors are again invited to share how they are doing in their own words and reflect on any big changes that have occurred in their life since their last meeting with the practitioner. Including qualitative questions in an otherwise standardised tool is a way to respect the agency of both parties and capture IPV survivors’ experience as accurately as possible. Giving IPV survivors the ability to track improvements over time by taking a copy of the completed intake or assessment form with them can also have an empowering effect, if it can be done safely. 

4. Enables practitioners to support IPV survivors in a more responsive and holistic way

The updated prototype is intended to be administered by practitioners and also benefit them. The first way it does this is by shifting their focus from the help they are able to provide to the diverse forms of help IPV survivors may need.

Understandably, many practitioners in the justice sector interpret the needs of prospective clients through the lens of the professional help they know how to deliver. Lawyers, for example, are trained to identify the legal rights, remedies, and responsibilities relevant to a particular case. They might not consider that what the person in front of them needs to resolve their problem is something simpler (i.e. to be listened to and believed) or something outside of their professional expertise (i.e. job training). With its multidimensional outcomes, the updated prototype encourages practitioners to take a more holistic perspective on the prevention and resolution of IPV and be aware of the limited role they as individuals can play. 

The outcomes data practitioners collect using this tool complements more traditional forms of data they may already be gathering, such as demographic information or administrative, case-level data. By analysing them side by side, practitioners can identify the types of IPV survivors who are most and least able to achieve the outcomes they seek, and better understand the relationship between the interventions they provide and the resolutions survivors reach. 

To add the most value, the tool should ideally not be administered by one practitioner in isolation but by a network of practitioners. Currently, responsibility for people-centred justice is diluted, because practitioners primarily feel responsible for outcomes they can control. Even those who are invested in the overall well-being of their clients may feel they do not have the time or resources to connect them with other sources of help. However, if multiple practitioners begin working to help IPV survivors achieve a shared set of outcomes, they will by necessity become more aware of each other’s capacities. 

Eventually, this collective knowledge could be documented in a guide indicating which practitioners in the network are able to assist with which IPV-specific outcomes. Such a guide could be used to facilitate outcomes-based referrals between them or – if administered in a community justice centre or one-stop-shop environment – by the person or centralised body responsible for intake and triage. 

Over time, the outcomes data collected by a given network of practitioners will reveal whether they have an accurate understanding of the kind of support IPV survivors actually want and need. Mismatches in where IPV survivors go for help and the help they receive can be identified and facilitate a collective reassessment whether the justice services available are truly fit-for-purpose in terms of preventing and resolving IPV. 

5. Generates new understanding of the outcomes IPV survivors seek and achieve

The final key feature of the updated prototype is that it will provide researchers with new insight into the outcomes IPV survivors look for and achieve. It does this first and foremost by operationalizing and measuring a standardised set of IPV-specific outcomes. While 21 outcomes cannot contain the full spectrum IPV survivors’ diverse experiences and conceptions of justice, the experts we interviewed agreed that standardisation was necessary for reliable measurement. Properly understood by the practitioners administering the tool and the IPV survivors completing it, these indicators make analysis of survivor-centred justice delivery across practitioners possible. 

Certain features of the tool make it easier to understand and interpret than before. An even- rather than odd-numbered answer scale, for example, and consistently labelled answer choices across questions were included to increase the validity of the follow-up component. The resolution status question was added to shed light on how the achievement of certain outcomes relates to the overall resolution of the original problem.

Including an “other” category among the standardised outcomes indicators will also help researchers to assess, over time, whether the 21 outcomes we have identified through qualitative research accurately capture the dimensions of justice that are most important to IPV survivors. In the process of refining these outcomes, HiiL will aim to reduce their number. A long list of outcomes is a barrier to  implementation because it makes the tool more resource-intensive to administer. By excluding outcomes that prove not to be independent from the others, as well as outcomes that are relatively rare, we hope to eventually arrive at a list of 6-10 high-value IPV-specific outcomes to be measured.

Whether or not these updated features and the outcomes we have identified reliably differentiate between IPV survivors in a given community and the outcomes they seek is something that can only be discovered over time, through field testing and implementation. The results of these tests will inform future iterations of the measurement tool.

Implementation challenges we anticipate

In addition to informing the development of the updated prototype, our interviews with experts helped us to identify and understand three challenges practitioners are likely to face in the implementation process.

Changes in outcomes are not always linear and may occur over a long period of time

What people need and want to achieve in order to resolve their legal problem tends to change over time. Changes in desired outcomes are especially likely among survivors of IPV, who often experience violence more than once or cyclically, and whose circumstances may look very different from one day to the next. This makes it difficult to determine when measurement of people-centred justice delivery should begin and end.

The experts we interviewed pointed out that IPV survivors who seek help tend to experience the most important changes in their well-being (i.e. greater stability within their family, or improved mental health) gradually – and not necessarily consistently – over a long period of time. This means that outcomes data collected six months, one year, or even a number of years after intake is likely to be the most meaningful from a people-centred justice perspective. At the same time, changes that occurred years after intake are the most difficult to measure. Practitioners may understandably not see themselves as responsible for changes that occur so long after their intervention, or may simply lose contact with their clients over that period of time. 

This underlines the importance of a shift in focus on the part of practitioners from the short-term outcomes that they can individually and demonstrably deliver to the more lasting changes in the well-being of IPV survivors that they can collectively bring about. Survivor-centred justice that fully resolves intractable legal problems like IPV cannot not be expected to fit within one practitioner’s skillset or service delivery timeline.

Outcomes data can only be collected with consent, and may be privileged

An essential missing piece of the updated prototype is a process for obtaining IPV survivors’ consent to participate and have their data collected. This process should precede the outcomes measurement process and should make clear to IPV survivors what the information they share with practitioners will be used for, and how it will be privately and securely stored such that it will not endanger them.  

As part of this consent process, IPV survivors should be asked if they are comfortable speaking with the practitioner or intake person who intends to administer the outcomes measurement tool in the place he or she intends to administer it. The highly sensitive nature of IPV and the stigma that surrounds it mean that even the most well-intentioned practitioners risk creating an environment in which IPV survivors feel unsafe to express themselves. Practitioners can reduce this risk by communicating with them transparently, clarifying that their responses will have no bearing on their eligibility for services, and giving them maximal agency in the resolution process.

A consent process has not yet been developed because how exactly the outcomes data will be collected, stored, and used will need to be determined in partnership with practitioners interested in piloting the tool. This will also involve clarifying whether or not professional rules mean that the information shared with the practitioner during intake is privileged. The development of a high-quality process for ensuring that IPV survivors’ outcomes data is confidentially collected, stored, and protected from misuse is a precondition to administering the updated prototype in a safe way.

Practitioner and researcher objectives may not always align

At this early stage, HiiL is most interested in making it possible for innovative practitioners to collect and learn from people-centred justice outcomes data. We will not attempt to access the data collected, but will rather work with these practitioners to adapt the tool to their context and ways of working, implement it safely, and understand how their practice evolves while using it. We hope that this will remove any incentive for practitioners to inflate the outcomes data they collect or create an atmosphere in which IPV survivors feel that they cannot answer the questions in the follow-up component honestly.

Eventually however, HiiL and other researchers in the sector may be interested in using the anonymised outcomes data collected to improve upon the list of IPV-specific outcomes we identified and understand how survivors can best be supported to achieve justice. At this stage – and particularly if opportunities for outcomes-based funding become available – there is a risk that conflicts of interest between practitioners and researchers will emerge and need to be managed. In principle however, we foresee that our interests in data on the outcomes IPV survivors seek and achieve would be the same.

Next steps towards outcomes-based working in the justice sector

Implement an outcomes-based approach to your work

As this policy brief has established, a crucial next step towards outcomes-based working in the justice sector is for innovative practitioners or networks of practitioners to pilot and test the survivor-centred outcomes measurement tool we have introduced. HiiL is aware that many practitioners who support IPV survivors are already overstretched and is prepared to help localise the tool and make outcome-based working as easy to implement as possible. This will help us to ensure that the updated prototype is robust and fit-for-purpose. Following implementation, HiiL is also interested in supporting practitioners to monitor changes in IPV-specific outcomes in a systematic way.

Support the development of people-centred justice outcome frameworks for other legal problem types

The tool we developed for measuring people-centred justice outcomes is IPV-specific, but nothing prevents it from being adapted and used to measure progress towards other sets of problem-specific outcomes. Developing an outcomes framework for each of the most pressing legal problems is resource-intensive, but investment in this kind of research and development is necessary to make outcomes-based working in the justice sector a reality. 

In addition to benefiting new populations of justice users and practitioners, developing outcome frameworks for other legal problem types would help to improve our present understanding of the justice outcomes that people with legal problems generally seek. Each new problem-specific framework provides an opportunity to reassess the eight general justice outcomes identified at the start of this policy brief and gain insight into what dimensions of justice they might still miss.

Later – when a number of problem-specific outcomes frameworks have been developed and organised under the more general justice outcomes – it will be possible to observe which general justice outcomes people with different types of legal problems find most important to achieve. Researchers may learn that for survivors of IPV, security is the most important for example, whereas fair distribution of resources and responsibilities may be the biggest priority for victims of land grabbing. 

Developing more problem-specific outcome frameworks also creates an opportunity to compare them with the process-based indicators that justice system actors would traditionally use to measure justice in those areas. This would help practitioners to better understand the relationship between the inputs they provide and the changes in well-being people with specific legal problems actually experience.

Work together to make a holistic approach to resolving people’s legal problems the norm

As practitioners better integrate the diverse forms of help they provide and begin working together to increase the long-term well-being of people faced with legal problems, a more responsive, holistic, and effective justice system will begin to emerge. The survivor-centred outcomes measurement tool we have set out here is just one tool to support this shift in perspective and broader transformation in the way justice is delivered. We hope that practitioners, policymakers, and funders in the justice sector will help to set that transformation in motion – whether by testing this approach, supporting future research on the justice outcomes that people seek, or promoting the development of outcome-based models of financing and regulation.

Annex A: Justice measurement experts consulted

The views expressed by the eight experts we consulted in the research process are their own. They should not be considered representative of their affiliated institutions.

Annex B: A survivor-centred tool to begin working outcomes-based
See here.
Annex C: A survivor-centred tool to begin working outcomes-based in a one-stop-shop or community justice centre environment
See here.


This Policy Brief was written by:

Isabella Banks, Justice Sector Advisor

Manon Huchet-Bodet, Justice Sector Advisor

[1] Banks and Huchet-Bodet 2022

[2] These are sometimes referred to in the justice measurement literature as “substantive” outcomes and contrasted with “service” and “process” outcomes. OECD and Open Society Justice Initiative 2016, 22. They may also be called “long-term” or “soft” outcomes and contrasted with “inputs,” “outputs,” and “results-based outcomes.” Butler 2022, 7.

[3] OECD and Open Society Justice Initiative 2016, 2-3; Rosenbaum et al. 2011, 9; Butler 2022.

[4] Aiken and Wizner 2013, 80-82; Burnett and Sandefur 2022, 106; OECD and Open Society Justice Initiative 2016, 2.

[5] Colquitt and Rodell 2015; Colquitt 2012; Verdonschot et al. 2008.

[6] OECD and Open Society Foundations 2019, 145.

[7] Banks and Huchet-Bodet 2022.

[8] Garcia-Moreno, Guedes, and Knerr 2012; Hulme et al. 2021.

[9] Banks and Huchet-Bodet 2022; Kulkarni, Bell, and McDaniel Rhodes 2012; Goodman, Epstein, and Sullivan 2017, 4.

[10] Thomas, Goodman, and Putnins 2015; Goodman, Epstein, and Sullivan 2017.

[11] Bender 2016.

[12] Goodman, Epstein, and Sullivan 2017; Kulkarni, Bell, and McDaniel Rhodes 2012.

[13] Banks and Huchet-Bodet 2022.

[14] OECD/Open Society Foundations 2019, 148.

[15] Callanan et al. 2012, 1.

[16] Dhru, Nikam, and Barendrecht 2022; Dhru, Nikam, and Barendrecht 2022.

[17] Walker and Hester, n.d., 2.

[18] Callanan et al. 2012, 12; Walker and Hester, n.d., 8.

[19] Banks and Huchet-Bodet 2022.

[20] Callanan et al. 2012, 10.

[21] Callanan et al. 2012, 3; Scott et al. 2015, 10.

[22] Callanan et al. 2012, 5; Walker and Hester, n.d., 8; Aiken and Wizner 2013, 90.

[23] Callanan et al. 2012, 7.

[24] Butler 2022, 20.

[25] Callanan et al. 2012, 20.

[26] Callanan et al. 2012, 2.

[27] Callanan et al. 2012, 3; Clarke and Hannaford-Agor 2020, 9.

[28] Callanan et al. 2012, 5.

[29] Callanan et al. 2012, 10.

[30] Banks and Huchet-Bodet 2022; Scott et al. 2015, 8.

[31] Butler 2022, 10

[32] Callanan et al. 2012, 5.

[33] Callanan et al. 2012, 3.

[34] Callanan et al. 2012, 16; Rosenbaum et al. 2011, 3-4; Butler 2022, 21.

[35] Walker and Hester, n.d., 16; European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice 2017, 8.

[36] Burnett and Sandefur 2022, 111, 113.

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Banks, Isabella, and Manon Huchet-Bodet. 2022. “Case study: Focusing on outcomes for survivors of intimate partner violence.” HiiL.

Banks, Isabella, and Manon Huchet-Bodet. 2022. “Focusing on outcomes for people: An opportunity for the justice sector.” HiiL.

Bender, Annah. 2016. “Ethics, Methods, and Measures in Intimate Partner Violence Research: The Current State of the Field.” Violence Against Women, 1-32. 10.1177/1077801216658977.

Burnett, Matthew, and Rebecca Sandefur. 2022. “Designing Just Solutions at Scale: Lawyerless Legal Services and Evidence-Based Regulation.” Direito Público 19 (102): 104-119.

Butler, Kerryn. 2022. “Legal Assistance Services Outcomes Frameworks: A Rapid Scoping Review.” Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales.$file/Legal%20Assistance%20Services%20rapid%20scoping%20review_LJF%20Publication.pdf.

Callanan, Meg, Caroline Turley, Ashley Brown, Tom Kenny, and NatCen Social Research. 2012. “Measuring outcomes for victims of crime: A resource.” VCSE Workshops.

Clarke, Thomas, and Paula Hannaford-Agor. 2020. “Measuring the Impact of Access to Justice Programs: An Assessment Tool for Funders and Policymakers.” National Center for State Courts.

Colquitt, Jason. 2012. In The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psychology, edited by Steve Kozlowski, 526-547. Vol. 1. N.p.: Oxford University Press.

Colquitt, Jason, and Jessica Rodell. 2015. “Measuring Justice and Fairness.” In The Oxford Handbook of Justice in the Workplace, edited by Russell Cropanzano and Maureen Ambrose, 187-202. N.p.: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/OXFORDHB/9780199981410.013.8.

Dhru, Kanan, Manasi Nikam, and Maurits Barendrecht. 2022. “Community Justice Services.” HiiL.

Dhru, Kanan, Manasi Nikam, and Maurits Barendrecht. 2022. “One-stop Shop Dispute Resolution.” HiiL.

European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice. 2017. “Measuring the quality of justice.” Council of Europe.

Garcia-Moreno, Claudia, Alessandra Guedes, and Wendy Knerr. 2012. “Understanding and Addressing Violence Against Women: Intimate partner violence.” World Health Organization (WHO).

Goodman, Lisa, Deborah Epstein, and Cris Sullivan. 2017. “Beyond the RCT: Integrating Rigor and Relevance to Evaluate the Outcomes of Domestic Violence Programs.” American Journal of Evaluation 39 (1): 1-13. 10.1177/1098214017721008.

Hulme, Shann, Lillian Flemons, Cátia Pontedeira, and Michaela Bruckmayer. 2021. “The Covid-19 pandemic and intimate partner violence against women in the EU.” European Institute for Gender Equality.

Kulkarni, Shanti, Holly Bell, and Dianne McDaniel Rhodes. 2012. “Back to Basics: Essential Qualities of Services for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence.” Violence Against Women 18 (1): 85-101. 10.1177/1077801212437137.

OECD and Open Society Foundations. 2019. “Access to Justice and Legal Needs Surveys.” In Legal Needs Surveys and Access to Justice, 23-56. Paris: OECD Publishing.

OECD and Open Society Justice Initiative. 2016. “Understanding Effective Access to Justice.” OECD.

Rosenbaum, Dennis, Amie Schuck, Daniel Lawrence, Susan Hartnett, Jack McDevitt, and Shad Posick. 2011. “Community-based Indicators of Police Performance: Introducing the Platform’s Public Satisfaction Survey.” Office of Justice Programs.

Scott, Sara, Jennie Williams, Carol McNaughton Nicholls, Sally McManus, Ashley Brown, Shannon Harvey, Liz Kelly, and Joanne Lovett. 2015. “A briefing for service providers and commissioners: Measuring outcomes for survivors of abuse and violence.” DMSS Research.

Thomas, Kristie, Lisa Goodman, and Susan Putnins. 2015. “”I Have Lost Everything”: Trade-Offs of Seeking Safety From Intimate Partner Violence.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 85 (2). 10.1037/ort0000044.

Verdonschot, Jin Ho, Maurits Barendrecht, Laura Klaming, and Peter Kamminga. 2008. “Measuring Access to Justice: The Quality of Outcomes.” TISCO Working Paper Series on Civil Law and Conflict Resolution Systems 14 (007): 1-22. 10.2139.

Walker, Sarah-Jane, and Marianne Hester. n.d. “The ‘Measuring Justice’ toolkit.” Centre for Gender and Violence Research, University of Bristol. Accessed December 5, 2022.

Table of Contents


What works in people-centered justice


How to figure out “What works”
in People-centered justice?

January 24, 2023

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“What works” is a crucial yet still unanswered question in the justice field. This policy brief calls for urgent policy, research and funding action to address four aspects of the problem:


At any time, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide have legal problems they cannot solve. Data from counties where HiiL worked make the problem more concrete. For instance, in the US, every year, there are 260 million significant and difficult-to-resolve legal problems. One hundred twenty million of them do not find a fair solution.1 In Ethiopia, there are 7.6 million legal problems yearly, of which 5.2 million remain unresolved.2

Legal problems occur everywhere around us. More likely than not, each of us will get into a dispute or grievance and will need some legal process to bring us to a fair resolution. But are there solutions to the many legal problems? Are these solutions equally accessible? Do we know which pathways to solutions work better than others?

To date, there is minimal data about the outcomes of legal problems. However, data is      emerging – mainly as the result of large-scale national legal needs surveys. These data persistently show that not enough legal problems are resolved fairly. The reasons for the      access to justice gap are complex, but they are not an excuse not to delve further into the issue. The justice needs of people often sit “in the blind spot” of justice policymakers and providers – unseen and unthought-of. In fact, the rules, procedures and stakeholders are often not concerned with the people who need fair resolutions.

To achieve UN’s SDG 16.3 “Equal access to justice for all”, we need diverse justice delivery models that can scale up massively in correspondence with the huge demand. How do we know if such solutions “work”? What does it mean that something “works” in justice? These seemingly simple questions should be coupled with additional questions such as “working where”, “working for whom”, “working for what sort of questions”, “working under what conditions”, etc.

Knowing “what works” is essential for every human and social activity area. Investing scarce and limited resources in actions with a higher chance of succeeding is prudent. A huge research and development industry informs the healthcare field about which treatments and procedures lead to results. Educational professionals are constantly searching for new methods and approaches that “work” in delivering better scholarly outputs and outcomes. It is different, however, in the field of access to justice, where services and interventions are rarely measured and evaluated to figure out “what works”.

“[..] a comparable evidence-based approach is notably absent from the many efforts to expand access to the justice system for people facing such civil legal problems as foreclosure, eviction, child custody disputes, domestic violence, or consumer fraud claims.” 3

To put it simply, “what works” are interventions that alter the outcomes of the justice journeys positively.” 4

The primary purpose of this policy brief is to make a case for and provide examples of evidence-based insights about “What works” and to stimulate decision-makers and researchers to continue further with this process.

1. The problem with knowing “what works” in the field of justice

What do we know about “What works” in justice? There is some progress, but the truth is that we do not know much about “What works” in justice. First, there is very little robust data in the field of access to justice. “Gold standard” randomised control trials are extremely rare. Fortunately, the growing empirical legal research and evidence-based policy movements aspire to bridge that gap, but it will take much time and resources to make real progress.

Second, there is very little agreement about what the  “outcomes of interventions” mean in the justice field. More often than not, justice outcomes are reduced to case outcomes. Administrative and court data at national and regional levels tell us whether a case is solved or is still pending, but not a lot more.

Third, the interventions for resolving legal problems are rarely viewed as packages of activities designed and implemented to solve specific problems. This makes it challenging to design appropriate research, gather data and answer the “what works” question in sufficient detail. For instance, adjudication alone is often a combination of various treatments such as advice, mediation and reconciliation, representation, and deciding the matter – not to mention all of these treatments occurring for different clients with different needs in different contexts. With so many ingredients, it is difficult to claim that adjudication “works” or “does not work”.

