Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Justice policies

Being a justice leader

I gained my experience as a justice practitioner in courts. Then I worked with people who committed crimes. As a director of an NGO, I listened to the ones who get stuck in unequal conflicts.

During the past 10 years, I fulfilled leading positions. I sense how the justice system can improve. Too often, it fails on people.

I have a network of people who share my ambition to make things work. In a few years, we may be leaders of the highest justice institutions. We will be expected to safeguard independence and to ensure that our people are sufficiently resourced. Will we be able to do a better job than our predecessors?

Somehow we will have to reinvent the roles of justice leaders. We will need to leave our silos, find the courage to change the course of our organisation. Innovation has to move beyond pilots and experiments. Renewing requires processes that enable us to part from the old and to fully embrace the new. And that remind us to preserve the values of justice.

We need to come together, finding a way to let go and grow.

Radha, justice practitioner

No, unless procedures are changed drastically

Being a minister of justice

As a minister, I coordinate the justice system. Sometimes, I feel lonely.

For every injustice, politicians and media ask me to enact new laws and procedures. My head of government expects me to deliver law and order. Different agencies look to me for money.

In reality, I have limited authority. The courts adjudicate, police investigate, prosecution indicts, enforcement agents enforce, prisons keep inmates, notaries public verify.

I am a coordinator on a precarious political assignment and need justice leaders to come together.

How can we jointly respond to these competing demands?

The justice gap is huge. Somehow, we need to improve the enabling environment for effective justice policies.

So what kind of laws and financial arrangements are needed for this?

Remi, Minister of justice

Justice policy options

As a start of this dialogue, let us reflect on the justice policies that are currently being implemented. How successful have each of these been? What can we learn from these experiences?

A lot of resources have been invested in infrastructure such as court buildings and computers. Evidence has indicated this does not lead to improved justice services for people. Many countries have tried to rewrite their codes of procedure. Ombudsmen, new tribunals and multidoor courthouses have been set up. Improving legal information, so people are empowered to enforce their rights, is another policy that has been tried.

Let us critically look at these policies and practices.  

What are their shortcomings?  Does their execution need improvement?  What can we learn from them?  Do we need to embrace new ways of working?

While we assess current policies and practices, let us also think of finding ways for the old and new to work side by side.

Policies to prevent and resolve justice problems

Impact of policies

Invest in formal justice system (buildings, digitisation, personnel)

Improve laws of civil and criminal procedure

Establish new agencies and procedures for specific justice problems

Enable individuals to prevent/ resolve problems by improving legal information

Stimulating local pilots, start ups and bottom up innovation

Will it increase the percentage of justice problems prevented or resolved?



Yes, if the new agency is effective and user-centred

Only if legal information is solution focused and the other party is willing to cooperate

Only if the pilot/start up is effective and is able to scale.

Will it improve the effectiveness of justice practitioners?

Yes, but depends on how this increases the number of problems they resolve.


Yes, if justice practitioners adapt to new procedures

Yes, if justice practitioners cooperate with ‘self helpers’

Yes, if justice practitioners adapt to to the new agencies and procedures

Will it resolve stress on budget allocation?

No, to the contrary

No, unless procedures are changed drastically

Only if new procedures replaces the existing ones

Only if improved information can free up resources of current organisations

Only if a) new start-ups/pilot are not financially dependent on the government b) if innovations replaces the existing procedures

Will it generate positive spin-offs?

Possibly, because it creates room for legal issues that can complicate resolution and cause budgetary shortages

Likely, because more clear laws of procedure can stifle innovation.

Possibly, because new procedures can complicate problem resolution.

Likely, because a) not everyone (eg. vulnerable groups) has the capacity to prevent or resolve problems by themselves


Will it generate positive spin-offs?

Yes, it will result in Temporary satisfaction and recognition for professionals


Yes, it will result in a) innovation attitude among justice workers b) knowledge generation in

Yes, those who use information successfully will be empowered.

Yes, it will a) innovation attitude b) knowledge generation in new agency.

Mission oriented,
people centred justice policy

The bottom line seems to be that current policies are not that successful. This is why a mission oriented, people-centred justice approach is now recommended. People-centred justice puts justice needs of population at the centre. Evidence based working is recommended, so more justice problems can be prevented and fairly resolved. In order to make this happen, justice systems should open up to innovation.  

Effects of policy
Mission oriented, people-centred justice approach
Increase the % of justice problems prevented or resolved?
Likely, because this is the explicit goal of all interventions and this is monitored continuously.
Improve the effectiveness of justice practitioners?
Evidence based practice and implementing game-changing justice services is likely to improve effectiveness.
Resolve stress on budget allocation?
Depending on the way budgets are allocated. If new methods are added to existing ones, stress will increase. If more efficient methods can replace existing ones, the pressure on budgets will decrease.
Cause negative side-effects?
Depending on how these are monitored
Generate positive spin-offs?
Likely, because innovations can be often be applied in other contexts as well

An enabling environment
for people-centred justice

Supporting people-centred justice and innovation is more than good ideas, intentions and policies. It is about ensuring that the regulatory and process frameworks allow effective treatments and justice services to be implemented.

Cultivating an enabling environment is about finding the right stakeholders and interests that can support and realise the implementation of new innovations and services. Equally important is to look at who or what can block this process, and address these challenges.

The particular environment that will enable justice reforms may differ from one context to another. The key elements of an enabling environment include three hard elements: regulation, financing and procurement in the justice sector.

Justice policy making

Justice policy making is a messy process. Most literature focuses on how criminal justice policies emerge.

