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NRC Dreams of Accelerating Legal Aid for Displaced People

By designing these transformative digital solutions, NRC took the courageous first step in the journey to accelerate legal aid for those who need it the most.

July 9, 2018

This is the fourth post in a series focusing on the first networking group of NetHope members participating in IDEA (Imagine, Design, Execute, Assess), a process to speed up digital transformation offered to NetHope members through its social impact accelerator, The Center for the Digital Nonprofit. The first IDEA implementation pilot is based on Dream, Design, Deliver, a program developed by Microsoft and delivered with partners such as Revel and Accenture Development Partners.

Read the first post here, the second here, and the third here.

By Jean-Louis Ecochard, The Center for the Digital Nonprofit, NetHope

UNHCR has just reported that more than 68 million people have been forcibly displaced, and, as I write this, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center shows that 30.6 million of them have had to relocate in their own country.

Imagine for a moment being forced out of your home and also having your legal documents destroyed. Abruptly finding yourself with no driver’s license, no passport, no social security card, no birth certificate, no property deed, no proof of citizenship or address, nothing to prove who you are or what you own. Now, in your own country, you no longer exist, legally.

Now, imagine the effort to get these documents back for Aisha, a young woman who just gave birth in a refugee camp after her whole family was slaughtered. Alternatively, imagine being Danylo, a 75-year-old man living in the nongovernment-controlled area of Ukraine. He just lost his pension and needs legal help to get it back. But it’s complicated and the closest government office is a 10-hour bus ride away, crossing through a dangerous conflict zone.

Norwegian Refugee Council during Ideation work.

Today, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) lawyers do wonders to restore documentation and advance legal cases of displaced people like Aisha and Danylo. But with limited capacity, they can only help a very small percentage of all people in need. In Iraq alone, there are an estimated 1.9 million people without documentation and NRC has capacity to help less than 1 percent of them. This is why NRC is seeking to do more better through digital transformation.

As part of the Dream, Design, Deliver program developed by Microsoft—following taking the Digital Nonprofit Ability™ assessment with NetHope’s Center for the Digital Nonprofit—NRC spent three days reimagining how a digital approach could help serve more people sooner. The session was hosted in the Accenture Oslo office and facilitated by Fjord and Accenture Development Partners, with a team of talented NRC participants representing headquarters and field leaders. Everyone was deeply engaged in designing new ways to digitally increase the scale and speed of NRC’s legal services.

Up until now, The Center’s ideation workshops have led to distinct designs, but this time, NRC leaders knocked it out of the park. As passionate humanitarians, they synchronized their thoughts and ultimately designed three digital solutions, each organically complementing one another.

The team created an intelligent voice chatbot to deliver routine information at any time, everywhere, overcoming travel and schedule restrictions placed on humans. We engaged digital-savvy youth to become active partners in legal aid delivery, and built a smart case management system, nicknamed Galileo.

Key to this successful Dream session was keeping a human-centered viewpoint, putting people first at all stages of design, from documenting the current state for beneficiaries and lawyers, to drafting the future state of legal assistance, followed by reshaping new processes of interaction made possible by technology. In the end, the necessary technology elements were easy to pick, particularly as most were established market solutions.

“The challenges the humanitarian sector is up against—where the needs supersede the funding available—will require new approaches,” notes NRC’s Secretary-General Jan Egeland. “We need to team up with new partners and seek to do more with less. The Dream session we just concluded with Microsoft and Accenture is an exciting start for NRC to explore new partnerships and new ways of working.” 

By designing these transformative digital solutions, NRC took the courageous first step in the journey to accelerate legal aid for those who need it the most.

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