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Building sustainable and scalable justice services

Each of the game-changing services needs to reach 10.000s or 100.000s of people with pressing justice problems. The fundamentals of this operation should be sound.

Here we explore what is needed to turn a promising game-changer into an investable opportunity. A sound plan for a game-changer has a number of elements, which are mutually reinforcing.

It contains evidence based treatments which are standardised. This increases resolution rates and attracts more clients. Outcomes are well defined and monitored, making the quality of the service transparent.

The service already exists, or has been piloted. Data from an evaluation have been used for a feasibility study, confirming to what extent the service already works, and what should be improved.

Better quality, effective services are more likely to lead to a revenue model that is sustainable and scalability. For a service that actually solves most land problems, users, governments and communities are more likely to pay. This, in turn, will provide a better business case for investments, which could be either public, private or mixed.

Setting up or substantially scaling a game-changer then requires effective leadership. The leaders focus on scale and not on the substance of solving the problems. Private investors are extremely conscious about the team. Public investors better mimic this. A team should have a range of skill-sets, for various phases of the development.

The following essential components are needed for each gamechanging service to be an investable opportunity:

Elements of an investment plan for a gamechanging justice service

Community justice services exist in many countries. Entrepreneurial lawyers and start ups deliver contracts online. Problem solving courts are functioning. The number of pilots in the justice sector is amazing. Once the taskforce has decided which game-changers are needed, it can cooperate with an accelerator program to select the most promising existing services. Or the task force can opt for developing a new service. The Civil Justice Tribunal in BC is an example of the latter.

Community justice services exist in many countries. Entrepreneurial lawyers and start ups deliver contracts online. Problem solving courts are functioning. The number of pilots in the justice sector is amazing. Once the taskforce has decided which game-changers are needed, it can cooperate with an accelerator program to select the most promising existing services. Or the task force can opt for developing a new service. The Civil Justice Tribunal in BC is an example of the latter.

Unless the existing service is already on track towards effectiveness, scale and sustainability, it can be seen as a pilot. The pilot delivers a wealth of knowledge about justice needs, effective treatments, possible revenue models and barriers to scaling.

A feasibility study consolidates the learnings from the existing service with knowledge from other sources. It details what improvements are needed and assesses how likely it is that this will happen. The feasibility study addresses the main points of attention for the game-changer.

  • Link to HiiL accelerator program.

Justice services are often very personal in how they are delivered, with each justice worker settling conflicts in his own way. Community justice services and other gamechangers need to standardise in order to scale. 

Standardised, effective treatments also need to be delivered through  standardised channels. The user-facing side can be a justice worker in a community or  a website. Additional assistance can be organised through a telephone help desk or a chat function. The guideline for treating the justice problem needs to be translated into tasks for employees. Tasks can be allocated; the time they take can be estimated; further standardisation can lead to efficiency gains. 

At the same time, each user needs to feel respected as an individual. Disrespect is the most common feeling associated with an injustice. So for justice services, treating customers respectfully and not as a case or a number is even more crucial than for any other service. 

Users need to be aware of the service. Individually, they are unlikely to encounter more than one land problem, major crime issue or separation during their life. Searching on the web, or consulting friends, should lead them to the game-changing service. Substantial investments in marketing are needed for this. Currently, people go to many different agencies and individual service providers, each trying to get attention on the web or in communities. Awareness can be achieved, though. Colombia’s houses of justice are known by 70-80% of the population, whereas 2% (10% of the poor) use them. Mediation is widely known as a dispute resolution method. 

Game-changing services need to develop a very clear value proposition. In HiiL’s work with justice innovators, this proved to be a challenge for them. As game-changers aim to offer a standardised service with a high resolution rate, outcomes could be emphasised in marketing. People would not be referred to an excellent lawyer. Instead, the marketing would focus on a stable ownership situation after a land conflict. A person trapped in a criminal network would hear what the justice service would deliver for him.      

  • Examples of outcome based marketing or other value propositions from the Accelerator.
  • Examples of how service delivery models have been standardised by innovators.
  • Literature on this?

Task forces are likely to underestimate the potential of justice services to generate sustainable revenues. In our 2020 Trend Report, Charging for Justice, we investigated the possible sources of revenues for justice services. 