Fourth, the attribution problem makes it even more difficult to establish “what works” in the justice field. The question itself is based on a solid causal relationship between an intervention and a (positive) outcome. Randomised control trials based on experimental and quasi-experimental designs are not easy to implement in the justice field.

Nevertheless, “What works” is an essential part of people-centred justice.

The OECD calls for “developing and implementing policies and services that meet [people’s legal] needs, and removing barriers to access as part of a holistic vision for a people-centred justice ecosystem”.5  To achieve that, there is a need for “ongoing and co-ordinated research and evaluation conducted to identify and maintain an evidence base about what strategies “work” most effectively and cost-effectively, for whom, and in what circumstances to address legal and justice needs, including in the planning and delivery of legal and justice services”.6

“Implicit in designing cost-effective and effective services for the particular context is the need to have sound knowledge in relation to what strategies, interventions and services are most effective and cost-effective at addressing particular legal and justice needs. This in turn implies understanding what works in any circumstance, including for those people with multiple disadvantages and experiencing multiple problems who may not act in the rational way that legal systems may expect them to. In other words, identifying “what works” would need to take into account people, circumstances and emotions; pathways to resolution and support must be informed by how people experience legal and justice problems, and how they engage available pathways to address them.” 7

2. “What works” in delivering justice to the people: an exercise with legal needs data

HiiL has conducted legal needs surveys in more than 20 countries worldwide. More than 115,000 individuals from more than 25 countries were interviewed about their legal problems and needs for justice. We queried this rich source to understand more about what works in justice.

The main purpose of the analysis is to establish an interest in “what” works by demonstrating the importance and potential of people-centred data. To keep this policy paper short, we explain the data, methodology and detailed findings in a separate background paper. Here, we restate the main findings of three multivariate models that look at the legal needs dataset to answer the “What works” question.

Model 1: Courts and lawyers have significant resolution power but take a lot of time to solve legal problems

Model 1 analyses the association between the results of justice journeys and three sets of variables: party-related variables8, problem-related variables9 and process-related variables. The dependent variable in Model 1 is the resolution of the problem measured at four levels – “Completely resolved”, “Partially resolved”, “Ongoing”, and “Not resolved”. The dispute resolution process in this model is represented by the process perceived as most helpful in resolving the legal issue. We aggregated the many types of dispute resolution mechanisms into a few major categories – “Courts and lawyers”, “Police”, “Other organised procedures”, “Personal network”, and “Self-action”.

The main finding from this analysis is that using “Courts and lawyers” increases the likelihood that a problem is “Completely resolved” compared to other mechanisms. However, “Courts and lawyers” are slow – using “Courts and lawyers” greatly increases the risk that a legal problem is “Ongoing”. The use of “Police” and “Self-action” increases the risk that a problem is “Not resolved.”

Model 2: The users do not see considerable differences in the quality of the outcome delivered by various dispute resolution mechanisms  

Model 2 uses essentially the same set of independent variables 10, however, the dependent variable in this model is a composite measure of the quality of the outcome. The elements of this outcome variable are measures of distributive justice, restorative justice, enforcement and the potential of the result to resolve the underlying problem.11

The results imply no significant differences in the outcome quality of the various dispute resolution mechanisms. We compared all categories of dispute resolution mechanisms to the category of “Courts and lawyers” and found that the differences are not statistically significant. Men report higher satisfaction with the quality of the outcome than women. However, in the multivariate model, this difference is not significant.

There are statistically significant differences in the perceived quality of the outcome in some person- and problem-related variables. Compared to the youngest category, young adults (24-35) and middle age (35-55) report better outcomes. People with medium and high education report significantly better results than people without education. However, higher-income individuals report worse results than those with lower incomes. The justice journeys for employment and family-related legal problems receive lower outcome scores compared to land problems.

Model 3: Deciding a matter is an intervention that “works”, but the caveat is that deciding can take a long time

Model 3 explores the impact of dispute resolution interventions on the outcomes of legal problems. Interventions are the discrete activities that third parties apply to resolve problems. A third party can use one or more interventions in a dispute. Therefore, the variable is based on a multiple-choice selection – more than one of the following interventions (or lack of interventions) is possible.12

“Advice” is the most frequently used intervention in resolving legal problems related to land, employment and family issues. However, “Advice” seems to be the least effective of the interventions except for the “Other” and “Doing nothing” options. “Mediating/reconciling”, “Deciding the matter”, and even “Referring” increase considerably the chance that a problem is “Completely resolved” as compared to being “Not resolved”. The options “Doing nothing” or “Other” interventions increase considerably the risk that a problem remains “Not resolved”.

“Deciding” is the intervention that most considerably outperforms “Advice” 13 as a strategy to “Completely resolve” a problem. “Deciding” an issue substantively decreases the risk of the problem being “Ongoing”. “Representing” and “Doing nothing” both increase the likelihood that a problem will be “Ongoing” instead of “Completely resolved”.

“Deciding” also decreases the risk that a problem is “Not resolved” compared to the “Advising” intervention. “Doing nothing” significantly increases the risk that a problem ends as “Not resolved”. Compared to “Preparing documents”, “Mediating”, “Deciding” and even “Referring”, “Advice” significantly increases the risk that people consider a problem is “Not resolved”. “Preparing documents”, “Mediating”, “Deciding”, and “Referring” increase the likelihood that a legal problem is Ongoing.

3. A call to action to further the “What works” knowledge

The above empirical analysis does not yield a definitive conclusion about “What works”. It is not a big surprise that the findings are nuanced and do not always intuitively indicate straightforward solutions. In fact, the results point in many directions and invoke the need for more data and analysis.

As expected, the results of the „What works” analysis are ambivalent. This inconclusiveness is consistent with the diverse and rarely evidence-based theory and practice of access to justice. Most likely, there will never be silver bullet solutions that resolve legal problems regardless of the specifics of individuals, issues and contexts. Dispute resolution is highly context-specific. Legal, cultural, social and economic factors play large roles in how people encounter, process and resolve disputes. Questions such as “how”, “when”, “for whom”, and “where” are important parts of the pursuit of knowledge about the ways to resolve legal disputes. Nevertheless, the justice gap cannot be addressed without at least generally knowing “What works” in access to justice.

Regardless of the diversity and depth of the problem, there is an urgent need to shift the focus to the outcomes of justice processes. Three specific areas need the urgent attention of policymakers, service providers, researchers and access to justice donors. Our policy call is to invest attention, efforts and resources to make advances in the one general and three specific challenges listed below. The results of such investments will not immediately show “What works” in access to justice. However, small and big advancements will bring better tools and mechanisms to gather robust evidence and make justice more people-centred.

The good news is that the People-centered justice movement does not start from scratch on these critical topics. There is already progress in all three questions. 

Specific challenge 1: Clarify the concept of justice outcomes

There is little agreement on what outcomes mean, but the discussion is gaining strength. The OECD elaborates on the outcomes and stresses the need for more research. 14 More research and development investments are needed to look beyond case outcomes and conceptualise and validate outcomes in a broader people-centred meaning. “Civil justice research must step back from narrow definitions of effectiveness that are limited to case outcomes and consider the broader, systemic effects of representation on individuals and those around them”. 15 The OECD also links positive and fair outcomes to key social objectives. “The ability of the legal and justice system to effectively respond and address those needs for all people and generate fair outcomes is critical to ensure well-being, equal opportunity and access to public services.” 16

Isabella Banks and Manon Huchet-Bodet define outcomes as “a positive result or change in well-being that a person with a legal problem achieves through the resolution process.” 17 Starting from desk research, Banks and Huchet-Bodet propose eight general justice outcomes and make a case for problem-specific outcomes. Using the case of intimate partner violence, they operationalise specific outcomes such as increased safety from intimate partner violence, improved physical health, increased confidence etc.

Laura Abel recognises that “no generally accepted metric for evaluating access to justice tools exists.” and proposes broader use of randomised control trial studies with outcome-based measures of justice interventions. 18

The TaskForce Justice report insists on investing in measuring the outcomes of justice journeys:

“It is essential to measure progress towards achieving fair outcomes. Justice systems need a new sense of accountability to the people they are designed to serve. An evidence-based approach that asks participants in judicial processes about their perceptions of fairness and their experience of the justice process is needed to hold providers to account and to give them feedback on the service they provide.” 19

The Canadian Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters demands that the focus of the justice reform is on the outcomes that people want and receive.

“ the end of the day, what people want most is a safe, healthy and productive life for themselves, their children and their loved ones. In a recent survey of public views about justice, one respondent defined justice as “access to society.” 20

Specific challenge 2: Define the justice interventions rigorously

The notion of justice interventions is new and still underdeveloped. It is more established in dispute resolution research, where scholars pay considerable attention to the various modes of interventions. In the practice of justice delivery, the focus is on larger-scale delivery models such as adjudication, mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation etc. There is a need to look beyond the services and analyse what the dispute-resolution provider is doing to resolve problems. Hence, the field needs robust taxonomies and operationalisations. 21

In the Background paper, we distinguish various forms of adjudication, mediation, reconciliation etc. Interventions are the building blocks of the processes and rules that dispute-resolution providers apply to resolve legal problems. In the “Understanding Justice Needs: the Elephant in the Courtroom” report, HiiL insists that the justice solutions should be designed “with the fair end in mind” and that common legal problems have standard solutions. 22 Elements of solutions are protection (safe space), understanding, agreeing, etc.  Furthermore, HiiL developed the concept of building blocks which together form interventions. Examples of building blocks are: documenting, containing (a problem), meeting, understanding, deciding etc. 23 An effective justice intervention will consist of a combination of interventions.

Challenge 3: Delve into the modalities of “What works”

Ample empirical legal studies explore diverse perspectives of the modalities of “what works”. The research and theoretical frameworks, methods and approaches used are so different that it is difficult to see them as part of a consistent field of study. Considering the difference in the research questions, it is not surprising that the results of such studies are quite dissimilar. For instance, using country data from the World Justice Project, Maurits Barendrecht found that interventions that include agreeing and complying correlate with more access to justice. 24 The same study finds that using adjudication is less promising for achieving access to justice. A study of 449 cases administered by four major providers of alternative dispute resolution services in the US found that 78% of the cases referred to mediation settle. Less likely to settle were cases with a potential of a large recovery and those for which one party did not have the financial incentive to settle. 25

The robustness of the findings of the studies of the “what works” modalities varies considerably. Anecdotal evidence from Bangladesh found that Shalish, the traditional method of dispute resolution, resolved between 80 and 95% of the disputes. Based on this high rate, the researchers claim that “Shalish is able to establish true justice within society”. 26 Using the more robust randomised controlled trial method, Greiner et al. found that 46% of the individuals assigned to attorneys had terminated their marriages in the proper legal venue, compared to 9% of the control group. 27 Another example of the use of RCTs is the study of Seron et al., which found that represented tenants in eviction proceedings receive better outcomes than non-represented clients. 28

4. Conclusion

Sound knowledge about “what works” in access to justice is needed more than ever. The analysis above gave an example of extracting “what works” insights from survey data. The results suggest that courts and lawyers deliver results but tend to be slow. Similarly, the intervention of deciding resolved disputes, however, is slower compared to other methods. The findings are interesting and invite more research to make this data useful and actionable. The analysis above highlighted how people-centred data could indicate “what works” in justice.

This Policy brief identifies one general and three specific areas where the People-centered justice movement needs to be strengthened through more attention, investments, data, research and development:

More data and advancements in the four areas above will make People-centered justice a considerably more feasible strategy to transform the justice sector. Actionable knowledge about interventions that deliver fair resolutions will empower decision-makers and service providers to continuously improve their methods and services in the search for better outcomes. The capacity of the justice sector to work in an evidence-based manner will improve. Moreover, the systemic gathering and evaluation of evidence about “What works” will firmly establish an evidence-based culture in the justice system. Lastly, the “What works” knowledge will become the constitutive ingredient of integrated People-centered justice programmes in which the legal needs of people and businesses are met by various services and interventions with proven effectiveness, fairness and ability to deliver positive outcomes.

5. Authors

This Policy Brief was written by Dr. Martin Gramatikov Programme Director Kenya, Ukraine, Colombia, South Sudan.



[3] Abel, L. (2010). Evidence-Based Access To Justice. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change, 13, 295–313, p. 295

[4] Ibid, p. 302

[5] OECD. (2019). Equal Access to Justice for Inclusive Growth, p. 16

[6] OECD. (2021). OECD Framework and Good Practice Principles for People-Centred Justice, p. 20

[7] Ibid, p. 31

[8] Individual variables for location (urban-rural), gender, age, education, and income.

[9] Type of legal problem and perceived impact of the problem.

[10] Only location (urban-rural) has been removed from the model.

[11] See more at:

[12] The discrete interventions are: 1) Provided advice; 2) Prepared documents; 3) Mediated between the parties; 4) Decided; 5) Referred; 5) Represented; 6) Emotional support; 7) Other; 9) Did nothing

[13] “Advice” is usually part of a broader set of interventions. For instance, lawyers usually advice, prepare documents, negotiate, reconcile, refer, and represent as part of a service. In this policy brief, “Advice” is operationalized and analysed as a discrete activity.

[14] OECD. (2021). OECD Framework and Good Practice Principles for People-Centred Justice, p. 76

[15] OECD. (2019). Equal Access to Justice for Inclusive Growth.

[16] OECD. (2021). OECD Framework and Good Practice Principles for People-Centred Justice, p. 12

[17] See

[18] Abel, L. (2009). Evidence-Based Access To Justice. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change, 13(3), p. 297

[19] The Task Force on Justice. (2019). Justice for All, p. 74

[20] Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. (2013). Access to Civil and Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change, p. 9

[21] See an overview of outcomes frameworks in Buttler, K. (2022). Legal Assistance Services Outcomes Framework – A Rapid Scoping Review.

[22] Barendrecht, M. (2018). The Elephant in the Courtroom Basic justice services for everyone.

[23] See more at

[24] See

[25] Brett, J. M., Barsness, Z. I., & Goldberg, S. B. (1996). The effectiveness of mediation: An independent analysis of cases handled by four major service providers. Negotiation Journal, 12(3), 259–269.

[26] Rahman, Z. (2022). Effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in rural area of Bangladesh: a study on village shalish system of Madhukhali Upazilla. Sociology International Journal, 6(3), 105–108.

[27] Greiner, D. J., Degnan, E. L., Ferriss, T., & Sommers, R. (2021). Using random assignment to measure court accessibility for low-income divorce seekers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(14).

[28] Seron, C., Frankel, M., Van Ryzin, G., & Kovath, J. (2001). The Impact of Legal Counsel on Outcomes for Poor Tenants in New York City’s Housing Court: Results of a Randomized Experiment. Law & Society Review, (2), 419–434.

Table of Contents


Background paper


How to figure out “What works”
in People-centered justice?

January 24, 2023

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This paper provides inputs for a policy brief about “what works in justice”. The primary purpose of the background paper is to serve as an example for analysing data to understand “what works” in resolving disputes. Together with the policy brief, its long-term objective is to stimulate policymakers and service providers to gather data systematically to identify effective and scalable approaches for delivering access to justice.

The paper starts with theoretical deliberations about access to justice. We look at the linkages between inputs, processes and results of justice processes. Then three data models are tested with people-centred justice data obtained through survey research in diverse jurisdictions. The results of the models are discussed in each section, and the overall implications are elaborated in the policy brief.

Problem background

Success in justice delivery is not random, but we do not know much about what affects the chances of success and the risks of failure. Formal and informal justice systems and mechanisms resolve certain legal problems better than others. For instance, HiiL’s research (refs.) consistently finds that problems with lower impact are more frequently resolved than problems with higher impact. Similar findings are reported by Ter Voert and Hoekstra. 1 The category of problems also matters – land and crimes are less frequently resolved than other issues. Certain people are less likely to report positive results and outcomes of their legal problems – i.e. the legal problems of urban residents usually are more likely to be resolved compared to the problems of rural residents.

However, the available evidence about “what works” and “what doesn’t work” is minimal. Access to justice is very often designed and delivered on the basis of intuition. Very often, positive interventions are entirely based on normative criteria. The OECD observes, “Given the relative paucity of empirical evidence about which interventions result in effective or meaningful access to justice, decision-makers rely on a range of guiding principles, indicators and other criteria to guide the policy development process. These criteria integrate theories about access to justice and be seen as predictors of, or proxies for, “what works”. Criteria for what works can also be derived from emerging promising practices in promoting accessibility and people-centricity of legal and justice services.” 2 The question is how to “capture”, understand and scale such promising practices. In this paper, we will look at data reflecting the experiences and perceptions of users of justice to understand “what works”.

Our fundamental hypothesis is that three sets of factors influence the results of dispute resolution. The first set of factors is related to the parties involved. The second set concerns the problem’s type, gravity and impact. The third set of factors is related to the quality of the dispute resolution process. Below we extend the 3P (party, problem, process) model.

These third parties employ diverse approaches to resolving disputes. Some of the most often used approaches are advice, adjudication, mediation, reconciliation, and referral to other options for dispute resolution. In practice, relatively rarely do third parties use highly structured dispute resolution mechanisms such as adjudication or formalised mediation. 

An essential tenet of this background paper and the related policy brief is that some interventions are more effective in resolving legal problems. Such interventions “work” – they are more accessible, fair, effective, efficient and fair. The meaning of interventions, however, is not widely accepted in justice research and practice. Under interventions, we understand discrete parts of the overall dispute resolution process, such as

In a way, the interventions are the main building blocks of dispute resolution. There are many more “Lego parts” that can be added to this list. 6 Many of these building blocks occur together with others and form new blocks. For instance, advice is often part of a broader service which includes document preparation, filing suits, motions and requests, representation, appeal etc.

To sum up, the theoretical foundation of “what works” is based on three broad sets of factors that are believed to explain a significant portion of the variation of the outcomes. The sets of factors are: 1)  parameters of the problems, 2) characteristics of the parties, and 3) dispute resolution interventions. Many other factors affect the outcomes of justice, and these factors are not unimportant. We invite others to continue the research efforts to understand the ultimate question of “what works in justice”.

Data and methods

Cross-sectional survey research data collected with HiiL’s Justice Needs and Satisfaction instrument are used for this analysis.7 Three countries ( Ethiopia, Mali and Uganda) participated with two data sets with unrelated samples. Model 1 and Model 2 are based on a dataset with data from:

Model 3 uses data from Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Niger. In these 3 surveys, the concept of interventions was added to the research instrument and hence made additional research available.

Limitations of the data and this analysis

The results of this analysis must be considered carefully and should be interpreted in light of the dataset and analysis limitations, which include the following:

Model 1: Resolution of the legal problems

Dependent variable in Model one is the resolution of the problem. Resolution is measured at four levels – “Completely resolved”, “Partially resolved”, “Ongoing” and “Not resolved”. A multinomial logit model is used to explore the relationships between the levels of resolution and the independent variables. All coefficients from the table below are expressed as the likelihood of achieving the particular outcome versus the outcome level “Completely resolved”. The relative risk ratio represents the regression coefficient because of its more intuitive value.

Socio-demographic variables in the model are gender, age, education,  and location (urban-rural). The problem category and its impact reflect the properties of the issue. The key independent variable of interest in Models 1 and 2 is the dispute resolution process which was considered the most useful mechanism for resolving the particular problem. The many types of mechanisms are aggregated into several major categories – “Courts and lawyers”; “Police”, “Other organised procedures”, “Personal network”, and “Self-action”. Other organised procedures include formal and informal mechanisms for resolving legal problems which do not fall in the category of “Courts of lawyers”. Most often, these are various community-level dispute-resolution mechanisms. The “Personal network” category combines family members, friends, and neighbours.

Relative to the Completely resolved category

Model 1 is statistically significant, which means that the independent variables are related to the change in problem resolution. In summary, the model tells us that younger people are less likely to resolve their problems than older people. An increase in education increases the chance of resolving legal issues. On the other hand, urban people (who are more educated) are less likely to resolve their problems. The more impactful problems are less likely to be “Completely resolved” or “Partially resolved”. Surprisingly, land problems, which are more serious on average, are more often “Completely” or “Partially resolved”. “Self-action” reduces the likelihood of a problem being “Completely resolved”. The engagement of “Courts and lawyers” increases the likelihood of a problem being “Completely resolved”.

Looking at the socio-demographic, we see that women are less likely than men to have their problems “Completely resolved” instead of being “Not resolved”. People in middle adulthood (40-64) are more likely to have their problems solved compared to young people. Individuals with a high degree of education are more likely to have their problems solved compared to individuals with no education. Low-income people are much less likely to resolve their problems “Completely”. Individuals with medium and high education are significantly more likely to report their legal problems as “Partially resolved” than those without education.

Urban people are more likely to have their problems “Ongoing” than rural people. Young adulthood (25-39) and middle adulthood (40-64) individuals are more likely to report problems as “Ongoing” than young (18-24) individuals. People with a high level of education are more likely to have their problems “Ongoing” than individuals without education. Lower-middle income increases the likelihood of a problem being “Ongoing” instead of “Not resolved” compared to the low-income category.

