We work to radically transform how the law works for communities fighting for racial, social, and economic justice

Strategic litigation is a powerful tool that can be used alongside advocacy, campaigning, and policy work to help bring about systemic change. However, litigation is underutilised in movements working to address the structural inequalities in our society. 

Community-driven litigation

Strategic litigation — litigation that brings about structural change in regulation, policy, or practice — is more than filing a court case and hoping for the best. By carefully coordinating action on different fronts, including campaigning and generating public debate, litigation becomes an important catalyst in pushing causes forward which otherwise see little progress or attention. 

While the courts are powerful agents for change, marginalised communities are unable to leverage the full potential of litigation for their causes and campaigns. Litigation is generally underutilised, often due to limited access to knowledge on what it can and cannot do and existing litigation efforts often do not serve these communities or centre their needs.  

We want to radically transform how the law works for communities fighting for racial, social, and economic justice. We do this by: 

  • building their power to leverage the courts in their campaigns for change; and  
  • levelling their access to justice.

In this, we are centring communities’ perspective and lived experience. Instead of having lawyers take over and set the agenda, we will jointly develop community-driven litigation campaigns, opening up the law to those who need it the most. 

1

Building the power of organisations and movements fighting for justice and equality

2

Launching community-driven litigation

3

Scaling impact by promoting equitable working models with other litigators

1. Building the power of organisations and movements fighting for justice and equality 

We believe that communities should be able to make informed choices about how they want to incorporate litigation in their campaigns for change. 

This is why we work to build the knowledge and power of organisations and movements fighting for justice and equality to better decide if and how to integrate litigation in their strategy for change. We do this by: 

  • Developing resources on strategic litigation, to assist in better understanding the different aspects of it, and to help guide considerations on if or how litigation might be a tactic to include in campaigns for change 
  • Delivering workshops and trainings to assist those doing community-based or -facing work in better understanding strategic litigation as a tool for change and what it might do for their campaigns 
  • Hosting regular drop-in calls to address community questions and assist in finding support elsewhere for matters outside Systemic Justice’s scope of work 

The first resources will be published on our website towards the end of 2022, based on a needs assessment we are conducting in July. If you would like to provide input, you can complete our survey (which also has translations available in Dutch, French, Italian, Russian, and Spanish) or get in touch

2. Launching community-driven litigation 

We will litigate with our partner organisations to achieve change by leveraging the power of the courts. Through a truly participatory, open model of partnership, we will jointly build litigation campaigns to bring about structural change on issues of racial, social, and economic justice. 

Recognising that structural change takes time, Systemic Justice will enter long-term partnerships and develop strategies that tackle root causes rather than addressing merely the symptoms of unjust and unequal power structures. When exploring a partnership, we will jointly discuss the following questions: 

  1. What is the bigger change the community wants to see? 
  2. Can strategic litigation provide a positive contribution to their campaign for change? 
  3. If so, what would a litigation strategy look like?

If we decide to move forward together, we will jointly design the strategy for the litigation campaign. We will work together closely as the effort unfolds, in which Systemic Justice will take care of the legal aspects of the campaign. 

3. Scaling impact by promoting equitable working models with the broader field of litigators 

There is a growing desire within the legal field to take a more community-focused approach in litigation work. We are working to establishing a community of practice for litigators, legal practitioners, and litigating organisations currently working on cases that concern racial, social, and economic justice issues in Europe. 

In the community of practice participants come together to: 

  • share ideas, experiences, and best practices  
  • support each other towards individual and shared goals 
  • pool valuable learning and create new knowledge 

We are working to jointly build a shared and collaborative domain for learning and exchange. Systemic Justice’s role will be to cultivate, organise, and facilitate the community to ensure that members get high value for their time and participation. 

In October 2022, the community will have its first in-person meeting to set the direction for its further work. If you want to get in touch about the community of practice, you can do so here. 

Where we work

Our work is currently focused on Europe (Council of Europe area), with a view to expanding to other regions in a few years’ time.  

What we work on

Our litigation work will:  

Just like the litigation campaigns we work on, we believe that the issues we litigate on should be determined by the communities facing racial, social, and economic injustice. Therefore, we are conducting a consultation process to determine the initial thematic focus of our work. In this context, we are exploring six areas:

  1. climate justice
  2. access to justice
  3. policing
  4. social protection
  5. anti-racism
  6. free movement 

Our consultation will conclude at the end of summer 2022. You can read more here. 

To make sure our work meets the needs of activists and movements, Systemic Justice will will hold a series of six thematic roundtables during April-July 2022, convening a total of approximately 100 organisations, movements, and community groups.

The roundtables will cover six themes: climate justice; anti-racism; social protection; policing; access to justice; and free movement.

Get in touch

If you’re interested in collaborating with Systemic Justice or have a question about our work, please get in touch on info@systemicjustice.ngo.

You can find an overview of our team and collaborators here and more ways to contact us here.

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