Owners of justice problems are prepared to spend considerable amounts of money. When surveys investigate willingness to pay, this is considerable, even in low income countries, which can be explained by the high impact of justice problems. In the US, people spend .. $ on resolving justice problems. In Tunisia, …. 

Smart fee systems for justice services also consider contributions by defendants. The community is often prepared to contribute (volunteers acting as third parties, using school buildings, civil servants acting as mediators). Government subsidies for courts or legal aid are common. An effective game-changer or a feasibility study can make the case for targeted subsidies.

The size of the fee should have some relationship to the costs of the service delivered. Pay as you go systems have been developed where using information is free. Support to achieve a settlement generates a fee. This increases if the clients need mediation, adjudication or need additional interventions for complicated situations. Subsidies by government or cross subsidisation can be used to avoid a situation where people who need a solution most are not able to afford it.

Task forces can also consider the timing of contributions. Court fee systems are often poorly designed. The user, who is likely to suffer financially from the justice problem, has to pay up front, many months or even many years before the court provides relief. The court is not incentivised by the payment schedule to deliver effective solutions in time. Smart fee systems optimize all of this.

For vital public services like health care, the ideal situation is that it is free at the point of service for a basic package. In order to reach that situation, countries needed  decades of innovation: improved quality of services leads to more willingness to pay, increasing revenues leads to more investment in better services, private and public insurance models develop, government coordination and willingness to contribute to the health of fellow citizens ensures 100% access. 

  • Data on what people spend. Justice dashboard has these data. 
  • Reference to Charging for justice. Other relevant literature.
  • Examples from case studies…

Scaling from serving 100s of people to covering the entire population is best done on the basis of a scaling plan. Setting up or improving community justice services is often done geographically, area by area. One stop shop procedures are implemented problem type for one problem type and then to the next one. Contracting platforms typically develop wills, family relationship contracts, employment contracts and/or rental contracts before they go live. Offering a range of contracts saves marketing costs. Taking customer feedback regularly to achieve optimum product-market fit is important.

Rolling out the services is a specialism. The specialists best learn how to do this by repeating their experience. It needs the right team of people that compliments the range of required skill sets.

Running the service once it is implemented requires different skills and more so, the attitude. High fidelity to the treatments that have been agreed is then crucial. The leadership and staff that are needed for this have to be usually different from what is needed at the initial innovation stages.

Access to right mentorship is critical at different stages of the organisation’s growth. This is especially critical in the stages where the organisation is expanding, raising more funding and forming a critical market share for the product-service they offer.

In other sectors such as fintech/ financial inclusion, providing electricity in areas of the world with lower income, strides towards scale have been achieved in recent times. The same has happened with private sector initiatives being backed up by impact investing organisation and then later on, an inclusion in/validation from the relevant government agency which takes the product/service to a much larger audience.

While the challenge of closing the justice gap is very different from solving lack of electricity or access to finances (multiple reasons: justice remains a highly geographically rooted value, the State continues to play a central role in the justice system for a variety of reasons – some of them have been discussed above), lessons can be taken from how these sectors have solved the scale-challenge.

Other crucial elements?

  • Further resources?
  • Best scaling practices?
  • How does scaling plan look like?.

An investment plan details the resources needed for the gamechanging service to break even. Revenues from services will grow with scale. 

[To be added: Indications of size of investments needed for people-centred justice services.]

Tend to have low fixed costs compared to other investments in national infrastructure. Gamechangers do not require court buildings or extensive prison facilities. 

Fixed costs for community justice services consist of developing treatment guidelines, standardised working methods, IT infrastructure and a team ensuring consistent and high quality. Data collection on outcomes is crucial and is costly as well. 

Assuming the task force ensures the service is mandatory and effective, with revenues covering costs, the trajectory to break even can be fast.

Investments in marketing may have to be substantial.

Different models for investments. Public. Private. Combinations. 

  • Examples of investment plans. Can we obtain them?

Leading a product or service in a justice domain to scale is a massive task – one that requires a range of different skill set and broad understanding of stakeholder perspectives.

A good team that compliments the required skill set for initiating and scaling the justice service is critical.