In the characteristics of the problem, we see that employment and family problems are less likely to be “Completely resolved” or “Ongoing” instead of “Not resolved” than land problems. The higher impact is associated with fewer “Completely” and “Partially resolved” problems. “Self-action” reduces the likelihood of a problem being “Partially resolved” than “Not resolved”.. Problems with higher impact are more likely to be “Partially resolved”, “Ongoing”, or “Not resolved” than problems with lower impact.

In the process part, we see that using “Courts and lawyers” increases the likelihood that a problem is “Completely resolved” compared to the other mechanisms. 8

Estimating the marginal effects of the multinomial regression allows us to analyse the probabilities, which are easier to interpret. The marginal effects show some interesting trends:

Completely resolved problems

“Other organised procedures” are associated with a 5% increased likelihood that the problem is “Completely resolved” than “Courts and lawyers”.

Partially resolved

“Other organised procedures” are associated with a 2% increased likelihood that the problem is “Partially resolved” compared to “Courts and lawyers”. When the most useful process is “Personal network” there is a 2% increased likelihood that the problem is “Partially resolved” compared to “Courts and lawyers”.


All options other than “Courts and lawyers” have a lower risk that the problem is still “Ongoing”: “Police” (12% decrease), “Other organised procedures” (11% decrease), “Personal network” (13% decrease), “Self-action” (10% decrease).

Not resolved

Compared to “Courts and lawyers”, “Police” is associated with an 8% increased likelihood that a problem is “Not resolved”. Compared to “Courts and lawyers”, the use of “Other organised procedure”  is associated with a 6% increased likelihood that a problem is “Not resolved”. Compared to “Courts and lawyers”, the use of “Personal network” is associated with a 12% increased likelihood that a problem is “Not resolved”. Compared to “Courts and lawyers”, the use of “Self-action” is associated with a 13% increased likelihood that a problem is “Not resolved”.

The key take-away from Model 1 is that “Courts and lawyers” resolve problems but they are also slow. Using “Courts and lawyers” is related to a significant decrease in the risk of “Not resolved”. All other sources increase that risk. But using “Courts and lawyers” has a significant drawback – the option increases the risk that a problem is “Ongoing”.

Model 2: Composite measure of fair process, fair result and costs of resolving a problem

In Model 2, the dependent variable is a composite measure of the quality of dispute resolution. The elements of this variable are measures of procedural justice, distributive justice, restorative justice, enforcement, the ability of the result to resolve the problem, and the costs of the paths to justice. All elements of the quality of the outcome are measured with a 5-point Likert scale. In the next step, all variables are aggregated using a simple mean function. Linear regression is used to explore the effect of the independent variables on the quality of dispute resolution. 

The key independent variable of interest is the dispute resolution process which was perceived as the most useful mechanism for resolving the particular problem. Similar to Model 1, the other independent variables reflect characteristics of the party (gender, age, education and income) as well as the type of the problem and its perceived impact on the respondent.

The results demonstrate that there are no significant differences in the outcome quality across the various dispute resolution mechanisms. All categories of dispute resolution mechanisms are compared to “Courts and lawyers”, and the differences are not statistically significant. Men report higher satisfaction with the quality of the outcome than women (3.24 v 3.11), however, in the multivariate model, this difference is not significant.

There are statistically significant differences in the perceived quality of the outcome in some of the person and problem-related variables. Young people (24-35) and middle age (35-55) report better outcomes than the very young and the senior respondents. People with medium and high education report significantly better results than people without education. However, individuals with higher incomes report worse results than people with lower education. The justice journeys for employment and family-related legal problems receive lower outcome scores compared to land problems. The impact of the problem is not related to the outcome in this model

Model 3: Focus on the interventions

Model 3 analyses the interventions that the third parties apply to resolve legal problems. In 3 of the countries (Ethiopia, Niger and Burkina Faso, the datasets contain information about the discrete interventions applied by the third parties). Similar to the previous models, for simplicity, we focus on land, employment and family problems. 

The dataset is structured a little differently than Models 1 and 2, where each record corresponds to one respondent. In Model 3, one respondent (or problem) could appear on more than one row because more than one intervention can be applied to resolve a problem.

Dispute resolution mechanisms and interventions

In Model 3, we explore two sets of variables – the dispute resolution mechanisms and the interventions. Dispute resolution mechanisms are the types of justice journeys as defined by their main mode of resolution. In Model 3, we distinguish between the following dispute resolution mechanisms:

The interventions are the activities that the neutrals perform as part of their strategy to resolve a legal problem. A third party can apply one or more interventions. Therefore the variable is multiple choice – more than one of the following interventions (or lack of interventions) are possible:

The results of a multinomial logit regression model are provided below. Similar to Model 1 the coefficients are expressed in relative risk ratios (RRR). 9

From the regression results, we see that the selected explanatory variables explain mostly the difference between the “Ongoing” and “Unresolved” resolution levels compared to “Completely resolved”. The use of “Formal adjudication mechanisms” significantly increases the likelihood that a legal problem is “Completely resolved” instead of “Not resolved” compared to other dispute resolution mechanisms such as “Community justice mechanisms”, “Social environment”, “Police and other public authorities”, and “Negotiation”. The difference between “Formal adjudication” and the involvement of “Legal professionals” is not statistically significant. “Negotiation” or “Other DRM” increase the risk that a problem remains “Unresolved”.

“Formal adjudication”, however, is significantly more likely to lead to “Ongoing” problems. The use of “Community justice mechanisms”, “Social environment”, and “Legal professionals” decreases the risk that a problem is “Ongoing” instead of “Unresolved”. 

“Advice” is the most frequently used intervention for resolving legal problems related to land, employment and family issues. However, “Advice” seems to be the least effective of the interventions, excluding the options “Other” and “Doing nothing”. “Mediating/reconciling”, “Deciding the matter”, and even “Referring” increase considerably the chance that a problem will be “Completely resolved” as compared to “Not resolved”. “Doing nothing” or “Other” increase massively the risk that a problem remains unresolved.

“Deciding” is the intervention which most considerably outperforms “Advice” as a means to “Completely resolve” a problem (coefficient 0.30) instead of the problem being “Unresolved”. “Deciding” decreases substantively the risk that the problem is “Pending” compared to “Advising”. “Representing” and “Doing nothing” both increase the likelihood that a problem will be “Pending” instead of “Completely resolved”.

“Deciding” also decreases the risk that a problem is “Not resolved” compared to “Advising”. “Doing nothing” increases the risk that a problem is “Not resolved”. Compared to “Preparing documents”, “Mediating”, “Deciding”, and even “Referring”, “Advice” significantly increases the risk that a problem will be considered “Not resolved”, instead of “Ongoing”. To put it differently, “Advice” is more likely to ‘place’ a problem into the category of “Not resolved”.  “Preparing documents”, “Mediating”, “Deciding” and even “Referring” increase the likelihood that a legal problem is “Ongoing”.

Besides the interventions and dispute resolution processes, some other characteristics of the legal problems impact the resolution status. Problems in Ethiopia are more likely to be “Completely resolved” than “Not resolved”. Employment problems are more likely to be “Not resolved” than to land problems. Land problems are more likely to be “Ongoing” instead of “Completely resolved” compared with family problems. The less impactful problems are more often “Completely resolved”. Impactful problems are less often “Completely resolved”. The most impactful problems are most likely to be “Ongoing”. Women are less likely to resolve their problems than men.

Reference to the policy brief

The broader implications of the results continue in the policy brief.


This Policy Brief was written, Dr. Martin Gramatikov, Programme Director Kenya, Ukraine, Colombia, South Sudan.

[1] Voert, M. J. ter, & Hoekstra, M. S. (2020). Geschilbeslechtingsdelta 2019.

[2] OECD. (2019). Equal Access to Justice for Inclusive Growth. p. 113

[3] Pleasence, P., & Coumarelos, C. (2014). Reshaping legal assistance services: building on the evidence base. Retrieved from$file/Reshaping_legal_assistance_services_web.pdf

[4] Ibid.

[5] A neutral third party decides the outcome of the dispute based on the relevant rules and evidence.

[6] For more elaborated version of the building blocks see

[7] More details about the surveys are available at:

[8] The use of dispute resolution mechanism in Model 1 and Model 2 is relative because the actual variable is based on the question – “Which was the most useful source of dispute resolution?”

[9] RRR indicates how the risk of the outcome falling in the comparison group compares to the risk of the outcome falling in the referent group changes with the variable in question. For instance, a relative risk ratio of 2.49 for “Community justice mechanism” in the level “No, the problem is not resolved and I am no longer taking actions to solve it”, indicates that using a “Community justice mechanism” increases the likelihood that a problem is at this level instead of “Yes, completely resolved” (the reference level), compared with the option “Adjudication”.



1. Leadership style of supervisor:
Transactional and transformational

Guideline for employment problems / 1. Leadership style of supervisor: Transactional and transformational

Interventions and evidence explained

Most plausible interventions explained

Disputes that emerge at the workplace can result from vague top-down guidelines from managers, uncooperative colleagues, diverging interests of team members, lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities, misunderstanding or communication gap among colleagues and so on. As persons responsible for leading teams and meeting goals of the organization, supervisors or line managers are responsible for preventing and resolving such disputes. To do that, supervisors or leaders have to understand the emotions, needs and interests of both disputing parties. Therefore, in this recommendation, we will discuss two leadership styles namely transactional leadership and transformational leadership, that are most helpful in understanding needs, emotions and interests of disputing parties in an employment dispute. Leaders can deploy these leadership styles proactively i.e prior to the occurrence of the dispute as well as while resolving the dispute.

“Bass and Avolio developed a general leadership theory called the Full Range Leadership Model in which they described 3 leadership styles, namely: laissez-faire, transactional and transformational. Laissez-faire leaders avoid making decisions or taking positions, hesitate to take action, abdicate their authority, and are typically absent when they are needed” (as cited in Harms and Crede 2010, p.6). Given the passive nature of this leadership style, scholars and practitioners recommend the other two leadership styles to manage employees. Therefore, in this recommendation, we will examine how transactional and transformational leadership styles affect the well-being of employers and employees.

Transactional Leadership

Transformational Leadership

Selected interventions for comparison (defined as a PICO question)

For parties looking to prevent or resolve an employment dispute, where the employer and employee want to recognise emotions, needs and interests (understanding), is transactional leadership or transformational leadership more effective for well-being?

Search strategy

The databases used are: Rouletledge, Sage

For this PICO question, keywords used in the search strategy are: transactional leadership, transformational leadership

Assessment and grading of evidence

The main sources of evidence used for this particular subject are:

Quality of evidence and research gap

According to our research method, we grade the evidence comparing transactional leadership style and transformational leadership style as very low. 

There exists a lot of empirical as well as theoretical literature on the topic of transformational and transactional leadership. However, most of the empirical research has been conducted in Western countries. So knowledge on how leadership styles affect employees in different cultural contexts is lacking. 

Literature on how transformational and transactional leadership styles affects the wellbeing of employees and the employer is abundant. But the literature does not directly address how the two leadership styles are useful in preventing and resolving disputes at the workplace. 

Comparing the two interventions

Desirable outcomes of the interventions

Transactional Leadership
Transformational Leadership
Transactional leaders facilitate adherence to rules and regulations in the workplace. Rules and regulations are essential in establishing behaviour standards, achieving goals, minimising risks to health, safety as well as project and in managing tasks. Non-adherence to rules and regulations can cause conflicts in the team and can cause projects to go off-track. So adherence to rules and regulations prevents disputes from arising. “Active transactional leadership is important in ensuring compliance with rules and regulations” (Clarke 2013, p.22).
Transformational leaders employ intellectual stimulation (i.e., leader challenges assumptions, takes risks and encourages subordinates to be creative). This final aspect of transformational leadership is enacted through cognitive, rather than affective processes, whereby subordinates develop new ways of solving problems and are encouraged to question the status quo” (Clarke 2012, p.23).Because subordinates are given the opportunity to be creative, they can grow into their roles better, which is likely to bring them satisfaction at the workplace.
“Transactional leaders monitor subordinates’ behaviour, anticipate problems and take proactive steps to implement corrective actions” (Clarke 2013, p.25). Because the leader is proactively monitoring tasks, employees are less likely to make mistakes and are aware of actions to take in case if plans don’t work out. In other words, by being closely involved in day-to-day management of operations, transactional leaders prevent problems and the disputes that arise out of problems.
‘…[T]ransformational leadership leadership evokes changes in subordinates’ value systems to align them with organizational goals (Clarke 2013, p.23). If the goals of the organisation and individual are aligned, then employees will work according to the expectations of the leader. Similarly, the organisation will also cooperate better with the employee, all of which together will prevent disputes from arising.
Active transactional leadership provides the opportunity for error recovery and learning from mistakes, which are key elements of a learning culture” (Reason, 1997) (as cited in Clarke 2013, p. 25). By giving employees room for error as well for improvement in performance, transactional leaders promote growth of employees, which is likely to increase their job satisfaction.
“[A] transformational leadership style develops trust and enhances interpersonal relationships between managers and their subordinates” (Clarke 2013, p.26). Because interpersonal relationships between managers and employees are strong, in case a dispute arises, both are likely to co-operate with each other, understand each other’s needs and put more effort into resolving a dispute.
Active transactional leaders are involved with proactive monitoring of employees’ behaviour and correcting errors before they lead to problems. Such leaders pay attention to safety rules and regulations by employees, leading to greater safety compliance. Furthermore, the emphasis on individual learning and proactive error management demonstrated by active transactional leaders should encourage employees themselves to engage in safety-related activities” (Clarke 2013, p.26). Since transactional leaders prevent problems from occurring and encourage safe behaviour among employees, they prevent disputes that arise out of problems or risky behaviour.
Transformational leadership has been shown to lead to a better understanding of safety issues at the workplace and improved communication”  (Conchie, Taylor, & Donald, 2012) (as cited in Clarke 2013, p.26). Improved communication will facilitate resolution and prevention of disputes among employees as well as with the manager.
Transactional leadership allows followers to fulfill their own self-interest, minimize workplace anxiety, and concentrate on clear organizational objectives such as increased quality, customer service, reduced costs, and increased production (Sadeghi & Pihie, 2012)” (as cited in McCleskey 2014, p.122). Since transactional leaders give subordinates space to fulfill their own interests and work on minimising workplace anxiety, subordinates are likely to feel satisfied and comfortable at work, which helps in preventing disputes.
“… [I]t would be expected that transformational leadership would lead to compliance, but more particularly would encourage safety participation, as a form of safety citizenship behaviour” (Clarke 2013, p. 27). Because transformational leaders encourage safe behaviour, employees even during a heated dispute, are unlikely to engage in risky behaviour.
Transactional leadership was also [found to be] negatively related to work-related bullying, perceived person-related bullying, and perceived physically intimidating bullying” (Dussault and Frenette 2015, p.724).
“Transformational leaders adopt face to face communication methods with subordinates which is positively associated with employee satisfaction” (Men 2014, p.264).
“…[T]ransformational leadership strongly emphasizes listening, openness, feedback, participation, and relationship, which are key attributes of symmetrical communication” (Men 2014, p. 268). Symmetrical communication allows employees to air their grievances and provide feedback to managers which in turn improves the functioning of the organisation and helps employees in meeting their own needs.
“Transformation leaders engage in discussions with their subordinates, they communicate well and address their higher order needs. By communicating a desirable, inspirational, and attainable vision, transformational leaders give followers a sense of meaning within the organization (Yukl, 2006) and thus improve their relational satisfaction (Men 2014, p. 268). Given that employees have relational satisfaction, they are less likely to engage in behaviour that can lead to a conflict. Similarly, they will try to resolve a dispute in a less adversarial way, which will reduce the negative emotions around the dispute.
Transformational leadership, charisma, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration were negatively correlated with work-related bullying, person-related bullying, and physically intimidating bullying (ranging from –.21 to –.60, p < .01)” (Dussault and Frenette 2015, p. 728) .

Transactional Leadership

Transformational Leadership

Undesirable outcomes of the intervention

Transactional Leadership
Transformational Leadership
Transactional leaders form short-term relationships with employees. These relationships tend toward shallow, temporary exchanges of gratification and often create resentments between the participants” (McCleskey 2014, p.122).
By encouraging employees to take risks, transformational leaders  can decrease the safety quotient at the workplace. “…[S]ome aspects of transformational leadership could have deleterious effects on safety, such as the association of intellectual stimulation with risk-taking, given that this aspect of leadership encourages novel and creative ways of thinking” (Clarke 2013, p.26).
“…[H]ighly empowered employees may view transactional leadership style as restrictive, less flexible, controlling, and risk aversive which demotivates them to display entrepreneurial behavior” (Afsar et al. 2016, p. 324). Employees who are driven and creative can feel restricted under a transactional leader who does not permit subordinates to be innovative. They may voice their discontent with the manager, which itself can lead to a dispute or pursue a direction that is different from what is suggested by the manager, which can also give rise to a dispute with the manager.
Under transformational leadership, where followers are emotionally attached to the leader, there is a risk where the leader manipulates the employees without giving due consideration to their well-being. Employees can also become dependent upon the leader. “Transformational leaders motivate followers by appealing to strong emotions regardless of the ultimate effects on followers and do not necessarily attend to positive moral values. As Stone, Russell and Patterson (2003, p. 4) observe, transformational leaders can exert a very powerful influence over followers, who offer them trust and respect. Some leaders may have narcissistic tendencies, thriving on power and manipulation. Moreover, some followers may have dependent characters and form strong and unfortunate bonds with their leaders (Stone, Russell and Patterson, 2003, p. 4)” (as cited in Hay 2006, p. 13).
Under transactional leadership, employees don’t push the envelope nor do they work over and above what is required of them. This limits the growth of the organisation. “…transactional leadership, in contrast, is found to have a negative effect on employees’ entrepreneurial behavior. Under transactional leadership, employees are extrinsically motivated (i.e. contingency rewards and active management-by-exception) and thus they are less willing to go beyond their job responsibilities to try out innovative ideas for the benefit of the organization” (Afsar et al. 2016, p. 322).
Because transformational leaders emphasise on the common good, it can lead to neglecting the needs of employees.. “…transformational leaders aim to get people’s thoughts off distributional questions and refocus them on common goals or communal interests” (Keeley, 2004: 167, emphasis in original). This implies that the leaders are putting themselves above followers’ needs, which is “antidemocratic” (Northouse, 2013: 203)” (Lee 2014, p. 20).
Under transformational leadership, employees are emotionally invested in work, which benefits the company but at the risk of employees feeling exhausted. “Stevens et al (1995) believes that transformational leadership is biased in favour of top management, owners and managers. Followers can be transformed to such a high level of emotional involvement in the work over time that they become stressed and burned out” (Odumeru and Ogbonna 2013, p. 357).

Transactional Leadership

Transformational Leadership

Balance of Outcomes

Taken together, the available research suggests that both transactional and transformational leadership are necessary in uncovering emotions, needs and interests of employees and preventing or resolving disputes.

Transactional leadership is most effective in taking care of day-to-day operations of the organisation. The leaders are aware of everyday challenges that subordinates face. Because such leaders are interested in attaining operational efficiency, they are likely to address emotions that employees attach to each task. They help employees to complete tasks efficiently and give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. They ensure that employees adhere to rules and regulations which make the workplace a safe place to work. A few pitfalls of transactional leadership are that it doesn’t demand creativity from employees and that motivated and enterprising employees might find it a stifling environment to work in.

All in all, transactional leadership is instrumental in preventing and resolving disputes at the workplace. For example, if two subordinates are assigned a task with a deadline. But one of them has not been able to make much contribution to it because he or she is inundated with more pressing activities, there might be delay in achieving the previous deadline. Because a transactional leader monitors subordinates, he or she will quickly grasp the problem and can reprioritise certain activities which will free up the time of the employee. Similarly, if the other teammate feels that the coworker is not pulling his weight and it leads to a quarrel among the two, because the transactional leader is involved in everyday operations and is interested in efficiency, he or she will try to resolve the dispute so that the subordinates continue to have a good working relationship and produce good results for the organisation.

Transformational leadership stimulates employees intellectually, helps them align with the goals and objectives of the organisation, and emphasises employee well-being by keeping conversation channels between seniors and subordinates open. There is a risk that transformational leaders manipulate employees or misuse their trust. The bond between the senior and subordinate can cause the latter to work until they burn themselves out.

Altogether, transformational leadership is also instrumental in preventing and resolving disputes at the workplace. Because transformational leaders nurture a good interpersonal relationship with subordinates, if an employee feels that certain tasks are not going well or if there is misalignment of interests with coworkers, he or she is likely to bring it up with the leader, who can then take action to resolve the issue. Similarly, in an ongoing dispute, transactional leaders make an effort to understand the stand of disputing parties, communicate well and try to resolve the underlying needs of the disputing parties.

Therefore, a mix of transactional and transformational approaches is preferred.


Taking into account the balance of outcomes, and the quality and consistency of the evidence, we make the following recommendation: A combination of the two leadership styles, transactional and transformational, is most conducive to the well-being of employees and the organisation. As explained in the technical remarks, the type of work environment can justify the usage of one style to a greater extent than the other, but one should not be used to the complete exclusion of the other.  choose a style depending upon the type of organisation they work for and the roles employees they are they work with.