Many players are involved

Justice policy makers includes executive actors such as presidents, ministers, governors or mayors, as well as elected actors in parliaments. Heads of government agencies and judicial actors also have a say. The bar, the association of judges and the police usually have have substantial lobbying power. The media, experts, academics, consultants and leading lawyers may be involved, next to pressure groups, interested members of the public and the suppliers of buildings or IT.

The tools of policy makers

Main tools of justice policy makers are rules, budgets and procurement. Policy makers can also resort to data and know how, stories about salient cases and sharing their vision on security and justice issues. They can also influence policies by appointing effective leaders in key roles, such as the justices at the highest courts or the chief prosecutor.

Building coalitions, while respecting independence

Justice policies require informal coalitions between the players. From media to ministers of justice; from high level justices to leading lawyers; from the chief prosecutor to the leading academics; each player is acting independently. Change requires coalitions, with respect for established roles, and also with challengers who give voice to the needs of the people and of new providers of justice services. 

Narrow pathways

In this setting, the pathways to change are likely to be narrow. The coalition of stakeholders will need to embark on a step by step process, with quick wins and a clear follow up to bigger gains. Building trust on the way, and continuously checking progress.

How to create an enabling environment

A people-centred justice strategy is dependent on the interest and support of national justice actors. Working from data, applying best practices, scaling gamechangers, strengthening the movement – this all demands support from them.

Continuously collecting data and best practices also requires political, institutional and financial foundations. Innovation goals must be set nationally and have political support. The scaling of gamechangers is likely to require new types of institutional collaboration, changes to laws and regulations, and innovative financing models. To achieve and to anchor all this, the relevant justice stakeholders need to be brought together to build and maintain the enabling environment that is needed for the transformation towards people-centred justice.

In the heart of the creation of the enabling environment lies putting the justice users in the center of the conversation.

What do the justice users want?  What can deliver a direct solution for them? 

Setting goals based on what we want to deliver to the people is a starting point. Next, there’s the question on how to achieve that. What new ways can we try? Does technology or the existing, maybe even informal, structures provide something that can be scaled up? What innovative ways can be supported to achieve the goals? 

In these conversations, there’s a risk of getting lost in abstract and habitual conversations.  If the conversation is stuck in a loop of business as usual, going back to empathising with the justice user and utilising data can help. Additionally, having a multidisciplinary working group is needed to identify all different aspects of justice journeys. Does the working group reach an extensive ecosystem of influence? If not, who else do we need in this group? Involving the innovators and beneficiaries themselves is a good idea to identify the needs from the enabling environment. Additionally, exploring ways such as public-private partnerships can help to leverage the strategy.

Ideally the enabling environment is a combination of ambition and realism. Having a problem-solving approach with the right people in the room can also prevent the other extreme of falling into the trap of putting innovators on a pedestal. When mapping out solutions, critically look at what will change, how ready is the innovation to be scaled up, and what oversight from a regulatory authority is needed to protect consumers/users from fraud or bankruptcy.

While creating an enabling environment is always context-specific, activities that can help to strengthen the enabling environment include: 

Justice Transformation Lab:
HiiL’s methodology for
enabling environments

HiiL works towards the creation of enabling environments through a concept of a Justice Transformation Lab (JTL). The JTLs bring together relevant justice stakeholders to build and maintain the enabling environment that is needed for the transformation towards people-centred justice.

The Stakeholder Team is recognised as an empowered coalition of justice leaders designing and ultimately overseeing implementation of the Justice Transformation Strategy. The methodology aims to forge a meaningful connection between leaders and their personal motivations, and the goals and targets they define for meeting the civil justice needs of the population.

During a JTL, the stakeholder team takes a systemic, collaborative and experimental approach to problem-solving. HiiL takes the role of a facilitator and brings in data that can help to look beyond standard response: to turn in the direction of innovation and creating the enabling environment for alternative, informal or new ways of preventing or resolving disputes. This route to achieving people-centred justice is outlined below.

1. Setting Goals

Justice Transformation Strategy starts with outlining the agreed most pressing legal problems from the JNS and then goes on to establish goals for each of those focus areas.

The goals are inspirational and visionary in their outlook. They are expressed as outcomes for people which can be quantified and monitored.

2. Indicators of Success and Targets

Indicators of success and their targets are designed to accompany each specific goal. These are to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, as defined below. Targets can then support the design and implementation of innovative solutions  to achieve the goals and measure to what extent the goals are achieved.

The goals are inspirational and visionary in their outlook. They are expressed as outcomes for people which can be quantified and monitored.

3. Pathways

Pathways are then fully mapped. Pathways provide possible elements of the roadmap to achieving the goals, prioritising what to tackle first and subsequently. What is  taken into account is the existing and foreseeable context, identifying available capacity, resources and enablers required to most effectively prevent and resolve the most pressing justice needs for as many people as possible. Importantly, the pathways can be specifically designed around one goal or they can be cross-cutting and offer a route to reaching various goals.

Gamechanging pathways

The elements that are considered when mapping the gamechanging pathways are described in the table below. 

The gamechanging pathways introduce which possible innovative services or gamechangers, could realistically shift the trajectory towards more effective justice outcomes for the broadest number of people. The existing and foreseeable context is taken into account. These initial explorations can later be tested and further  concretised as more information becomes available during implementation. Ultimately, a gamechanger must be: 

International best practice has identified seven potential gamechangers which could drastically increase the number of people who have access to justice and are able to resolve a particular justice need. The list is found below. 

With gamechanging pathways to achieving the goals identified, justice leaders looked closer at the enabling environment required for the transformation towards people-centred justice. This included a review of contextual threats, opportunities and uncertainties; solutions; delivery models; financing models, as well as leadership and capacity. The stakeholders moved forward, informed by insights they developed, supported by the strategic work done in the dialogues and benefiting from knowledge within the group alongside data and research findings provided by HiiL.