We held our first Community toolkit for change workshop on “Making the courts work for communities’ causes”, where we were joined by community leaders and supporters eager to explore how the courts can be leveraged in their campaigns for change.
The workshop was held in London on 5 February 2024, and brought together fifteen participants working towards racial, social, and economic justice in the south of the city. The aim of the workshop was to give an introduction to how the law can be used by their communities in support of these efforts.
Using our Conversation starter and our Guide for Legal Action as a blueprint, we started the workshop by asking participants to share their visions for change. These visions would inform the rest of the days’ activities and reflections. We then unpacked the concept of “strategic litigation” by looking at the definition of the term and exploring the different ways in which the courts have been used historically in long-term campaigns for justice.
In doing so, we also examined the different roles court cases can play, for example, in strengthening campaigns, mobilising communities, securing redress, changing the law, and “causing trouble”. Finally, we looked at the different stakeholders involved in litigation, and how to identify targets and allies when building a case.
We wanted the workshop to be as participatory and practical as possible, so we created space for these concepts to be applied to the work that everybody is doing. In groupwork, participants explored how they could leverage the courts in favour of their communities’ experiences, struggles, and visions for change, such as fighting for clean air, good quality housing, access to justice, and community spaces. In animated group discussions, we identified the root causes of structural inequality and environmental racism that underpin the disparate impact these issues have across the city.
By the end of the workshop, we had the backbone of a potential strategy for how the courts can play a strategic role across these issues and – most importantly – a foundation on which to continue the discussion. It was a busy day, but we also had time to break bread together and get to know one another. The energy in the room was infectious, and participants expressed that they left feeling excited and inspired to build on the conversations that were sparked by the day’s work.
The event was made possible by the support of Impact on Urban Health, who also kindly let us use their beautiful space for the day.
The workshop forms part of our work to Build the power of communities, movements and collectives in their fight for racial, social, and economic justice and accompanies our Community toolkit for change, a set of resources to help communities explore the potential of strategic litigation.
If you would be interested in us holding such a workshop for your own community, or have some feedback on our resources, please get in touch!