Technical Remarks

There are certain situations or organisations where either one of two leadership styles is better suited. Those are:

Delivering Justice, Rigorously

Delivering Justice, Rigorously

A guide to people-centred justice programming

September, 2022


This report presents an evidence-based, people-centred approach to the delivery of justice. It aims to inform the work of a growing group of leaders who are responding systematically to the demand for fair, effective procedures that address populations’ dispute resolution needs.  It builds on the work of many scholars, practitioners and committees who laid out the case for a pivot towards people-centred justice, both at the national and international level. 

The report shows how a mission-oriented approach, led by an interdisciplinary task force, can spark overdue progress in how societies organise their justice systems to prevent and resolve conflicts. It explores how people-centred justice can be programmed, based on rigorous R&D and innovation. For each type of dispute, evidence-based prevention and resolution processes can be developed, tested and implemented, building on best practices and a growing body of interdisciplinary research. 

Strategies to implement such systems are emerging. Pressing justice problems are being categorised and data on their resolution collected. Innovative justice interventions are being trialled and rolled out. This will improve the service delivery models of courts, law firms and government agencies and help them, as well as new players, to resolve conflicts in game-changing ways. It will also help us tackle the increasingly urgent tasks of strengthening social cohesion, reducing inequality and rebuilding trust in institutions. 

People need fair, effective and responsive procedures for resolving and preventing conflicts

The world’s justice systems too often fall short in their duty to resolve conflicts. For individuals, families, businesses and communities, timely, affordable and responsive justice services are difficult to access. When adequate justice provision is unavailable, people turn away from the justice system and seek solutions elsewhere, often with negative impacts on peace and social cohesion. Those responsible for justice systems also suffer from this ineffectiveness. Government officials face cumbersome procedures which allow those with power or money to prevail, opening the door to inequality and corruption and aggravating popular discontent. An increasing number of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers and social workers feel that formal procedures are inadequate, ineffective and costly. These professionals often resort to informal processes that are neither clearly defined nor effectively monitored.

Families, communities and the economy will benefit

The whole of society will benefit if formal and informal conflict resolution procedures in the justice system become more responsive to people’s needs. Outcomes will be fairer and decisions taken by judges will more likely be accepted. Greater respect for the law will improve responses to criminal activities. Lawyers will be more effective in helping entrepreneurs to establish and manage businesses. The economic case to invest in better and more sustainable conflict resolution processes is robust. Increases in conflict resolution rates lead to impressive macro-economic gains. They result in higher productivity, lower transaction costs, improved wellbeing and lower healthcare costs. At present, fewer than one-third of the most impactful justice problems are resolved fairly. Doubling or tripling this rate would allow for millions of improved relationships, higher levels of trust between people, and healthier lives. Doing nothing, on the other hand, is a high-risk gamble that could jeopardise our way of life. In 2021, only two of the world’s 25 most populous countries saw improvements in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index. In an increasingly polarised world where trust in institutions is weakening across the board, justice systems that allow conflicts to fester and intensify are a liability. If our societies are to reduce violence, tackle corruption, protect the environment, address inequality and repair broken social contracts, they will need revamped justice systems that respond effectively – and cost-effectively – to people’s needs.

Current justice providers face major barriers when trying to meet demand

At present, politicians propose laws and procedures; judges decide cases by applying and interpreting the law; and lawyers assist their clients through settlement and litigation. Outside this formal system, people often help themselves and their fellow citizens via a variety of informal justice processes including mediation, advice services and complaints mechanisms. Local leaders experiment with participatory democracy. Municipalities try out new forms of decision making with regard to projects in their community. NGOs distribute information on people’s rights and offer help to victims. Building more effective conflict resolution systems is thus dependent on individuals attempting to introduce changes in a setting of broad constitutional checks and balances. There is no mechanism, however, to promote system-wide progress towards better outcomes. Stalemates between progressive groups and more cautious factions are common. Justice institutions, including ministries, judiciaries and associations of conflict resolution professionals, need better incentives, more trust in each other’s motives and ways to share accountability for the performance of the overall conflict resolution system. Changemakers do not have the business models and structures that generate the necessary resources for the needed innovation.  Initiatives may benefit small groups, but equal access to justice for all – the objective of Sustainable Development Goal 16 – remains a distant goal. Demand for effective conflict resolution and just outcomes is much greater than what current systems can incrementally deliver. Larger-scale transformation will require a sound evidence base and a willingness to embrace innovation. Justice systems are slowly opening up to R&D, following the tracks of the healthcare sector where investment in research, evidence-based practice and sustainable financing has led to rapid gains in quality and almost universal coverage of basic services. The justice sector urgently needs to test promising “justice treatments” and scale up the implementation of those that work. As we show in this report, conflict  prevention and resolution can be supported by web-based applications, for example, and delivered by networks of community justice workers. Frontline judges and legal professionals have begun to design simplified procedures such as tech-enabled one-stop shop dispute resolution procedures. Enlisting the mediation and conflict prevention skills of citizens is helping communities to resolve their own problems.

A dedicated task force should embrace this mission

A dedicated task force of justice leaders and experts is needed to ensure better outcomes. This report details how task forces can make a case to policy-makers for reform of justice systems (Chapter 1) and how they can mobilise resources to implement it (Chapter 2). Successful task forces can benefit from mission-oriented approaches. The challenge of systematically promoting people-centred and evidence-based justice requires a government-led approach, similar to those that led to the development of technologies such as GPS and the internet. Task forces can scope out their work and set an agenda early. They can formulate indicators regarding the outcomes they want to achieve. They should develop the capacity to work in a multidisciplinary way and to engage diverse capabilities from outside the formal justice system. They need to be aware of how implementation happens and how to scale up effective interventions. And they must focus on the most pressing justice problems and on services that can be truly game-changing (Chapter 3).

Five strategic interventions for people-centred justice are needed

Chapters 4-8 of this report detail five strategic interventions that can guide such task forces. Each builds on international best practices. We discuss methods for justice data collection and for promoting evidence-based practice. And we make recommendations for scaling justice provision, improving the regulatory environment for legal services and expanding the movement for people-centred justice.
  1. Data is a crucial starting point (Chapter 4). By regularly monitoring the prevalence of justice problems and their impact on people and societies, the rate at which problems are resolved and the outcomes achieved, governments can more effectively prioritise their efforts. Regular quantitative and qualitative surveys can help ensure continuous improvements in people’s “justice journeys.” Standardising approaches to monitoring the quality and reach of processes and outcomes is critical for systematic evaluation and comparison of interventions.
  2. To increase the effectiveness of justice systems in preventing and resolving problems, task forces will need to make a strong case for evidence-based practice (Chapter 5). Resolution rates and prevention will improve if the treatments found to be most effective become known and are promoted. Linking evidence to practice will demand systematically defining outcomes for pressing justice problems and monitoring progress towards them.Embracing evidence-based practice can ensure that the justice journey is optimised for different types of conflict. Task forces can develop guidelines for specific problems, and ensure their implementation through strategies including financial incentives and other rewards that are of proven effectiveness in promoting evidence-based working. Overcoming resistance from legal professionals will require careful persuasion efforts. Learning from other sectors, for example by testing interventions in randomised controlled trials, can help enhance the robustness of results and fortify the case for change.
  3. The third challenge is to make effective treatment of the most pressing justice problems available to all potential users (Chapter 6). To reach the majority of the population, task forces can consider a number of service delivery models that have the potential to scale in an affordable and financially sustainable way. Standardised interventions with proven outcomes are more likely to appeal to users and governments and therefore to be financially sustainable. This in turn will provide a better business case for investment. But while standardisation can increase efficiency and reach, a balance must be found between delivering a one-size-fits-all service and respecting the differing needs of individual users who may be under great stress.If they are to prove financially sustainable by reaching large numbers of users, justice services will need to be accompanied by concerted awareness-raising efforts. There is evidence that once people become aware of effective justice services, even those from low-income communities are more willing to pay for them than policy-makers generally expect. Transitioning from reaching hundreds of users to many thousands will require a scaling plan and a leadership team with specialist scaling skills. Learning from other sectors can guide justice leaders in their efforts to reach the most marginalised.
  4. Innovation requires new types of regulation, budgeting and public-private partnerships (Chapter 7). The licensing barriers for new justice interventions, processes and services are high and unsophisticated compared to regulation in other sectors. Incumbent providers of legal services can often block innovations that threaten their position. A task force should ensure independent regulation of legal services, dispute resolution procedures and legal education programmes, with the aim of allowing game-changing models and interventions to compete on a level playing field with existing offerings. Procurement of useful innovations from the private sector also needs attention. Developing fruitful public-private partnerships will require task forces to be aware of and respond to often-polarised political sensitivities. Building coalitions for change in the service of more effective justice services will be important – and examples of successful cross-party coalitions are already emerging. Making the case for innovation quotas in budgets can help ensure consistent improvements in service provision over time.
  5. The fifth strategic intervention is to create and sustain a broad movement for people-centred justice (Chapter 8). Task force leaders will benefit from collaborating with stakeholders from national planning agencies, national and local governments and civil society. Stakeholder dialogues will allow for exploring strategies and identifying opportunities at the same time as increasing trust between institutions. Sustaining momentum will require continued proof of effectiveness. This will rely on regular data collection and transparent reporting of results. Task force members will need to hold justice services accountable for these results, with resolution rates and effective prevention of justice problems among the core measures of success. Engaging not only with policy-makers but also with the media and the public will be key to maintaining popular support for reforms and to keeping the pressure on practitioners to change.

Owning people-centred, inclusive and peaceful societies

The bottom line of this report is that societies need to find a way to take ownership of their systems for conflict resolution and prevention. The economic value of preventing and resolving conflicts is immense. Individual wellbeing and social cohesion are at stake.

We cannot sit back and expect that the current procedures and rule systems will respond to this demand. For reasons set out in this report, we see that the key players in the system itself – politicians, policy-makers, civil servants, judges, attorneys, journalists or village elders – are  unable to do what is necessary, at least not at the scale and depth that is needed.

A dedicated, targeted, programming effort is needed to complement the good work of justice practitioners. In order to achieve the goal of peaceful inclusive societies, with equal access to justice for all (SDG 16), we should measure outcomes. Evidence about what works will help to prevent and solve many more conflicts in time. Promising justice services can reach far more people, anchoring public support and accountability. Incentive structures can be improved and better aligned with shared values. If conflict resolution thus becomes more effective, we are more likely to achieve almost everything that really matters.

Methodology and partnerships

HiiL’s mission is to ensure that the most pressing justice problems can be prevented or resolved at scale. This report is based on the belief that a task force can lead the efforts of a particular country or tackle a particular type of justice problem. In Chapters 1-3 it explains how such a task force could make the case for people-centred justice, be constituted, and set an agenda. Chapters 4-7 summarise HiiL’s investigation into the R&D and innovation needed to achieve this mission. Chapter 8 explains why a broad movement is needed to make this happen. 

The report is based on the insights, methods and tools that have been developed in the sector – including HiiL’s contributions to this body of knowledge – and on experiences acquired during our work with justice leaders, courts of law and legal assistance organisations. A literature review was undertaken for each chapter. Our experience is based on work in Africa and the MENA region, and in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ukraine, the United States of America, Canada and western Europe. The organisations HiiL works with help people who lack access to justice. Our experience has shown how legal assistance organisations have to cooperate in a structured way with law firms, courts, the police and government bodies to deliver more effective justice. 

Our Justice Needs and Satisfaction survey has been undertaken in 19 countries. Unlike other legal needs survey methods, our method emphasises the outcomes people achieve for their problems (HiiL no date.-a). Based on the survey data, literature and trends, we have investigated which types of processes, agreements and decisions are most likely to prevent or resolve justice problems (HiiL 2018). We have developed a series of tools to support evidence-based resolutions and the prevention of justice problems — including 15 building blocks for prevention/resolution and  a method for guideline development adapted from the health care sector based in which we developed 45 recommendations for the top five justice problems (HiiL n.d.-b; HiiL n.d.-c; HiiL n.d.-d). At present, we are working with justice practitioners on templates to implement evidence-based practices and standards to monitor outcomes.

The Accelerator unit for justice innovators has allowed HiiL to stay close to the realities and experiences of more than one hundred justice startups over the past six years (HiiL n.d.-e). Why did they succeed or fail? What do they and their funders need? In the Charging for justice trend report, HiiL (2020) summarised the main barriers and enablers to delivering effective resolution for justice problems. Our coaching with startups identified seven service delivery models or ‘gamechangers’ for justice services with potential for scaling  (HiiL n.d.-f). At present, we are investigating the critical success factors for these gamechangers and models to finance them sustainably through contributions from parties to conflicts, the community and taxpayers (HiiL 2022d). 

Through our programmes, HiiL has found that the regulatory environment of courts and legal services makes evidence-based work and scalable and sustainable services difficult to operationalise. In its report, Charging for Justice, HiiL (2020) investigated how the financial and regulatory environment can be improved. In parallel, we also started to design step-by-step strategies to overcome such barriers.

These strategies benefit from intensive dialogue and project cooperation with colleagues and experts working on UN SDG 16.3, which promises “equal access to justice for all.” The OECD, Pathfinders for Justice, USAID and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands are leading efforts to develop people-centred justice approaches OECD 2021; Pathfinders 2019; USAID 2022; Government of Netherlands 2022). In countries where HiiL has organised stakeholder dialogues and innovation labs, chief justices, court leaders, NGO directors and ministers have shared their visions. Experts from the World Justice Project, IAALS, the American Bar Foundation, UNHCR, OGP, UNDP and the World Bank are interacting with a growing group of university researchers focusing on responsive, human-centred design and evaluating innovative programmes (World Justice Project n.d.-a; Montague 2022; American Bar Association 2022; UNHCR 2018; UNDP and Australian Development Cooperation 2016; Open Government Partnership 2018).

HiiL is based in The Hague, the international city of peace and justice, where many of these interactions take place and where the city government is supporting R&D and innovation to service the population more effectively. 

To support this growing movement, HiiL has developed early prototypes to quantify the contribution of programmes to SDG 16.3, national GDP and people’s wellbeing. In several countries, we are interacting with national planning agencies and with the leaders of the justice sector to develop a national people-centred justice programme. 

On 20 April 2022, a dialogue between justice leaders from Kenya, Netherlands, Nigeria, Tunisia, Uganda and the United States of America compared notes on people-centred justice programming. The benefits of and impediments to evidence-based work were discussed. The annex to this report summarises this dialogue. 

American Bar Foundation, (2020). ABF access to justice research network members. URL: Accessed on July 18, 2022. 

Government of Netherlands, (2022). The Hague is setting the stage for global justice

HiiL, (2018). Understanding justice needs:The elephant in the room

HiiL, (2020). Charging for justice: SDG 16.3 Trend Report 2020. HiiL. 

HiiL, (2022). Game-changing factors that improve innovation in justice delivery

HiiL, (n.d.-a). Collecting data on justice needs. URL: Accessed on July 7, 2022. 

HiiL, (n.d.-b). Building blocks. Justice Dashboard. URL: Accessed on July 7, 2022. 

HiiL, (n.d.-c). Guideline method. Justice Dashboard. URL: Accessed on July 7, 2022.

HiiL, (n.d.-d). Guidelines for justice problems. URL: Accessed on July 7, 2022. 

HiiL, (n.d.-e). Justice innovators. URL: Accessed on July 7, 2022. 

HiiL, (n.d.-f). The gamechangers. Justice Dashboard. URL: Accessed on July 18, 2020. 

Montague, K. (2022). IAALS launches allied legal professionals in an effort to increase access to quality legal services and help reduce barriers to representation. IAALS. 

Nazifa Alizada, Rowan Cole, Lisa Gastaldi, Sandra Grahn, Sebastian Hellmeier, Palina Kolvani, Jean Lachapelle, Anna Lührmann, Seraphine F. Maerz, Shreeya Pillai, and Staffan I. Lindberg. 2021. Autocratization Turns Viral. Democracy Report 2021. University of Gothenburg: V-Dem Institute. 

OECD, (2021), OECD framework and good practice principles for people-centred justice, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Open Government Partnership, (2018). Opening justice: Access to justice, open judiciaries, and legal empowerment through the Open Government Partnership. Publisher: Open Government Partnership. 

Pathfinders, (2019). Task Force on Justice, Justice for All – Final Report. (New York: Centre on International Cooperation, 2019).

UNDP and Australian Development Cooperation, (2016).Equal access to justice through enabling environment for vulnerable groups

UNHCR, (2018). Toward Durable Solutions: Legal aid & legal awareness Factsheet January – December 2021

USAID, (2022). USAID rule of law policy: A renewed commitment to justice, rights and security for all

World Justice Project, (2021). Rule of law index. Publisher: World Justice Project. 

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Case Study: The Justice Dialogue

Case study

The Justice Dialogue

Key takeaways

Trend Report 2021 – Delivering Justice / Case Study: The Justice Dialogue

Author: Kanan Dhru, Justice Innovation Advisor


The HiiL virtual Justice Dialogue took place on Wednesday, 20th April 2022 from 09:00hrs-13:00hrs CEST.

High-level participants from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, the Netherlands and USA participated in this Dialogue, which served as a basis for HiiL’s plenary “People-centred justice: how to make it happen systematically?” taking place on 1st June at the World Justice Forum. All the participants have significant expertise on issues at the forefront of applying people-centred justice approaches. The names and designations of the participants are shared in the table at the end of this report.

HiiL’s policy brief “Delivering people-centred justice: Rigorously” served as a basis for this Dialogue. The brief focuses on developing an integrated approach on people-centred justice (PCJ) and details five main investments of people-centred justice programming that we see emerging: data, evidence-based practice, game changing justice services, enabling environment as well as engagement and accountability. 

The  Justice Dialogue built on this premise and created an interactive conversation about implementing and scaling the people-centred approach in the justice space. In particular, it focused on the following questions for the participants to share their thoughts and experiences:

Focus questions:

The Dialogue started with an opening speech by Dr Sam Muller, CEO and HiiL and a presentation on HiiL’s approach to people-centred justice by Prof (Dr) Maurits Barendretch. This presentation can be accessed here.  The Dialogue aimed to get inputs of the participants on the four main hypotheses – which serve as the enablers and impediments to people-centred justice:

Enablers and impediments to people-centred justice:

Stakeholders shared their thoughts and experiences on the above questions in small breakout sessions. Later, they shared key ideas from the breakout sessions with the larger group.  

Key takeaways from the Dialogue

1. Why is it important to invest in systematically improving dispute resolution systems in a people-centred way?

The following key takeaways emerged during the Dialogue on the above question: 

2. What are the enablers and impediments for the changemaking justice practitioners to make people-centred justice happen?

Most stakeholders validated the four hypotheses and emphasised that the enablers are also impediments. The same also applies to different components of PCJ.

2.1 Data:

2.2 Mindset:

2.3 Trust in Public Systems:

2.4 Incentives:

2.5 Technology is a strong enabler for change.

2.6 Making a strong case:

3. How can we ensure the broad uptake of innovations in the justice space? What are some of the best practices?

3.1 Scaling the innovation landscape:

3.2 The role of community justice services:

3.3 What is needed to make people-centred justice work?

3.4 Nurturing and investing in an ecosystem for change: 


We had a number of hypotheses about what makes people-centred justice happen: time and resources, knowledge, incentives and trust. A big enabler is conversations like these that bring a diverse group of people together to share different perspectives.

Three headlines

1. Make the case (if you want to make it work, you have to make the case) 

 2. Bring the right stakeholder together (it’s change management)

3. Creating the enabling environment.

List of the participants

We had a number of hypotheses about what makes people-centred justice happen: time and resources, knowledge, incentives and trust. A big enabler is conversations like these that bring a diverse group of people together to share different perspectives.

Akingbolahan Adeniran

Partner, Awodi & Co.
Former Attorney General, Ogun State, Nigeria

Maha Jweied

Non-Resident Fellow
Center on International Cooperation, New York University, USA

Paul Kimalu

Director, Planning and Organisational Performance
Judiciary Kenya

Rose Wachuka

Chief of Staff, Office of the Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya

Jane Adongo

Senior Sociologist
Uganda Law Reforms Commission

Folusho Obienu

Director of Citizens Rights
Ogun State, Nigeria

Justice Khobo

Innovative Justice Reform Judge
Kaduna State, Nigeria

Chinedu Agu

Secretary of Imo State Bar Association,
Imo State, Nigeria

Natalie Anne Knowlton

Director, Special Projects
Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), USA

Gerald Abila

BarefootLaw, Uganda

Angela Lungati

Executive Director
Ushahidi, Kenya

Odunoluwa Longe

TLP Advisory, Nigeria/UK

Case study: Focusing on outcomes for survivors of intimate partner violence


Focusing on outcomes for survivors of intimate partner violence

Photo by Casa de Justicia

Focusing on outcomes for people / Case study: Focusing on outcomes for survivors of intimate partner violence

Identifying outcomes sought by survivors of intimate partner violence

As part of HiiL’s work to facilitate the implementation of people-centred outcomes monitoring in the justice sector, we endeavour to understand and define the specific outcomes that people faced with particular types of legal problems look for when they seek justice and support. We began this problem-specific research with a focus on intimate partner violence (IPV), a type of domestic violence.

