Aloha and welcome back to my blog,
This blog entry will be talking less about my projects here at Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and more on a greater problem the legal profession is experiencing. Legal disparities that are based on race and ethnicity. Out of that disparity was born “Race-Based Advocacy”, an activity that actively challenges both current and historical barriers that impede equal access to opportunity and advancement by minorities.
Camille Holmes and her team at the Center for Law and Social Policy identified two strategies which race-based advocacy encompasses. The first is antidiscrimination statutes that prohibit discrimination in substantive areas of law like housing, lending, contracts, property, employment, and federally funded programs. The second is advocacy that identifies and prioritizes the concerns of minority groups and develops strategies which address discriminatory practices.
The full article can be found at http://www.povertylaw.org/files/docs/article/chr_2002_may_june_holmes.pdf
Here in Hawaii, we have been seen as the melting pot of the Pacific. LIFE Magazine declared in 1945 that “there are so many races, pure and mixed, that prejudice for or against any one of them is simply impractical.” However, we at LASH are seeing that one group of citizens come face to face with more prejudice and more barriers to legal help than the rest.
The Micronesian population, which includes a wide range of populations and hundreds of more dialects that have emigrated from Micronesia exceed 20,000 and more than 8,000 have come to Hawaii. With limited access to health care, housing, government assistance, and legal services, obtaining basic necessities can be a mountainous challenge.
In observance of such disparities, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii has taken major steps to guarantee justice for all and has come out with self-help brochures, online videos in two of the major Micronesian languages (Chuukes and Marshallese). On top of that, the organization has developed an outreach unit that visits communities that have high populations of Micronesians to help with government benefits, secure housing and more.
As I have touched upon in earlier weeks, we have been utilizing design thinking to help solve problems and bridge the gaps in the justice system.
Design thinking utilizes seven basic principles: 1) visualize ideas; 2) rapidly prototype possible solutions; 3) figure out the needs, action themes, and values; 4) observe users; 5) be open to change; 6) don’t seek perfection, seek “enough”; and 7) work in interdisciplinary teams.
How would I approach a task to shrink the gaps of legal aid for Micronesian communities? How would you approach this problem? The easy outcome would, of course, be equal access to all with the goal being able to help everyone that walks through our doors. The journey from step A to step Z, however, remains uneasy to articulate beyond having more native speakers join the LASH team.
The low-hanging fruit would be to remove barriers like language and cultural differences and to increases usage and efficiency. But maybe I am just at a mental block right now.
Any food for thought? Perhaps one of you can find the solution.
Mahalo for reading and see you next week where I will update you on my progress with my projects here at Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.
This video may be a hint as to what it might be.