Is the justice system ready to innovate?

On November 20, 2018, A2JBC’s Leadership Group convened at the Telus Innovation Centre for a stimulating day of conversation about opportunities for innovation in the justice system.

To start, we heard how artificial intelligence can assist BC doctors and patients with triage and support, improving both groups’ experience of the system. Next, we heard from six remarkable people from inside and outside the justice system: Eric Wai; Ian Bailey; Melanie Mahlman; Nejeed Kassam; Tom Spraggs; and Sage Berryman. Our guests told us about their efforts to innovate and build connections between social enterprises, technology, law and private investment. Among other things, we learned how they made a difference by being bold, by learning from failure and by pursuing effective solutions through the perspective of users.

With their insights as our prompt, the A2JBC Leadership Group evaluated a report from our Funding Working Group. The Funding Working Group’s mandate was to recommend a strategy to qualitatively expand the amount of private funding—both philanthropic and corporate—currently invested in access to justice innovation in BC.

As I’ve discussed before on this blog, we have an access to justice problem in Canada, exemplified by the large unmet demand for legal services; as a result, both people and the rule of law are suffering. As the report explains, the private sector is responding—just not here. There is actually a boom in private investment directed at access to justice initiatives across North America. If we are to make progress in this province, the report suggests, we need to consider connecting access to justice initiatives with private capital.

Put another way, the report suggests the BC justice system needs to be open to innovation. Funders today like to have impact that they can measure; that means that we need to start collecting better data about justice system users, which is essential for improving user experience—one of the core elements of the A2J Triple Aim. We need to think about the justice system as not just adjudicating a discrete individual dispute, but as a means of bringing about social harmony, peacemaking and healing. We need to bring existing technologies to BC, and we also need to promote made-in-BC solutions.

What is A2JBC’s role in this? A2JBC can provide leadership by ensuring bridges between innovators and the justice system mainstream. We can support the creation of spaces for innovation. We can encourage the collection and sharing of data about user experience.

With some justifiable reservations, the report’s recommendations received strong support from Leadership Group members. I hope you will take a look at the report and let us know what you think: [email protected].