The methodology used to produce this case study and identify a list of outcomes that survivors of IPV seek is one that we hope to have the opportunity to replicate for many of the other pressing legal problems that people around the world face. The problem-specific outcomes lists we generate through this process deepen our understanding of the varied forms that justice can take and support the new way of working we set out in the Focusing on Outcomes for People: An Opportunity for the Justice Sector policy brief.

This case study

To answer the research question, What specific justice outcomes do survivors of intimate partner violence seek?, we began by reviewing literature on the justice needs of IPV survivors. To generate a truly people-centred list of IPV-specific justice outcomes however, it was necessary to speak directly with IPV survivors and the practitioners who support them. For this, HiiL carried out focus groups and one-on-one interviews (depending on the preference of the respondents) with IPV survivors and practitioners in Uganda, Nigeria, and the Netherlands. In total, we gathered inputs from 55 different people. This formally included 22 survivors and 33 practitioners, though a number of the practitioners we engaged had personal experience with IPV in addition to professional expertise. 

The IPV-specific outcomes identified through these conversations — the details of which have been kept confidential in order to preserve the privacy and the safety of the respondents — were compared with the outcomes identified through literary research. A final list of 21 IPV-specific justice outcomes was generated based on the combined inputs of the survivors and practitioners surveyed in the literature and the survivors and practitioners HiiL spoke with directly.

Identifying the outcomes that survivors of this uniquely prevalent and impactful legal problem look for makes it possible for practitioners in the field to monitor the extent to which their justice and support services for IPV are truly people-centred. It also enables HiiL to test whether the broader outcomes categories we identify in the policy brief were sufficiently inclusive. Similarities and discrepancies between the two outcomes lists are highlighted and discussed in the sections that follow. In the final section of this case study, we reflect on what we learned and some of the key conceptual and methodological challenges we faced in identifying people-centred, IPV-specific outcomes.

A uniquely prevalent and impactful legal problem

The term “intimate partner violence (IPV)” refers to physical, sexual, psychological, or economic violence or abuse – including controlling behaviors and stalking – by a current or former spouse or intimate partner (WHO 2012; European Institute for Gender Equality 2021). IPV is a type of domestic violence and may take the form of a single violent or abusive incident or chronic incidents that recur over time.

IPV affects women, transgender people, and to a lesser extent men in all parts of the world. The World Health Organization (2018) estimated that globally, roughly 1 in 4 (26%) of ever-married/partnered women aged 15 and older have been subjected to physical and/or sexual IPV at least once in their lifetime. Ten percent were estimated to have experienced it in the last 12 months. The lifetime IPV estimate is similar in Western Europe (15-29%) and rises to 29-38% in Sub-Saharan Africa (WHO 2018).

The COVID-19 crisis only exacerbated the harmful effects of IPV. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders resulted in many people being isolated inside with abusive partners. HiiL’s 2020 reports on justice delivery in COVID-19 crisis anticipated surges in reports of domestic violence, and more recent research suggests that such predictions have been borne out (HiiL 2020; HiiL 2020; The American Journal of Emergency Medicine 2020; European Institute for Gender Equality 2021). This has put domestic violence shelters, counselling services, and helplines – many of which were already inadequately resourced before the pandemic – under strain.

Although the full scale of IPV during the COVID-19 crisis is not yet known, the need for support services which are tailored to the specific outcomes that those who survive IPV seek is clear. The significant underreporting of IPV indicates that many women never seek help through the formal social service programmes and are less likely to alert authorities in cases of physical or sexual abuse (Bender 2016). This makes survivor-centred services all the more important. 

As a first step towards this goal, we set out to identify those more specific outcomes of IPV survivors. Aiming for as comprehensive and inclusive a list as possible, we began with a review of the most relevant available literature. The 20 academic articles selected primarily describe the results of research (including five systematic reviews) carried out in the Netherlands or the United States. We focused on studies in which IPV survivors themselves – rather than researchers or practitioners – were interviewed or consulted directly and seen as experts in their own experience. This represents a small portion of the vast international literature on IPV, which often focuses on the harm IPV causes or evaluates specific interventions that exist to address it.

We chose to focus on the justice outcomes that survivors and not perpetrators of IPV seek because survivors have the greatest need for help and support as a result of the violence they experienced. To say that the outcomes that perpetrators seek in the aftermath of IPV are beyond the scope of this study is not to say that they do not exist, that they are not interconnected with the needs of survivors, or that they should not be taken into account as part of any holistic effort to prevent IPV. However, we do believe that the outcomes that IPV survivors seek – which are so often overlooked or misunderstood by practitioners and society at large – merit their own careful research and should not be conflated with the outcomes sought by those who harmed them.

Insights from the literature

The literature illustrates that the outcomes IPV survivors seek change over time (Allen, Bybee & Sullivan 2004). In the immediate aftermath of a violent or abusive incident, survivors of IPV focus primarily on safety and protecting themselves (and their children, if they have them) from further harm. This often manifests in a practical need for the violence to stop, for secure (temporary or long-term) housing, for transportation, or for the perpetrator to be removed from the home (Klein et al. 2019; Ten Boom & Kuijpers 2016). 

Later on, needs related to long-term economic security emerge: namely for education (including job training), employment, or compensation (Ten Boom & Kuijpers 2016; Klerx-van Mierlo, Pemberton & Lodewijks 2011). This is often because survivors are no longer able to rely on the income of their current or former partner and therefore have a need to generate their own income or generate additional income. 

As victims of violence, survivors of IPV are also more likely to need emotional support than victims of other types of crime (Ten Boom & Kuijpers 2016). Counselling and mental health providers that serve this population often focus on reducing PTSD, depression, or symptoms of anxiety resulting from IPV; reducing shame, guilt, anger, and disassociation; reducing substance abuse; and increasing self-esteem and self-efficacy (Bender 2016; Karla Arroyo et al. 2015; O’Doherty et al. 2014).

Survivors of IPV may also develop legal needs, although these do not uniformly relate to the arrest, removal, or prosecution of the perpetrator. Legal services may also be needed to fight landlords, file for divorce or negotiate custody or visitation (Allen, Bybee & Sullivan 2004). Contrary to the traditional view of IPV survivors as passive recipients of the law and legal outcomes, “their interaction with both civil and criminal legal systems [is] part of their ‘active negotiation and strategic resistance’” to violence (Lewis et al. 2000).

Restorative justice needs, such as the opportunity to talk about what happened, acknowledgement of or apology for the harm by the perpetrator, reconciliation, reparation, or rehabilitation of the perpetrator through counselling are also highlighted in the literature and contrasted with “retributive justice” needs such as incarceration or retaliation (Ten Boom 2016; Ten Boom & Kuijpers 2016; Klerx-van Mierlo, Pemberton & Lodewijks 2011). Both approaches to justice can achieve safety and accountability for survivors of IPV (Decker et al. 2020). However, there is evidence that victims of crime by strangers and non-intimate acquaintances are more likely than victims of crime by intimates to desire punishment or retribution. This suggests that a restorative approach to achieving safety and protection may be more desirable for many of them (Ten Boom 2016; Ten Boom, Pemberton & Groenhuijsen, 2016). For survivors of IPV who choose (for economic or relational/familial reasons) to stay with the perpetrator, a warning by the police or temporary separation may be more desirable than arrest or incarceration (Ganapathy 2006; Ten Boom & Kuijpers 2016).

In addition to restorative outcomes related to the violent or abusive intimate relationship, survivors may also seek restorative outcomes related to friends, family, or the broader community (Herman 2005). This is because IPV: 

“is not [only] the result of a conflict between partner[s], nor the result of behavioural issues of the perpetrator, but also the reflection of cultural, social, and economical power imbalances and norms, particularly the patriarchal norm that women should be subservient” (Dissel & Nguben 2013).

Victims of domestic and/or sexual violence often express a need for the community to condemn the offence, for example, or for the perpetrator’s enablers and accomplices to apologise (Feldthusen et al. 2000; Herman 2005; Ten Boom & Kuijpers 2016).

Regardless of the avenues taken to achieve these outcomes, survivors of IPV also have procedural justice needs related to the way they are treated throughout the help-seeking process. These include the need to be treated with empathy, consideration, and respect; to be actively and compassionately listened to; to engage in mutual communication with authorities (to both provide and receive information); to have the opportunity to ask questions; to be given choices; and to be assured of safety and confidentiality (Ten Boom 2016; Ten Boom & Kuijpers 2016; Kulkarni, Bell & Rhodes 2012). One focus group study found that:

“Both advocates and survivors concurred that the way the survivors were treated mattered as much, if not more, than whether service providers were actually able to provide concrete resources. These findings suggest that relational aspects of service delivery such as active listening, supportive presence, and empowerment are at times undervalued, particularly in IPV services where the fear of lethal violence and the provision of physical shelter is often such a priority” (Kulkarni, Bell & Rhodes 2012).

At the broadest level, survivors of IPV want to prevent future violence against themselves and others (Ten Boom & Kuijpers 2016). Reduced reabuse or revictimization is an outcome often pursued by service providers, but it is important to acknowledge that people who have experienced IPV typically do not have control over whether they are abused again, and/or have legitimate reasons for remaining with an abusive partner (Bender 2016). 

As this summary of the literature has demonstrated, survivors of IPV have a complex and diverse set of needs that are not limited to safety and protection. These outcomes typically change and evolve over time and are shaped “not only by a survivor’s individual challenges but also by identity, resources, culture, strengths, and community” (Goodman, Epstein & Sullivan 2017; Kulkarni, Bell, & Rhodes 2012). Research shows that they are often contradictory in the sense that achieving one outcome, such as increased safety, requires sacrificing others, such as harmony in the community, economic security, or custody of their children (Goodman, Epstein & Sullivan 2017; Thomas, Goodman, & Putnins 2015). 

For these reasons, individualised and people-centred treatment – which meets survivors where they are and takes their needs, large and small, seriously – is particularly important for addressing IPV. “There is no ‘one size fits all’ model for survivors, and…how they receive assistance is as important as what they receive” (Kulkarni, Bell & Rhodes 2012). This means that services should be accessible to IPV survivors as needed, whether continuously or sporadically, and highly adaptable to their self-reported needs (Goodman, Epstein & Sullivan 2017). 

Insights from IPV survivors and practitioners in Uganda, Nigeria, and the Netherlands

To get a more people-centred understanding of the experience of seeking justice and support in the aftermath of IPV than the literature could provide, we carried out four focus groups and 16 1-1 interviews with survivors of IPV and practitioners who help them in Uganda, Nigeria, and the Netherlands. 

The transnational nature of our research allowed us to observe some differences in the IPV-specific justice outcomes that people in the three countries sought. For example, respondents in Uganda and Nigeria more often spoke about outcomes related to practical needs (i.e. the need for legal advice or a reliable source of income) or harmony within community (i.e. reconciliation with the perpetrator or support from family and friends to prevent future violence). In contrast, respondents in the Netherlands tended to emphasise outcomes related to mental health (i.e. to receive counselling for trauma symptoms) or the way they were treated in the justice or support-seeking process (i.e. to be taken seriously and believed by practitioners and institutions). By and large however, we found that the outcomes that survivors reported needing – and the outcomes practitioners reported trying to help them with – were broadly similar across Uganda, Nigeria, and the Netherlands. 

We compared the outcomes identified through these focus groups and interviews with the outcomes identified from the literature, and consolidated them into a final list of 21 outcomes that survivors of IPV seek (see “IPV-specific outcomes”). 

In creating this list, we:

IPV-specific outcomes

Increased safety from IPV
Both the literature and the focus groups and interviews made clear that increased safety from IPV – whether physical, digital, or psychological in nature – is among the highest and most immediate priorities of people who experience IPV. There are a wide range of mechanisms for achieving greater safety depending on the unique circumstances of the individual. In the short-term, safety may be increased by leaving the home where the violence is taking place, having the perpetrator arrested, or having the perpetrator removed from the home. For survivors who are not ready or able to take these steps, practical advice about how to protect themselves within the home may be more useful. In the longer term, other measures may be needed for the survivor to be truly free from the perpetrator’s power and control, particularly when the IPV is psychological or digital in nature. These may include replacing shared accounts or devices or relocating to a new community.
Increased economic independence
Ending a relationship with an intimate partner often comes with significant financial consequences. Often, survivors feel that they are unable to leave their partner for fear that they will not be able to support themselves or their children without them. This fear – and the related need for greater economic independence – emerged clearly from both the literature and the focus groups and interviews. Short-term mechanisms for this include financial support, such as benefits, or material support, such as food to feed oneself and one’s children. In the longer term however, survivors in Nigeria, Uganda, and the Netherlands all mentioned the desire to generate their own income by returning to school, enrolling in job training, or starting their own business. Practitioners in the Netherlands also reported that survivors of IPV often need help to manage debts that have accrued as a result of their situation.
Increased residential independence
One of the most frequently identified needs of IPV survivors in both the literature and the focus groups and interviews was the need for shelter and (temporary or long-term) housing. These are mechanisms of residential independence, meaning a survivor’s ability to live independently and often (but not always) physically apart from the perpetrator. The survivors we interviewed often described needing administrative or other practical support to relocate, for example: transportation; help to retrieve their belongings from the home they fled; or legal support to address immigration issues arising from their separation. Practitioners noted that helping survivors with these practical needs was an important first step towards creating the security and psychological space they needed to process their emotions in the longer term.
Improved physical health
People who survive IPV that is physically abusive need the violence to stop and may subsequently need medical care to recover from their injuries. Some survivors we spoke with were permanently disabled by the IPV they experienced. Even those who experienced IPV that was purely psychological in nature sometimes reported experiencing long-term physical consequences as a result. For these reasons, improved physical health is a noted outcome in the literature as well as in the interviews and focus groups.
Improved mental health
Psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and insomnia are widespread among survivors of IPV. Mechanisms such as counselling and emotional support from friends and family are very often needed to cope with and overcome the trauma and bad memories associated with being in an abusive intimate relationship. Improved mental health was identified in the literature and uniformly across our interviews and focus groups as an important and long-term need.
Increased confidence
IPV often takes a significant toll on survivors’ self-esteem and confidence that they can exercise control over their own lives, a belief described as “self-efficacy” in the literature. Many of the survivors we interviewed struggled with feelings of self-doubt and self-judgement as a result of the abuse they experienced. Practitioners reported that working with IPV survivors to focus on their strengths and aspects of their life that were going well before the abusive relationship can help to address these feelings and increase their confidence to live independently.
Understanding of the IPV the survivor experienced
In both the literature and the interviews and focus groups, we found that survivors often want to understand their experience of IPV and the reasons for it. This can take a long time and is typically only possible to pursue once more urgent safety needs have been addressed. A number of the survivors we spoke with learned about IPV and the dynamics that contribute to it, as well as what a healthy intimate relationship looks like, through their own initiative and education. This could also happen in a counselling or support group environment.
Understanding by the perpetrator of the harm they caused
As discussed in the literature review, survivors of IPV often want the perpetrator to understand the harm caused by their abusive behaviour and why it is wrong. This understanding can be facilitated by treatment programmes which educate perpetrators to develop empathy for their partner and interrupt negative patterns that precede violence. Restorative justice meetings with the survivor may also help, if they are voluntary and can be facilitated safely.
Acceptance of responsibility by the perpetrator for the harm they caused (accountability)
Acceptance of responsibility (accountability) by the perpetrator emerges clearly from the literature and the interviews and focus groups as an outcome that survivors of IPV seek. This can be achieved in a variety of ways. Some survivors are primarily interested in restorative forms of accountability, for example: the perpetrator acknowledging, taking responsibility, and/or paying compensation for the harm they caused. Other survivors we spoke with explicitly wanted the perpetrator to be punished, whether through prosecution, incarceration, or acts of revenge carried out within the community. These are ways of holding perpetrators accountable for the harm caused when they are unwilling to actively accept responsibility for it.
Prevention of the perpetrator from harming other people
As discussed in the literature review, survivors of IPV want to prevent future IPV against themselves as well as others. This means, in part, ensuring that action is taken to prevent the person that harmed them from victimising other people in their (physical or digital) community. This may involve physically preventing the perpetrator from engaging in IPV (i.e. through arrest and detention) or monitoring their behaviour for warning signs of continued abuse. A more proactive approach to prevention might involve connecting the perpetrator with services or a treatment programme focused on changing their behaviour.
Healthy change in relationship with the perpetrator
Divorce and separation were often mentioned in the focus groups and interviews as outcomes survivors of IPV seek. But the desire to leave the perpetrator is not universal: many survivors seek reconciliation – or if that is not possible – to at least be able to communicate with the perpetrator in a healthier way (for example about their children). The type of relationship that IPV survivors desire is also likely to change over time. Practitioners noted that while many survivors are not able to achieve a healthy change in their relationship with the perpetrator without cutting off contact or initiating divorce proceedings, this is not always seen as possible or desirable by survivors themselves. This messy reality was acknowledged in the literature but not discussed at length.
Improved well-being of the perpetrator
Despite what they have been through, many survivors still care for or love the perpetrator – their former partner and sometimes, co-parent – and want them to get the help they need. Improved well-being of the perpetrator may be achieved through, for example: drug treatment, mental health care, counselling to deal with childhood trauma, or training to change their behaviour. This was not discussed in the literature or mentioned universally across the focus groups and interviews, but it emerged as an important need among survivors who were concerned that the perpetrator might continue to cause harm if they did not get help, or who still hoped that their children could have a relationship with the perpetrator (in most instances, their father).
Improved well-being of their child or children
Not all the survivors we spoke with had children, but those who did reported wanting to do whatever they could to improve or safeguard their children’s well-being. For children who have been exposed to the IPV their parent experienced, this may take the form of child therapy. Many practitioners and survivors also highlighted the importance of more basic forms of support like childcare or money to pay their children’s school fees. This outcome was not discussed at length in the literature.
Healthy change in relationships within the family
In addition to being invested in the individual well-being of their children or the perpetrator, many survivors of IPV are concerned about the relationship dynamics of the family as a whole. For those who do not want the perpetrator to have access to their child or children, a healthy change in relationships within the family may be achieved by obtaining sole custody. For survivors who would like for the perpetrator to have a healthy attachment to their child or children to the extent that that is possible, counselling that addresses unhealthy patterns of communication or behaviour within the family as a whole may be a better option. IPV survivors may also want support to develop a more healthy attachment to their children (or other members of their extended family) themselves. While in the Netherlands, the most relevant relationships within the family are typically those between partners and their children, in Uganda and Nigeria they may span additional generations and family members, particularly in polygamous households. This outcome – including custody, which we understand to be one of its mechanisms – was highlighted in the literature as well as the focus groups and interviews.
Decreased isolation within the community
Many of the survivors of IPV we spoke to reported feeling socially isolated. For some, this was the result of the perpetrator intentionally isolating them as a form of manipulation and control. Others felt blamed by members of their community for what happened to them, or judged for not leaving an abusive relationship. Still others felt isolated because protecting themselves from the perpetrator meant relocating to a new community and starting their life over again. Practitioners and survivors alike shared that many survivors of IPV struggled to trust people and form relationships as a result of their experience. This desire of IPV survivors to live in harmony with – rather than be isolated from – one’s community was also highlighted in the literature on restorative justice outcomes.
Understanding and acknowledgement by the community of the harm caused by IPV
Understanding and acknowledgement by the community of the harm caused by IPV was frequently mentioned as a desired result in the interviews and focus groups, though less so in the literature. In both the Netherlands and Nigeria, respondents described a lack of general awareness about the forms that IPV can take, incorrect assumptions about what a perpetrator or survivor of IPV looks like, and patriarchal beliefs about women’s role in society and in relationships. Mechanisms for counteracting such beliefs include community education and awareness raising initiatives.
Proactive prevention of IPV by the community
Virtually all of the survivors and practitioners we spoke with emphasised the need for more systematic and proactive prevention of IPV by the community. In addition to education and awareness raising initiatives mentioned above, mechanisms for the societal prevention of IPV include legislative changes, efforts by the police or members of the community to monitor warning signs and respond to erratic behaviour, and even corporate initiatives to protect IPV survivors’ digital rights and privacy.
Understanding of the process
Both the literature research and the focus groups and interviews revealed that survivors of IPV want to be able to understand the legal and administrative procedures relevant to their case as well as their rights throughout the justice or support-seeking process. Practitioners can facilitate this understanding informing survivors about rights and procedures in a comprehensive and respectful way.
Agency in process
As emphasised in the summary of the literature, survivors of IPV want to be given choices and the option to participate in or withdraw from the justice or support-seeking process. The survivors we interviewed spoke frequently about the importance of being able to take their time and access help or become independent on their own terms. Many had felt rushed by friends, family, or professionals to leave the perpetrator before they were ready or to press charges against their wishes. Experienced practitioners also stressed the importance of offering support and opportunities for engagement irrespective of their clients’ situation, as many survivors return to their abusive partners several times before they are ready to leave for the long-term.
Empathetic listening in the process
Both the literature and the IPV survivors and practitioners we spoke to emphasised the need for survivors to be empathetically listened to throughout the justice or support-seeking process. Being able to talk to someone about what happened to them and have their story heard and recognised was valued independently of the quality or type of services they received.
Competent and unbiased treatment in the process
Many of the survivors we spoke to experienced secondary victimisation as a result of incompetent or biased treatment by the very justice and support services that were intended to help them. A number of survivors reported feeling disrespected by the police and discouraged from reporting the violence they had experienced. The experience of not being believed or taken seriously by practitioners as well as friends and family was widely felt. Survivors in Uganda and the Netherlands in particular often reported needing specialised administrative support just to navigate the services available to them and not be misunderstood by them or incorrectly profiled as the abusive partner in the relationship. This outcome emerged very clearly from conversations with survivors but less so from practitioners or in the literature reviewed.

What IPV-specific outcomes tell us about the general justice outcomes people seek

Having identified 21 outcomes that IPV survivors seek, we returned to the list of 8 general justice outcomes offered in the Focusing on Outcomes for People: An Opportunity for the Justice Sector policy brief to see what improvements could potentially be made. By mapping the 21 IPV-specific outcomes beside this list, we were able to highlight similarities and discrepancies in the two sets of justice outcomes we identified. The results are discussed in the table below.

General justice outcomes
IPV-specific outcomes
Understanding what happened
Understanding of the IPV they experienced
Acknowledgement of role or responsibility
Understanding by the perpetrator of the harm they caused

Understanding by the community of the harm caused by IPV

Acceptance of responsibility by the perpetrator for the harm they caused (accountability)
Understanding of the harm caused by IPV – on the part of both the perpetrator and the broader community – was particularly important to survivors because their experience had so often been misunderstood. Survivors also wanted the perpetrator to be accountable for this harm – ideally through his or her own initiative. Holding the perpetrator accountable through punitive measures like arrest or incarceration was also important to many respondents, and this need for retributive justice is not clearly reflected in the general justice outcome “acknowledgement of role of responsibility.”
Fair distribution of resources or responsibilities
Because survivors of IPV are often driven to leave their abusive partner on short notice or without recourse to the criminal justice system, they are not always in a position to negotiate for a fair distribution of resources or responsibilities. Even those who are able to may prefer to simply cut ties with the perpetrator rather than engage in a prolonged battle for resources. These reasons may explain why we did not identify any IPV-specific outcomes related to the fair distribution of resources or responsibilities.
Damage restoration
Improved physical health

Improved mental health

Increased confidence

Improved well-being of the perpetrator

Improved well-being of the child or children
The harm caused by IPV can take a variety of forms, and therefore, so can its repair. Because IPV takes place in the context of a relationship and sometimes a larger family, the survivor is not necessarily the only person affected by the physical and psychological damage it inflicts. For these reasons, the general justice outcome “damage restoration” must be interpreted broadly (to include the well-being of the perpetrator and any child or children) when it comes to IPV.
Relational restoration
Healthy change in relationship with the perpetrator

Healthy change in relationships within the family
Harmony within the community
Decreased isolation within the community
Increased safety from IPV

Increased residential independence

Increased economic independence

Security for survivors of IPV consists not only of safety or protection from further violence, but also personal autonomy. While the outcomes “increased residential independence” and “increased economic independence” may contribute to safety, they relate first and foremost to survivors’ need to live a life that is stable and independent from the perpetrator’s power and control. The general justice outcome “security” should therefore also be interpreted broadly when it comes to IPV.
Prevention of the perpetrator from harming other people

Proactive prevention of IPV by the community
Empathetic listening in the process

Agency in the process

Competent and unbiased treatment in the process

Understanding of the process
We learned that outcomes related to the quality of the justice or support-seeking process were particularly important for IPV survivors, despite not being reflected in our list of 8 general justice outcomes. Many survivors felt that services were provided on the basis of inaccurate stereotypes about who they were rather than a deep understanding of their unique situation and the results they hoped to achieve. Being able to understand and have agency in the justice or support-seeking process was for them just as, if not more, important than achieving the more results-oriented outcomes identified above. The lack of any outcome reflecting these procedural, interpersonal, and informational justice needs was the biggest discrepancy between the general justice and IPV-specific outcomes we identified.

Reflections on challenges

Identifying and measuring outcomes from the perspective of people with legal problems is not a straightforward task. In the process of identifying 21 IPV-specific justice outcomes, we struggled to create a list that was inclusive and faithful to the experiences that survivors and practitioners shared with us on the one hand, and conceptually consistent and measurable on the other. We reflect on a few of the key dilemmas that we faced below.

Process vs. result

Although the justice measurement literature clearly distinguishes between process and result-related outcomes, this distinction becomes blurrier in the context of IPV. The need to be compassionately listened to, given agency, and treated in a competent and unbiased way in the justice process was mentioned consistently across interviews and focus groups. Secondary victimisation was a common experience among Dutch survivors in particular: a number of them went so far as to say that their interactions with justice and support services had a more negative and lasting impact on their well-being than the IPV they endured. Although measuring process and results-related outcomes together may present methodological challenges, and although we excluded process-related outcomes from our list of general justice outcomes, our research strongly supports the observation highlighted in the IPV literature that “how [survivors] receive assistance is as important as what they receive” (Kulkarni, Bell & Rhodes 2012).

Consolidation vs. specificity

In the process of consolidating what we learned from individual survivors and practitioners into a final list of outcomes, it was difficult to determine what level of specificity to preserve. Further consolidation was almost always possible, as many of the justice outcomes that IPV survivors seek can ultimately be understood as a function of increased safety or well-being. We believed that reducing the number of IPV-specific outcomes we identified and ensuring that they were conceptually consistent would also facilitate their measurement. At the same time however, we wanted to create a list that reflected the diversity of desired results shared with us, and was therefore not excessively generalised or likely to be confused with the general justice outcomes. 

Outcomes vs. mechanisms

One way we tried to resolve the consolidation vs. specificity dilemma was by clearly distinguishing between outcomes, which were broadly shared, and possible mechanisms for achieving them, which varied considerably from person to person. In describing outcomes like “increased residential independence” or “healthy change in relationships in the family,” we were careful to highlight mechanisms that many people relied upon to achieve those outcomes, such as “shelter” or “custody.” 

Still, some mechanisms that were important to respondents did not fit neatly under one outcome. For example, a number of survivors shared that they wanted evidence of the IPV they experienced. This served different purposes for different people. Some wanted proof of what happened to them in order to press charges against the perpetrator. A number of respondents reported experiencing a lack of support from the police to investigate what happened to them, and one survivor reported that the police lost the only photographs she had of her injuries. Others wanted evidence for more personal, mental-health-related reasons. After having their experience of IPV called into question or disbelieved by others so many times, they had started to doubt their own memory of what happened to them. The mechanism “evidence of the IPV they experienced” could therefore have been highlighted in relation to the outcomes “understanding the IPV they experienced,” “acceptance of responsibility by the perpetrator for the harm they caused (accountability),” or “increased mental health.”

Cultural vs. methodological differences

We learned that while respondents in Uganda and Nigeria were largely willing and able to share their experience in focus groups, respondents in the Netherlands could for the most part only be reached through 1-1 interviews. This systematic difference in preferred modes of data collection made it difficult to determine whether differences in the kinds of outcomes that people mentioned were due to differences in their environment, or cultural differences in the kind of help IPV survivors in Uganda, Nigeria, and the Netherlands generally seek. For example, IPV survivors in the Netherlands may have focused more on their personal mental health or their experiences with secondary victimisation because the 1-1 interview format gave them more time and privacy than other respondents had to do so.

Outcomes for survivors vs. outcomes for perpetrators

As noted previously, we made a principled and methodological choice to focus on the outcomes that IPV survivors – rather than perpetrators – seek. However, we learned that the needs of IPV survivors are often closely interconnected with the needs of perpetrators. This raises challenges for measurement. Can an IPV survivor reliably report on the extent to which a particular justice or support service improved the well-being of the perpetrator? Or is this an outcome that – although it may be important to the survivor’s experience of justice – only the perpetrator can speak to?

Victims vs. survivors

Even something as simple as how to refer to people who have experienced IPV presented a challenge. Whereas the term “survivor” is recognised in many Anglophone countries as the more empowering way to refer someone who has suffered violence (and emphasise that they are not defined by this negative experience), in the Netherlands the term “victim” (the English translation of the Dutch word “slachtoffer”) is more commonly used. Although we chose to use the former term throughout this report, asking individuals who experienced IPV what they prefer to be called is best practice (SAKI). 

Standardisation vs. customisation

While the mechanics of measurement are beyond the scope of this report, we are nevertheless aware of the practical challenges of monitoring standardised lists of justice outcomes like the two we offer in this report. Because most justice practitioners do not provide services that can deliver all of the outcomes identified in isolation, there will likely need to be room to customise which outcomes are monitored in connection with which services. 

The same customisation will likely be needed to accommodate differences in the preferences and circumstances of survivors. Although we did our best to identify IPV-specific outcomes that were broadly shared, not every outcome will be equally important or even applicable to every individual. Any outcomes monitoring system that is developed would ideally allow practitioners and survivors to indicate upfront which outcomes are most relevant and meaningful to their justice service or journey.


This study has revealed that while the justice and support mechanisms that IPV survivors rely on and seek out are wide-ranging, the justice outcomes that IPV survivors seek – meaning the positive results or changes in well-being achieved through the resolution process – are broadly shared across Uganda, Nigeria, and the Netherlands. 

The 21 IPV-specific outcomes we identified through literary research, focus groups, and interviews relate to the treatment and empowerment of IPV survivors in the justice or support-seeking process, understanding of the harm caused by IPV, safety and autonomy, physical and mental health, accountability, relationships within the family, decreased social isolation, and the proactive prevention of IPV. Though identified from the perspective of the survivor, these outcomes also relate to the perpetrator, the survivor’s family members, and the communities in which they live. 

In producing this case study and accompanying policy brief, our intention is to enable policymakers and practitioners in the field of domestic and intimate partner violence to work increasingly outcomes-based. This means centring and – through the implementation of people-centred outcomes monitoring – holding themselves accountable for the positive results or changes in well-being that survivors look for when they seek justice and support.


This case has been developed by Isabella Banks and Manon Huchet-Bodet.

Focusing on outcomes for people


Focusing on outcomes for people
An opportunity for the justice sector

June 15, 2022

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Leaders in the justice sector operate in a challenging environment. Faced with overburdened courts, expensive legal advice, and complex procedures that make it difficult to resolve conflict swiftly, they are expected to provide access to justice for all. A key policy recommendation these leaders receive from people-centred justice experts and advocates is to focus on outcomes. This means that efforts to improve legal procedures and institutions should be undertaken with the end in mind: the impacts on the lives of individuals and their communities. For outcomes-based working to become a reality, judges, lawyers, mediators and other practitioners in the justice sector will have to put this advice into practice. This is not a straightforward task, because the outcomes that people look for when they seek justice and support have so far remained undefined. This policy brief aims to support innovative justice leaders and practitioners by beginning the difficult work of defining the outcomes that people with specific legal problems seek. We conclude the brief by identifying the ways in which these people-centred outcomes can be operationalised to increase access to high-quality justice.

1. What would it mean for the justice sector to work outcomes-based?

High-quality justice services deliver outcomes that people with legal problems need. By justice outcome, we mean a positive result or change in well-being that a person with a legal problem  achieves through the resolution process. A man who has been robbed may want his belongings returned to him, or financial compensation for his loss. A woman facing a land dispute may want her property rights documented in a way that will be respected by her neighbours. A family in conflict over their inheritance may wish to reconcile, or prevent future disagreements, in addition to sharing their resources in a fair way. These individuals seek avenues for achieving their desired results, whether that is an agreement with the other parties involved or a decision by a neutral authority. A well-functioning justice system will make those avenues available and monitor their effectiveness in delivering the outcomes people seek.

1.1 The challenge: Shifting the focus from institutions to individuals

Outcomes are a familiar concept in the justice sector, yet they are rarely defined in collaboration with those seeking justice. This means that rather than reflecting the needs of people with legal problems, the outcomes that are defined and monitored tend to reflect the needs or operational objectives of legal institutions. These may include efficiency, cost effectiveness, or outcomes related to public safety goals such as reduced reoffending. 

The judges, lawyers, and mediators that work for these institutions generally want to deliver the kind of help that people seek. But many assume they know what this is rather than asking: what would justice or support look like for you? Even practitioners who are highly attuned to the varied needs of the people they serve may be constrained by institutional benchmarks in the help they provide. A judge may be assessed by the speed with which she processes cases rather than the proportion of her decisions that resolve the underlying legal problem. A police officer may be judged by the number of arrests he makes rather than the level of safety residents of his neighbourhood or village experience. 

This focus on the procedural results that institutions are able to deliver as opposed to the concrete improvements they produce in people’s lives has created a gap between the supply and the demand for justice. People faced with a legal problem know best what positive results or changes in well-being they need to overcome the hardship they have experienced and move on with their lives. Experienced practitioners know how acute and wide-ranging people’s needs  in the aftermath of crime or conflict can be. So why not make use of this knowledge?

1.2 The opportunity: Delivering people-centred justice outcomes at scale

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.3 has challenged governments to make their justice systems more accessible and more people-centred. A core principle of the people-centred justice movement is that justice services resolve the problems that people experience in a fair way and deliver the outcomes they seek (Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All by 2030 2019). 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identifies “outcome focus and fairness” as one of ten criteria for people-centred design and delivery of legal and justice services. It points to the setting of outcome objectives, evaluation according to those objectives, and long-term follow-up studies of user outcomes as good practices for designing and delivering people-centred justice services (OECD). 

Although outcomes are often referenced in policy documents promoting people-centred justice, they are rarely identified in tangible terms. To date, only academic literature and HiiL’s Justice Needs & Satisfaction (JNS) surveys have made efforts to conceptualise and define the specific outcomes people with legal problems need. Identifying justice outcomes is an important first step towards measuring them and assessing access to justice and legal need (OECD 2019). 

In our 2020 SDG 16.3 Trend Report, Charging for Justice, we describe in detail how focusing on outcomes for people can transform the way justice is financed and delivered. We make the case that measuring and monitoring justice outcomes in a standardised way can increase access to people-centred justice and close the justice gap in the following ways:

Understanding what people look for when they seek justice or support creates an opportunity to design, deliver, and fund the justice services that are truly people-centred in terms of the outcomes they deliver. With this policy brief and supporting case study, HiiL aims to deepen that understanding and leverage it to increase access to justice for all.

1.3 This policy brief

In this policy brief, we explore how people-centred justice outcomes can be identified and operationalised. We ask: What general justice outcomes do people seek when faced with a legal problem? Based on insights from academic literature, and building on HiiL’s JNS survey research, we propose eight general justice outcomes that can be used to measure and monitor the quality of justice services or processes.

We then make the case for identifying problem-specific outcomes that complement and support these general justice outcomes. A case study focused on identifying the justice outcomes that survivors of a particularly prevalent and impactful legal problem – intimate partner violence (IPV) – seek demonstrates how this can be done. 

HiiL aspires to repeat this iterative research process for the other most pressing legal problems people face globally, and use these combined findings to refine and improve upon the list of general justice outcomes offered here.

In the final sections of the policy brief, we show how the general justice and problem-specific outcomes we identified can be measured in practice – for example in a JNS survey or by practitioners to assess client satisfaction – and what steps are still needed to make people-centred outcomes monitoring a reality in the justice sector.

2. Identifying justice outcomes

A review of the most relevant literature on justice outcomes reveals that few efforts have been made to conceptualise justice in terms of specific, measurable outcomes that are relevant to people’s lives and not only in the abstract.

The concept of justice is often broken down into four core dimensions (Colquitt 2012; Colquitt & Rodell 2015). Each of these dimensions lays out a particular vision of what justice is or should be, and therefore gives insight into what outcomes a justice service or process should deliver.

Alongside Colquitt and Rodell, Verdonschot et al. (2008) advanced the outcomes literature by introducing a measurement instrument aimed at assessing the quality of a justice outcome (which they defined as, for example, a decision by an adjudicator, or an agreement between two parties) from the perspective of the person seeking justice. In addition to the four justice dimensions identified above, Verdonschot et al. (2008) considered a number of others identified in the theoretical and empirical literature. They ultimately included the following 10 indicators in their measuring instrument:

In the years since Verdonschot et al. (2008) identified these indicators, HiiL has experimented with different ways of asking people around the world about their experiences accessing justice. For the past eight years, HiiL’s JNS surveys have included questions about the justice outcomes they achieved. This is one of the few attempts that have been made to systematically measure the positive results or changes in well-being that people with legal problems achieve through the resolution process (OECD 2019). 

HiiL’s most recent JNS surveys measure justice outcomes in two ways:

2.1 Eight general justice outcomes that people with legal problems seek

Reflecting on the work of Colquitt, Rodell, and Verdonschot et al., we built on our past efforts to measure how people experience justice and identified a list of eight general justice outcomes that people seek when they are faced with a legal problem. These outcomes are more firmly rooted in the literature than those previously measured in HiiL’s JNS surveys. At the same time, they are less abstract and more people-centred than the indicators identified in the literature, because they centre around individuals rather than institutions. Legal pragmatism and formal justice are for example not reflected in this list because they relate to the way laws are applied and judicial decisions are made, rather than to justice as people experience it in their daily lives. Indicators related to procedural, interpersonal, and informational justice were also excluded because they pertain to the quality of the resolution process rather than the tangible outcomes it delivers.

General justice outcomes

Understanding what happened
Coming to a shared understanding of what happened and the harm it caused is an important first step in restoration (restorative justice) and resolution. “Understanding what happened” is one of the seven general justice outcomes measured in the JNS survey.
Acknowledgement of role or responsibility
Acknowledging who was involved in or responsible for what happened and the harm caused is central to restoration and reintegration (restorative justice). This outcome combines two justice outcomes measured in the JNS survey: “knowledge of who was responsible” and “an apology.”
Fair distribution of resources or responsibilities
Distributing resources or responsibilities in a fair way – for example according to the equity, equality, or need criteria identified by Verdonschot et al. (2008) – is the defining feature of distributive justice. “Fair distribution” is one of the four dimensions the JNS survey uses to assess the quality of a justice outcome.
Damage restoration
Restoring what was lost, damaged, or violated is necessary for compensation (distributive justice) as well as reparation (restorative justice). “Damage restoration” is one of the four dimensions the JNS survey uses to assess the quality of a justice outcome, and “compensation for loss of income or property” is one of the specific outcomes it measures.
Relational restoration
Repairing the relational harm caused by a legal problem is important to restoration and reintegration (restorative justice) as well as transformation (transformative justice). “Repaired relationships between people” is one of the justice outcomes measured in the JNS survey.
Harmony within the community
Achieving harmony within the community is closely related to, but not that same as, repairing relational harm. This outcome was added to reflect the reality that it is possible for the relationships between parties to a conflict to be repaired without those people being accepted by the wider community. This is necessary for their reintegration (restorative justice).
Safety and security – whether physical, psychological, or financial – is necessary for people to feel at peace and move on with their lives in the aftermath of a legal problem. “Physical or financial security” is one of the justice outcomes measured in the JNS survey.
People who have been burdened by a legal problem want to resolve it and also prevent it from happening again. “Problem resolution” – which relates to enforcement and prevention – is one of the four dimensions the JNS survey uses to assess the quality of a justice outcome, and “prevention” is also one of the justice outcomes measured in the JNS survey.

3. Identifying problem-specific justice outcomes

When people are asked about the justice outcomes they need, they are likely to think about the positive results or changes that would address the specific legal problem they are facing. In order to systematically measure and monitor justice outcomes, it is therefore important to identify the outcomes that people with particular types of legal problems – problems related to land, family, neighbours, employment, domestic violence, or crime – seek. The eight general justice outcomes identified above serve as broader outcome categories within which problem-specific outcomes can be placed and measured. 

Identifying and operationalising problem-specific outcomes allows justice practitioners to assess the extent to which their services are meeting the needs of a particular client population. It also helps HiiL to determine whether the eight general justice outcomes identified above are sufficiently inclusive or need to be further refined in the future.

Like the process of identifying general justice outcomes, the process of identifying problem-specific outcomes begins with a review of the most relevant literature. This should ideally consist of studies in which people who experienced the relevant legal problem were directly surveyed or interviewed about the outcomes they sought in the justice process. In order to create a truly people-centred list of problem-specific outcomes however, it is necessary to speak directly with the people who have experienced the problem and the practitioners who support them. This can be achieved through one-on-one interviews or focus groups that explore the following questions:

These interviews or focus groups should ideally be conducted across multiple countries, to reduce the risk of identifying outcomes that are specific to a particular place or way of life. Once the results of the interviews or focus groups have been analysed, a final list of problem-specific outcomes can be created based on the combined inputs from the literature and face-to-face qualitative research.

3.1 Case study: 21 justice outcomes that survivors of intimate partner violence seek

We followed the methodology described above to identify the outcomes that survivors of a particularly prevalent and impactful legal problem – intimate partner violence (IPV) – seek. The resulting case study demonstrates how problem-specific, people-centred outcomes can be defined. It identifies 21 outcomes that survivors of IPV consistently seek and describes in detail the myriad justice and support mechanisms that survivors of IPV in Uganda, Nigeria, and the Netherlands used or looked for to achieve them.

In the next section, we explain how justice practitioners, ministers, and policymakers can use the 21 IPV-specific outcomes and the eight general justice outcomes we identify to systematically measure and monitor the extent to which justice processes and services are meeting people’s self-reported needs.

IPV-specific outcomes

4. Measuring justice outcomes

Operationalising the justice outcomes we have identified is important for ensuring that this research does not remain a purely theoretical exercise.

According to the OECD, measuring the perceived quality and fairness of the outcomes that users of justice services receive is necessary for understanding access to justice and legal need (2019). This is challenging because experiences of justice are subjective. Justice outcomes that are important to one person may be less relevant to another. The results that people seeking justice want to achieve may also change over time, or be at odds with the wishes of their community or society at large. Despite these difficulties, systematically measuring and monitoring the justice outcomes people seek is a worthwhile endeavour. 

As a first step towards people-centred outcomes monitoring in the justice sector, we have phrased the 29 justice outcomes introduced above such that they can be asked about and assessed on a 5-point Likert scale. This makes it possible to measure the quality of a justice process or service in terms of the outcomes it delivered for the user.

The general and IPV-specific measurement instruments we provide below can be used in the following ways to increase access to people-centred justice:

These measurement instruments are prototypes and have not yet undergone user testing. The phrasing of each outcome-specific question can and should be adapted to the context in which it is being asked, such that the relevant respondents are able to understand it and answer as accurately as possible. The outcomes that a justice practitioner measures with these tools may also need to be adjusted to reflect the type of justice process or service they provide.

General justice outcomes measurement instrument (prototype)

Please answer on a scale of 1-5
Understanding what happened
To what extent did the justice process or service increase your understanding of what happened?
Acknowledgement of role or responsibility
To what extent did the justice process or service encourage you and the other parties involved to acknowledge your respective roles in or responsibility for what happened?
Fair distribution of resources or responsibilities
To what extent did the justice process or service result in a fair distribution of resources or responsibilities?
Damage restoration
To what extent did the justice process or service restore what was lost, damaged, or violated?
Relational restoration
To what extent did the justice process or service restore or improve your relationship with the parties involved?
Harmony within the community
To what extent did the justice process or service increase your ability to live in harmony with the broader community?
To what extent did the justice process or service increase your sense of security?
To what extent did the justice process or service prevent the legal problem you experienced from happening again?

IPV-specific outcomes measurement instrument (prototype)

Please answer on a scale of 1-5
Increased safety from IPV
To what extent did the justice process or service increase your safety (protect you) from IPV?
Increased economic independence
To what extent did the justice process or service increase your ability to support yourself economically?
Increased residential independence
To what extent did the justice process or service increase your ability to live independently?
Improved physical health
To what extent did the justice process or service improve your physical health?
Improved mental health
To what extent did the justice process or service improve your mental health?
Increased confidence
To what extent did the justice process or service increase your confidence?
Understanding of the IPV the survivor experienced
To what extent did the justice process or service increase your understanding of the IPV you experienced?
Understanding by the perpetrator of the harm they caused
To what extent did the justice process or service increase the perpetrator’s understanding of the harm they caused?
Acceptance of responsibility by the perpetrator for the harm they caused (accountability)
To what extent did the justice process or service encourage the perpetrator to take responsibility for the harm they caused?
Prevention of the perpetrator from harming other people
To what extent did the justice process or service prevent the perpetrator from harming other people?
Healthy change in relationship with the perpetrator
To what extent did the justice process or service produce a healthy change in your relationship with the perpetrator?
Improved well-being of the perpetrator
To what extent did the justice process or service improve the overall well-being of the perpetrator?
Improved well-being of their child or children
To what extent did the justice process or service improve the overall well-being of your child or children?
Healthy change in relationships within the family
To what extent did the justice process or service produce a healthy change in relationships within your family?
Decreased isolation within the community
To what extent did the justice process or service decrease your isolation within the community?
Understanding and acknowledgement by the community of the harm caused by IPV
To what extent did the justice process or service increase your community’s understanding and acknowledgement of the harm caused by IPV?
Proactive prevention of IPV by the community
To what extent did the justice process or service encourage your community to take proactive measures to prevent IPV?
Understanding of the process
To what extent was the justice process or service explained to you in a way you understood?
Agency in process
To what extent were you given agency (the ability to take action or to choose which action to take) throughout the justice process or service?
Empathetic listening in the process
To what extent were you empathetically listened to throughout the justice process or service?
Competent and unbiased treatment in the process
To what extent was the justice process or service delivered in a competent and unbiased way?

5. Next steps towards outcomes-based working in the justice sector

Through our research on the specific outcomes sought by IPV survivors, we learned that systematically identifying, measuring, and monitoring the justice outcomes people seek comes with a number of challenges. We reflect in detail on the conceptual and methodological questions that this work raises in the final section of the case study that accompanies this policy brief.

In spite of these challenges, we believe that this kind of research is necessary to promote the focus on outcomes for people that the OECD and others make clear is foundational to people-centred justice delivery. With these next steps, we hope to continue to develop and test this innovative way of working:

6. Authors

This Policy Brief was written in a collaboration with Isabella Banks and Manon Huchet-Bodet.

[1] Restorative justice refers to the repair of harm caused by crime or conflict.

[2] Transformative justice refers to the transformation of relationships between parties to crime or conflict through a focus on structural causes.

[3] Legal pragmatism focuses on the practical consequences, rather than principles, of judicial decisions.

[4] Formal justice refers to justice done through the maintenance and equal application of laws.

Delivering People-Centred Justice, Rigorously


Delivering People-Centred Justice, Rigorously

April 22, 2022

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

There is growing recognition of a new paradigm that can help us deal with the challenge of achieving SDG16.3 – access to justice for all: people-centred justice. A way of strengthening justice systems by putting people and the outcomes they need at the centre, not institutions and existing procedures. The social and economic benefits of applying that new paradigm are becoming clear. It’s time for the next steps. Doing it. In this policy brief we share what is emerging about developing and implementing national people-centred justice programmes. We show that actionable components of such programmes are emerging, which can be funded, integrated and managed coherently. This approach should be further developed. 

1. More security, justice at risk

This year, 2021, the UN Secretary General presented his agenda for the tremendous challenges the world is facing as the UN celebrates its 75 anniversary. In his report Our Common Agenda, he makes two important observations to the UN member states – a general one and one relating to justice. First, he notes that “failing to deliver what people need most, including basic services, drives mistrust, regardless of how open institutions are to public participation.” This, he concludes, is seriously eroding the social contract. Secondly, he notes that while the 2030 Agenda promises to provide access to justice for all, “many justice systems deliver only for the few.” In other words, they are part of the delivery problem.

Data shows that justice systems are of little help when people experience injustice. The most pressing justice problems occur when jobs, housing, land, family relationships or public services essential for survival are at stake. Only 32% of people experiencing a justice problem report that it is resolved in a satisfactory way. More serious and more impactful problems have lower resolution rates [1]. An additional 10% is satisfied with the process so far. People are hardly using the justice services that governments provide. Only 7% use a court or some other form of tribunal. 8% get advice from a lawyer or another professional [2].

The good news is that countries are becoming more successful in providing security and preventing crime. Less people die because of violence, natural disasters or accidents. Governments are increasingly adept in enforcing rules [3].

But the highly regarded Rule of Law Index shows that more safety does not equal more justice. Indicators suggest that the protection of human rights is deteriorating over the past 5 years [4]. The worldwide trend is that people feel less protected in their relationship with powerful government agencies. Corruption is a growing concern. Increasingly, criminal law and civil law procedures are seen as disappointing ways to resolve issues between people in a sustainable way. Of the 25 most populous countries, only two improved their overall score on the rule of law between 2020 and 2021: the DRC, coming from an extremely low level, and Germany [5].

Imagine that the health care system would only cure 32% of diseases; that only a tiny minority of youngsters would attend school; that the use of renewable energy would decrease. Yet equal access to justice for all is a sustainable development goal on an equal footing with health, education and making progress on climate change [6].

2. On a mission

People-centred justice resolves legal problems people have, prevents them from occurring, is tailored to what people need in order to move on and, therefore, creates opportunities for people to fully participate in their societies and economy.  It puts people and the outcomes they need at the centre, not institutions [7]. Given the dire assessment of the Secretary-General, it now urgently needs practical implementation in as many countries as possible. Partnerships need to be formed for this, bringing together investors, researchers, designers of new justice delivery processes and organisational units that will implement it. Existing legal institutions such as courts, prosecution and law firms, will need to co-exist and co-operate with organisations bringing in expertise from a range of disciplines and using a range of methods to reach out to people experiencing justice problems. What can a Minister of Justice, Chief Justice or Chief Prosecutor, or Member of Parliament who has just joined the Judicial Committee propose? What strategic and programming options are available to a director-general with a large ODA budget, the head of a philanthropic organisation or the CEO of a social impact investment organisation who are looking to make a difference in the field of justice? There is good news for them. A concrete approach is emerging. It comes from the pioneering work of many, from all the partners that worked on the analysis and the conclusions of the report of the Task Force on Justice [8]. We see it in ministerial summits organised by the Pathfinders for Justice and the Justice Leaders [9]; the OECD, who has led on further refining the concept of people-centred justice and developing key elements of its implementation, with more research to come [10]; the Portuguese EU Presidency, which organised a large conference on the topic; the World Justice Project, as global leader on measuring justice and international convenor [11], but also the Elders, Namati, the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Open Government Partnership, and many more. Furthermore, it derives from our own work, innovating justice services and monitoring justice systems in many countries. Most importantly, it also comes from the people-centred justice that is already created by researchers, practitioners and innovators in every country in the world and their clients. They find out when people experience procedural or substantive justice, experiment with new ways to stop crime, try to bring in mediation elements in their work, discover new ways to inform people about their rights, pilot online dispute resolution, solve problems in a practical way and help people to negotiate fair solutions. As judges, as managers of pilots, as ceo-s of justice startups, as police officers, as social workers, as lawyers and in myriads of different combinations. And most reassuringly, as people having serious conflicts and being able to resolve them in a fair manner with their neighbour, their former-spouse or the perpetrator that made them into a victim. It also comes from learning from how governments are tackling Covid-19 and climate change: following the trajectory of applied scientific research, believing in public-private cooperation to supply solutions at scale, and empowering and enabling leadership in the sector that is willing to accept accountability for both security and achieving fair, effective outcomes for citizens experiencing injustices. They don’t all say exactly the same thing and this Policy Brief does not represent a fully shared consensus nor the final wording on the matter. The elements of the emerging approach can be described in many ways. However, overall, the components set out below emerge steadily and we bring them together in an integrated approach.

3. Five main investments

When we describe this approach in the following paragraphs, we assume this would actually be turned into a programme, that would be run by a partnership of organisations, perhaps by a task force [12]. We distinguish five elements, each having a different target group and constituencies. Each element requires investments. For each element, experts have been developing methods, some already very sophisticated, some piloted at scale, some still in early design stage. Together, these methods can become the building blocks of a people-centred justice programme.

3.1 Data

First, we need reliable data. Increasingly, survey data have become available, showing the epidemiology of justice problems and the impact of each problem [13]. From these data, the countrywide burden of injustices can be calculated. The data also show what interventions people use and give some insight in the effectiveness of interventions. Together with the World Justice Project and UN organisations, HiiL is collecting these data and standardising the methods for this. This requires templates for questionnaires, data collection protocols, methods for analysing data, privacy protocols, storage conventions, ways to exchange data, standards for data collection during service delivery and ways to allow for comparison between countries.

Ideally, the partnership we are proposing ensures such data are available for each country and that data collection protocols exist for organisations that handle justice problems at scale. Courts, prosecution, legal aid organisations and websites offering legal information would all benefit from a standard taxonomy of justice problems, for which the OECD has done some groundwork already [13].

Anchoring data collection and sharing of results should take place as well: in a Ministry of Justice, or preferably in an independent academic institution, thinktank or national bureau of statistics. The data should be available on a yearly basis, so progress can be monitored, interventions can be compared and action can be taken. This all should be focused on increasing the resolution rate through fair agreements and acceptable decisions by courts or other third parties.

Ideas have emerged for setting up an international body that could set up a platform that develops shared standards and protocols, makes data collection tools available and serves as a shared repository of data.

3.2. Evidence-based practice

Evidence-based practice, sometimes briefly referred to as ‘what works’, is a second focus area that is emerging. It is an important driver of effectiveness in the health sector and is already being used in the field of crime prevention. This will not happen spontaneously, but requires a systematic effort.

Domestic violence is one of the most pressing justice problems. Thousands of research papers evaluate attempts to apply what works to stop it and to restore relationships soured by violence where possible. The effects of promulgating domestic violence laws and of sanctioning aggressive behaviour are well known.

One gap in these efforts that needs to be filled is to standardise the desirable outcomes that are being evaluated. Currently, each project tends to monitor different outcomes. It could be a decrease in violence, improved psychological well being, satisfaction with the procedure or the conviction rate for perpetrators. Standardising the outcomes that need to be monitored, based on what is most important for the people having to deal with domestic violence issues in their lives, can be an important step forward towards more effective solutions.

Once outcomes have been defined, knowledge can be translated into guidelines for coping with domestic violence in a way that is agreed (or accepted) between the people involved. Recommendations on ‘what works’ in which situation can subsequently be applied by the many practitioners who help women and men with such issues. In this way, they and their clients can benefit from interdisciplinary know-how.

Police, lawyers, judges, informal justice providers in villages, clerics, social workers, mediators, doctors and therapists now all apply their own ‘treatments’, informed by their own disciplinary knowledge, and guided by their own experience. At the receiving end, women who are victims have little idea what they can expect. They would benefit enormously if they could rely on their helpers applying proven interventions.

In our proposed partnership, the programming would ensure that guidelines are made available for the five most pressing justice problems first: land/housing problems, neighbour conflicts, family disputes, employment conflicts and violent crime [15]. And then, for the next priorities, probably including personal injury, debt problems, health care issues and social security.

Evidence-based practice requires integration in the setting where local service delivery has to take place. Know-how from international research needs to be combined with the experience of practitioners and the needs of users in a particular location. This will lead to a local version of the guideline.

A crucial next step is to draft and execute implementation plans with organisations of justice practitioners. Police, prosecutors, social workers or informal justice providers in villages want to be effective. Each operates in a different incentive structure which may or may not be conducive to applying what the evidence suggests. Implementation science has developed valuable insights on the factors that need to be taken into account. Demand for ‘what works’ from users of services and stakeholders is one important factor. Legal mandates, the support from role models in the profession and of the line management are relevant as well. Implementation may be costly or lead to immediate savings in time or effort. Evidence-based practice is more likely to be accepted if the practitioners share a culture of wanting to be effective and successful in achieving results for clients. Learning collaboratives need to be established [16]. On the basis of these insights implementation can be stimulated. Bottlenecks can be identified and remedied, if necessary by changes of the guideline in the direction of interventions that are more practical in the particular setting.

3.3. Gamechanging justice services

An important element of the mission is to ensure that the delivery models for these gamechangers are further developed. Each of them needs to implement evidence-based practice. This requires a support structure consisting of IT (case management system) and standard models for human resources, financial management and monitoring outcomes. Next, these models have to be implemented, building on the capabilities that already exist in the local setting and ensuring sustainable funding.

Innovation labs are a proven method to ensure that this is happening and to avoid the mistakes of copying foreign laws without ensuring that the local political economy will support it [17]. Creating spaces to incubate and accelerate justice startups also works. Most of the time, the gamechangers can be seen as upgrades or extensions of innovations that are already happening in the judiciary, in legal services or in the local community [18].

3.4. Enabling environment

Bottlenecks in the justice marketplace include: laws and regulations and the often complex adversarial procedures they codify. Regulation that makes it hard to implement innovations with attractive revenue and operational models. The financial arrangements in the justice sector, from budgeting processes to fees and subsidies, and the lack of investment room. Procurement rules which make it difficult for courts and governments to implement innovations that are developed by innovators. The challenge of making this part of national strategies and budget cycles.

National ministries of Justice need to become less the top-down organiser, and more the unleasher of innovation potential, the quality assurer, the facilitator and connector, and, where needed, the bearer of financial risks that the private sector cannot yet carry alone. All with that one goal: more prevention, more resolution, for more people.

The good news: examples of changing this are gradually emerging. Regulatory sandboxes, room for new kinds of partnerships, and new ways to come together as justice leaders to work on this.

An important element of the programme is to facilitate justice leaders to come together to open this market and create a more enabling environment.

This can be a considerable task. Economists identified many “market failures”, coordination failures and transformation failures.

From a political economy perspective, a broad commitment to innovation is needed, so stakeholders will start to invest in the belief that others will invest as well. When ministries of Justice are unlikely to change their approach to enabling legislation, it is unlikely that courts or legal services organisations will invest in piloting innovations. As The World Bank explained in its World Development Report 2017, Governance and The Law, the policy arena – the space where groups and actors interact to change formal rules – may have to be expanded with challengers from outside the current justice institutions [19]. Justice policy making may have elements of capture by vested interests and clientelism. In some countries, politicians have members of the police and prison sector as their constituency providing votes in return for voice.

3.5. Engagement and accountability

The last component of a people-centred justice programme that needs to be in place is accountability. If you set ambitious goals in an ambitious people-centred justice programme, you need to account for whether the goals are being met. Especially in the conservative justice sector. It needs to be kept sharp, awake and focused on people, not institutions and rules. In the world of climate change, the periodic reports of the IPCC, the networks it built and the media attention it generated, fulfilled such a role. Concretely, it means setting up an ecosystem that will keep the leaders of the justice system sharp on commitments they made, results promised, and whether learnings are being implemented. There are some interesting examples of doing this in the justice field. In Niger, the États Généraux sur la Justice was set up: a multi-stakeholder body that gives the justice system a periodic ‘score card’ and that, based on that, suggests what the Ministry of Justice should focus on [20]. In the Netherlands the Geschillenbeslechtingsdelta by the internal thinktank of the Ministry of Justice fulfills a similar role [21].

4. Return on investment

A people-centred justice programme will have to show its value. It must produce benefits and change that is financially sustainable. 

Public investors may be worried that the benefits of a people-centred justice programme are sprinkled over many different constituencies and government agencies with none of them being prepared to pick up the bill. For private investors, it may not be clear how social and economic benefits can be turned into financial returns.

Given the size of the problem, it is however reasonable to assume that effective and innovative justice services will attract revenues and providers of services will be paid for their efforts. Here too, we are seeing that things are getting clearer and that data and methods are emerging that support the business case for people-centred justice programmes. They show that it may be possible to bring together different beneficiaries of people-centred justice into a consortium that is willing to invest. 

4.1 Social and economic benefits

A literature review on quantifying these benefits revealed a variety of ways programmes have defined outcomes and quantified the size of social and economic benefits [22].

We asked Ecorys, a Dutch economic advice agency to calculate the economic and social benefits of achieving a mission target of 80% resolution/prevention rates in the Netherlands. What they came back with was based on an extrapolation from three justice problems: separation, work conflict and access to social security/services. Besides the very positive results, it is interesting to see where the benefits fall and how they are structured, because this indicates who might be willing to invest.

They estimated a  0.15% contribution to GDP. This excludes export opportunities for justice services and improvements in national investment climate through better access to justice.

In monetary terms, every $1 invested is: 

The benefits are obvious. The methods for working it out can be further developed. 

4.2 Number of people affected

When making the case for investment in people-centred justice, the next step is to quantify the number of people who can benefit from evidence-based, gamechanging justice services. Data on the number of justice problems per category and their impact on people is available [23]. The World Justice Project data shows that, in cities, 48% of people had a justice problem in the past two years, 41% experienced hardship and 43% achieved a resolution, are on track to, or are satisfied. If these percentages are doubled to 80%, this would positively affect the lives of 36.000 people per million adults each year. This does not include people in custody, without a home or younger than 18 years old. It is clear: in their lifetime, each adult can expect to have several justice problems and would benefit from doubling the resolution rates.

4.3 Potential revenue streams

Public goods like education, health and justice can only be provided at scale with a sound business model. Game changing justice services can only scale and be sustainable if revenues exceed costs of delivery, so investments in future improvements can be funded. 

Data strongly suggest that people are willing to pay for effective outcomes: a better quality of life in their homes when nuisance from neighbours stops, friendly relationships in their community, or ensuring that a noisy neighbour with alcohol problems gets the help that is needed. 

Revenue models for justice services are not simple. Smart fee systems can be designed where the person needing the intervention, the other party, the local community and the taxpayer all contribute. Each of these contributors is more likely to spend money on justice services if outcomes will be more predictable, are more likely to be achieved, and can be monitored and improved. Evidence-based practice is the insurance for this. 

The good news is that people-centred justice services do not require heavy equipment and have limited environmental impact. The activities consist of exchanging information between participants. This can be done through multiple channels: online, by telephone or in person. For each of these channels, the costs tend to be dropping, with the exception of receiving people in courtrooms, in prime real estate, in the centre of towns and cities. Courtrooms are not likely to be the main channel for game changing justice services.  The costs of fact finding can be high in case of crimes; in most countries these are already covered by security budgets.

5. Financials

This way of programming is being worked on in the Netherlands, as one of the first movers to invest in the knowledge infrastructure that will benefit any country implementing people-centred justice [24]. As part of this effort, we had to work out the financial parameters for such a programme.

In a country like The Netherlands we worked out that a 5 year people centered justice programme aimed at increasing prevention and resolution rates with 50% from where they are now would cost around 340 million euros.

When we worked this out for a country comparable to Uganda in terms of population and economy, we came to around 100 million euros for 5 years, with roughly the same percentages. 

A rough estimate would also be that less of these investments would be needed for a state that is set to become a next mover.

6. Teaming up

Who would be involved in execution? Is there a ‘team’ ready to take this on? One way to organise this would be to follow the mission approach for grand societal challenges. Mariana Mazzucato, who inspired this approach, suggests we need to think bigger and mobilise our resources in a way that is as bold and as inspirational as the moon landing – this time to the most ‘wicked’ social problems of our time. 

Her research shows that governments played an indispensable role in major technological breakthroughs in the 20th century and they are best placed to facilitate such breakthroughs. In the 21st century, she suggests ensuring that corporations, society, and the government coalesce to share a common goal. 

Following how this is done in other sectors, the five core elements of the national programme could be organised as follows: 

7. Investment partnership

As becomes clear from the above, investments in people-centred justice programmes will have to come from a carefully balanced partnership, depending on the local situation.

Ministries of Justice may, on the one hand,  be too close to the vested interests of courts, lawyers, prosecution and police, organisations that are overburdened and have powerful lobbies. Without giving the Ministry a stake, success is also unlikely, however.

There will also be a need for investment partners. These can be national investment funds and international partners, like international or regional development banks. So-called catalytic philanthropists, who bring in money but also entrepreneurial skills and the mission oriented approach required. For lower income countries, the bilateral donor community that focuses on justice would be a partner.

Private investment by companies that are committed to people-centred justice and have an interest in growth and higher quality markets should also be considered, for example, Legal Zoom, Clio, Arag).

A wealth of knowledge exists on how to put together arrangements that share risks and returns in an optimal way [25].

8. Conclusion

A new way of programming is emerging in response to an urgent need to increase the prevention and resolution of justice problems around the world. To make this concrete: if resolution and prevention rates can be doubled in the next five years in 20 countries with a population of 10 million each (in the scheme of things, small countries), 7.2 million people would have their lives significantly improved. 

National people-centred justice programmes and the core components they contain – data about needs, capturing what works, scaling gamechangers, creating an enabling environment, and anchoring accountability – are, as far as we can assess, the most promising responses. The focus on improving justice delivery through the formal justice system of courts, lawyers and legal aid boards has not worked. 

Each of the five elements has been tried and tested in different environments; a people-centred justice programme brings them together. The approach is modular and integrated. `It can be accompanied with a solid business case in terms of social and economic benefits. It can provide the assurances investors need. 

This is a unique moment for ministries of Justice, judiciaries, and large funders in the justice field. Now is the time to start to understand this way of programming and to help develop it further. 

9. Authors

This Policy Brief was written in a collaboration with Dr. Sam Muller, Prof. Dr. Maurits Barendrecht, Theresa Smout, Dr. Martin Gramatikov, and Ronald Lenz.

[1] See Poverty and Access to Justice (2021), a study by HiiL, for the World Bank. Dysfunctional justice systems enhance inequality. The study shows that poor people receive worse outcomes for their legal problems. The formal and informal justice systems deliver fewer resolutions. The legal problems that poor people encounter have a greater impact on their lives.

[2] World Justice Project, Global Insights on Access to Justice 2019, Summary Statistics Database. Averages for 101 countries calculated by authors.

[3] World Justice Project, Highlights and data trends from the WJP Rule of Law Index 2021, October 2021, see slide 21.

[4] WJP, Highlights, Slide 21.

[5] WJP, Highlights, Slide 18, 22 and 23

[6] Sustainable development goal 16, 3, 4 and 13.

[7] The Task Force on Justice, report (2019). It was captured in the Hague Declaration on Access to Justice and referred to in numerous inter-ministerial and other high level gatherings in the past 18 months. A growing group of partners, coordinated by the Pathfinders for Justice, is working to operationalize people centered justice. A Justice Action Coalition has been set up, consisting of countries that want to lead on realizing it.

[8] See all the NGO and thinktank members of the Justice Alliance, here. For the list of actively participating States, see here.

[9] See Global Week for Justice 2020, here.

[10] See Equal Access to Justice for Inclusive Growth, here.

[11] See World Justice Project, here

[12] See here for more in the approach, our 2021 trend report Delivering Justice, Rigorously.

[13] HiiL Justice Dashboard, World Justice Project, Atlas of Legal Needs Surveys, 2021. See also, working group paper for the Task Force on Justice, Measuring the Justice Gap.

[14] OECD, Legal Needs Surveys and Access to Justice, 2019.

[15] See also, Task Force on Justice report (2019), p 66.

[16] See, for instance,  Stirman et al, Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice in Mental Health Service Settings: An Overview of Developments in Implementation Theory and Research, Behavior Therapy 2016, p. 920-936.

[17] The World Bank, 2017 World Development Report, Governance and the Law,

[18] For an overview of innovation space, see the report of the Innovation Working Group of the Task Force on Justice. See also a recent HiiL Study, done for GIZ, that looks at the use of digital technologies in judicial reform and access to justice cooperation.

[19] See note 15.

[20] See

[21] Literally translated: the dispute resolution delta. See

[22] Moore and Farrow, Investing in Justice: A Literature Review in Support of the Case for Improved Access, Report prepared for the Task Force on Justice, Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, August 2019. See here.

[23] See the HiiL Justice Dashboard and the dashboard of the World Justice Project.

[24] To be submitted to the Dutch National Growth Fund.  See here

[25] Laplane and Mazzucato, Socializing the risks and rewards of public investments: Economic, policy, and legal issues. Research Policy 49S (2020) 1000082.

Community Justice Services Policy Brief


Community Justice Services

March 22, 2022

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Building on the merits of informal justice and alternative dispute resolution processes, many countries have developed community justice or informal justice programmes. Although informal justice processes come in many different forms, they tend to have a participatory nature, strive for consensus, focus on social harmony and promote restorative (conciliatory) solutions. They are similar to mediation, but can also have elements of adjudication. Another advantage of informal justice processes or community justice services is that the community can help to ensure compliance of decisions. 

Community justice services seem to be an indispensable element of a justice system that provides equal access to justice for all. Gradually, policymakers are finding out how to scale the programmes to a regional or country level. In this policy brief, we list a number of critical success factors that we developed with insights from leading experts in the field of community justice services. We also used our experience in innovation labs for community justice services and benefited from our work with justice startups implementing projects in communities. The findings in this policy brief aim to inform municipal authorities, ministries of justice and leaders in the court system about the way they can scale community justice services, whilst respecting the needs and capabilities in the communities they intend to serve. 

We expect community justice services to grow, because formal justice systems cannot serve people at sufficient scale for all their pressing justice problems. Community justice services have to overcome barriers to growth, by finding sustainable revenue models, by developing an oversight and monitoring system connected to the formal justice institutions, and securing a long-term commitment from national governments or donors. 

1. Justice close to home: A gamechanger?

When working on access to justice for all, experts and practitioners point towards informal dispute resolution in communities as a way to close the access to justice gap [1]. Speaking about informal justice, one leading author mentions the perceived advantages that mirror the weaknesses of the formal justice system: financially more sustainable, fast, close to people’s homes, grounded in local culture, and easier to understand. Although informal justice processes come in many different forms, they tend to have a participatory nature, strive for consensus, focus on social harmony, and promote restorative (conciliatory) solutions. They are similar to mediation, but can also have elements of adjudication. Another advantage of informal justice processes or community justice services is that the community can help to ensure compliance of decisions [2].

Justice needs surveys show that informal justice and conciliatory processes are appreciated by users [3]. There is clear potential for growth. Unleashing this potential requires overcoming a number of risks and disadvantages, including lack of predictability and coherency, discrimination and exclusion of marginalized groups, weak procedural safeguards, and use of sanctions that do not conform with human rights and criminal justice standards [4].

1.1 Scaling models for community justice services

Building on the advantages of informal justice and alternative dispute resolution processes, many countries have developed programmes that have the ambition to scale towards the country level. This comes with increased standardisation and formalisation of the services, for which we found a number of models that are being used internationally.

The literature reviewing various forms of community justice programmes and interventions in a particular country is vast [5]. On our Justice Dashboard the reader can find references to examples and to the models. 

In this policy brief, we focus on how to scale such programmes in a systematic way, building on our data collection and our work with justice innovators and justice leaders in Africa, the MENA region, Latin America and Europe. In the past, we did case studies on Houses of Justice in Colombia, Local Council Courts in Uganda, Gram Nyayalaya in India, Abunzi in Rwanda, Judicial Facilitators in Latin America and worked with community paralegal programmes and organisations offering community mediation in a range of countries.


Community Justice Service Examples


Village courts and Shalish

Justices of the peace (Vrederechters/Justice de paix)
Houses of justice or Casas de Justicia

Various states in Ethiopia have informal justice systems

Maisons de la justice et du droit (houses of justice) in major cities

Lok adalats

Community based paralegal programs

National Palava Hut Program

Facilitadores Judiciales

Various systems of community justice guided by traditional rulers

Conciliation boards in every municipality

Katarungang Pambarangay

Abunzi courts
Sierra Leone

Paralegal program ran by Legal Aid Board
South Africa

Community paralegals

Each canton has its own system of justices of the peace or other Schlichtungsbehör den (Autorités de conciliation)

Local council courts

The map shows some of the prominent examples of community justice services available in different parts of the world.

1.2 Local problems, local and similar solutions

Community justice services tend to work on justice problems between people living closely together, such as neighbour problems, land issues, family problems, and problems with the local authorities. They address justice issues via mediation and conciliation as well as focus on bringing together people within the community so they contribute to solutions, which conform to social norms. Community justice services are more common in rural areas than in cities and are more prevalent across middle and low income countries. These services are provided by community authorities, trusted members of the community, or public officials elected or endorsed by the community. They can relate to customary justice in a tribe, or they may have roots in a religion. Community justice services can be connected to local or central government, with the potential to scale across borders. 

Community justice services have been an important facet of the communities they serve historically. They not only have a substantial reach in providing people-centred justice but they also achieve a considerable impact on people’s lives. They emerge organically and exist close to the people whose justice challenges they address. They are also the most frequently resorted to justice service delivery models across different countries. However, our analysis shows that there are barriers to scaling community justice services and issues with their effectiveness. 

At times, they face issues with integration with the formal legal systems especially in getting their decisions recognised or enforceable by the formal justice system. Funding challenges also remain. Owing to their informal nature, which grants them effectiveness, community justice services may be more likely to be dominated by power structures that exist in the community.

This policy brief takes into consideration the discussions that emerged during the roundtable conversations of the HiiL Working Group on Community Justice Services as well as cases developed by the members of the Working Group in analysing different characteristics of community justice services and makes policy recommendations for increasing their effectiveness. 

1.3 Methodology

To answer the question “How might we increase access to justice for people by scaling and improving community justice services?”, we formed a working group of external experts. To guide the discussions with working group members, we identified the following questions: 

The working group engaged with these design questions and from this dialogue emerged the critical success factors that can help in scaling community justice services.

To select members for the group, we identified six experts that represented diverse demographics and expertise  (innovator, policymaker, investor, legal professional, civil society) from within and outside HiiL’s network. They are: 

*Klaus Decker, Senior Public Sector Specialist from the World Bank, who joined us in the initial phase of the consultation. 

We organised six roundtable discussions between June 2021 to February 2022 to facilitate the conversations on the design questions among the experts. 

This policy brief summarises the findings of the round table discussions and lessons learnt from experiences of working group members in setting up community justice services including:

2. Critical success factors

In the sections below, we identified five critical success factors based on discussions with working group members and examples of community justice services that emerged from the conversations during the round tables. We also include main takeaways from the cases that we worked on with support from the members of the working group.    

2.1 Standardising effective working methods in a setting of scarce resources

Community justice services differ from village to village, from tribe to tribe. For example, studies show that in the Sahel region, each local tribe may have its own way of settling disputes, which may not be acceptable to another tribe in the same region [6]. Even among community justice services that did not emerge organically but have been systematically set-up as in the case of Houses of Justice in Colombia, working methods could benefit from further standardisation. Dispute resolution methods could depend less on the good nature and judgement of individual justice practitioners, more on best practices established by inter-agency coordination [7].

There is much to gain by standardising the practical steps that justice workers take to resolve a problem. A standard process can guide disputing parties through the various phases of dispute resolution, and give them an understanding of what to expect in terms of fees charged, documents required and the estimated time taken to resolve a dispute. There are two dimensions of standardising working methods, one is working methods within an organisation and two is dispute resolution methods offered to users.

With the help of experiences shared by the working group members, we have developed the following insights on standardisation and effectiveness:

2.2 Monitoring outcomes

Although community justice services are used frequently and legal needs surveys show they tend to be quite effective in resolving disputes, outcomes of the community justice services have not always been viewed in a positive light. Studies indicate that community justice providers are sometimes not very effective in resolving disputes. Outcomes may also be unfair to certain members of the community, especially the minority and marginalised members. Questions are also raised about the patriarchal nature of existing power structures and bias against women at the community level [9].

NGOs, government agencies or international donors investing in community justice services want to be sure that engagement with community justice services leads to respect for human rights [10], protection of the rights of all members of the community and brings people the outcomes they want from dispute resolution. But how can they ensure the quality of the overall programme improves over time? And how can they avoid that an isolated example of questionable behaviour in one village damages the reputation of a countrywide programme?

Systematically monitoring outcomes is a critical success factor related to these challenges. For each type of dispute, a number of desirable or undesirable outcomes can be identified. Disputants, practitioners and/or community members can be asked to what extent each of the outcomes has been achieved. Quantifying these results helps in highlighting areas where existing justice services are successful and where they are failing to meet people’s needs. Impact data also helps to attract investors looking for measurable returns and social impact. It enables governments who undertake performance-based budgeting to identify service delivery models that are effective in resolving disputes [11].

With the help of experiences shared by the working group members, we have developed the following insights on monitoring the outcomes, noting that few community justice systems have introduced systematic outcome monitoring yet:

2.3 Combining the strengths of informal justice and rights-based dispute resolution

Formal justice systems in lower and middle income countries have been derived from their colonial past, and they have replaced the traditional ways of solving disputes or the informal justice systems [13]. Today, informal justice systems are coming into prominence again, thanks to their dispute resolution methods such as mediation and focus on restoring relationships and harmony in the community. They are seen as successful because they are oriented towards solutions and outcomes that enable people to continue working and living together. A similar trend is present in high income countries where mediation or ombudsman procedures are alternatives to the formal, adversarial procedures operated by courts.

A formal court procedure aims at fair and transparent processes, ensuring equality of arms between the parties, whereas community justice outcomes sometimes have been found to discriminate against women, the poor and marginalised groups. This point also has been raised in relation to mediation in high income countries. A critical success factor for community justice services is to combine the strengths of the two types of procedures. Protection of fundamental rights that the formal justice system is designed to protect may be successfully combined with restorative ways of resolving disputes that community justice services promote.

The Working Group members began by asking firstly why such an integration is needed and if it is, what could be the nature of such an integration? To answer the question of how to integrate formal and informal justice systems, we developed the following insights using experiences of working group members:

2.4 Making community justice services affordable and financially sustainable

Resolving disputes through customary justice in rural communities is generally affordable in terms of transaction costs. The fees remain minimal, operating procedures are flexible and community gathering places are accessible for people [16].

Many community justice services in high income countries rely on the work of volunteers [17]. In low-income countries, they are funded by grants from international donors, local nonprofits or sometimes through village-level contributions as in the case of Bataka Courts. This leads to grant and donor dependence, not allowing a scalable and sustainable service to emerge. Those funded by the government do not receive adequate funds so their infrastructure and service delivery is affected [18].

The system may only exist in some rural communities, or be piloted in one part of a city, not reaching countrywide coverage. In order to achieve consistent quality, guidelines and operational working methods need to be developed and improved. Training is needed. Monitoring outcomes for each justice problem that is being addressed requires interaction between users and practitioners. Aggregating outcome data on a programme level requires a registration system and analysis.

With the help of experiences shared by experts, we recommend the following insights and approaches to make the community justice services affordable and sustainable:

2.5 Building scale from the ground up

There are many barriers to scale the community justice practices. Only a few countries succeeded in successfully scaling community dispute resolution mechanisms to a level where they resolve 20% or more of justice problems. The models mentioned in section 1 each have their own trajectory towards achieving regional or national coverage. 

Scaling should occur by developing a model that can be replicated and then piloted to test effectiveness and sustainability. Using experiences of experts, we have developed the following insights on scaling:

3. Outlook

Community justice services or informal justice are an indispensable element of a justice system that provide equal access to justice for all. Although informal justice processes come in many different forms, they tend to have a participatory nature, strive for consensus, focus on social harmony and promote restorative (conciliatory) solutions. They are similar to mediation, but can also have elements of adjudication. Another advantage of informal justice processes or community justice services is that the community can help to ensure compliance of decisions. 

Building on the advantages of informal justice and alternative dispute resolution processes, many countries have developed programmes that have the ambition to scale towards the country level. This comes with increased standardisation and formalisation of the services, for which we found a number of models that are being used internationally.  

We expect standardising and outcome monitoring to be used increasingly, so that community justice providers can ensure quality and protect women, the poor and minorities. Policymakers can build the capacity of community justice workers with the help of guidelines that describe step-by-step processes for resolving justice problems.

When considering external interventions in community justice services, policymakers are now likely to be oriented towards strengthening the fabric of the community, stimulating the parties to conflicts to identify outcomes that are effective for their relationships, whilst promoting dialogue about improving relationship structures.

We expect community justice services to grow, because formal justice systems cannot serve people at sufficient scale for all their pressing justice problems. Community justice services have to overcome barriers to growth, by finding sustainable revenue models, by developing an oversight and monitoring system connected to the formal justice institutions, and securing a long term commitment from national governments or their donors.

4. Authors

This policy brief was written by Kanan Dhru (Justice Innovation Advisor), Manasi Nikam (Knowledge Management Officer) and Prof Dr Maurits Barendrecht (Research Director) at HiiL

[1] Wojkowska, E. (2004). Doing Justice: How informal justice systems can contribute, UNDP;  Ubink J., (2011). Customary justice: perspectives on legal empowerment, legal and governance reform: Lessons learned, International Development Law Organisation; Coburn, N. (2013). Informal justice and the international community in Afghanistan, United States Institutes of Peace; Coyle, D. and Dalrymple, S. (2011). Snapshots of informal justice provision in Kaski, Panchthar and Dhanusha Districts, Nepal.

[2] Harper, E., (2021). Customary Justice: From Program Design to Impact Evaluation.

[3] HiiL, (2012). Towards basic justice care for everyone: Challenges and promising approaches.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Röder, T. J. (2012). Informal justice systems: challenges and perspectives. Innovations in Rule of Law, 58; Conteh et al., (2012). The Costs and Benefits of Community-based Justice in Sierra Leone, Technical Report; Chirayath, L., Sage, C., & Woolcock, M. (2005). Customary law and policy reform: Engaging with the plurality of justice systems.

[6] HiiL (n.d). Community Justice Services, Last accessed on 22/02/2022

[7] Botero, J., (2021). Case study on Houses of Justice in ‘Delivering Justice, Rigorously’.

[8] HiiL, (2021). Delivering Justice, Rigorously.

[9] International Development Law Organisation, (2019). Navigating complex pathways to justice: Women and customary and informal justice systems.

[10] UN Women, Unicef, UNDP Publication, (2017). Informal Justice Systems, Charting a course for human-rights based engagement – A summary.

[11] HiiL, (2020). Charging for Justice: SDG 16 Trend Report 2020.

[12] HiiL, (2021). Delivering Justice, Rigorously.

[13] Botero, J.C, (2013). The three faces of justice: Legal traditions, legal transplants and customary justice in a multicultural world (thesis), Georgetown University.

[14] Quintanilla, E. (2004). Support for the Administration of Justice in Nicaraguaó: The Rural Judicial Facilitators Program. World Bank.

[15] HiiL, (2021). Case Study on Local Council Courts in Uganda.

[16] Harper, E., (2021). Customary justice: From programme design to impact evaluation, International Development Law Organisation.

[17] Victoria State Government, Australia. Justice and Community Safety. Last accessed on 20 March 2022; Magistrates Association, UK. Last accessed on 20 March 2022.

[18] HiiL, (2021). Case Study on Local Council Courts in Uganda.

[19] Manuel, M. and Manuel, C., (2021). People-centred justice for all: A route to scaling up access to justice advice and assistance in low-income countries

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Knake, R. N. (2018). The Legal Monopoly, by Renee Newman Knake,

[23] International Development Law Organisation, (2019). Practitioner Brief: Navigating complex pathways to justice: engagement with customary and informal justice systems.

[24] Harper, E. (2021). The enduring utility of customary justice in fragile and post-conflict states: why development actors need to stop searching for magic bullets and solve the political economy and human rights challenges associated with justice programming. The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, 53(3), 342-355.

[25] HiiL, (n.d). Community Justice Services, HiiL Justice Dashboard, Last accessed on 22/02/2022

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