The LSC TIG request for Letters of Intent is now out. The Letters of Intent (LOI) are due Monday March 7, 2011. This Wed Feb 16 webinar (update — now available here) on the process would be particularly helpful for those programs that have not previously participated in the process — who should be encouraged to do so this year — there are replication and website enhancement categories that might be particularly relevant for this group. It is my impression that LSC has always wanted to get broad coverage and program participation.
I will not summarize the solicitation, but do want to draw attention to some new opportunities this year. As always, LSC places great value on cooperation with courts, bar, community, and other groups, and this cooperation can include payment of project costs borne by partners where appropriate. As always, there is an “open” category, so nothing is excluded, provided it relates to technology. All in all, as you will see, it is a highly innovative Solicitation, and the TIG team and the Corporation are to be congratulated on their creatively in a not-always easy time.
- Website Improvement and Innovation. “The Website Improvement and Innovation category is designated for initiatives that will add new tools, promote website traffic, build community and increase the effectiveness of statewide websites to better serve their community, partners, advocates, and client population.” (at 2). This category allows for a huge range of innovations, given that really any service delivered over the Internet should be linked into the “spine” of the state website. This might include informational enhancements, such as video, or true additional tools, such as evidence planners, self-diagnosis, social networking with people with similar legal issues (with attention to ethics issues) etc.
- Replication of Prior TIG Projects (at 3). The point is that it is much cheaper to redo something that someone else has done, particularly since LSC requires that software developed in one project be available at low cost to others. The solicitation explicitly encourages document assembly and the use of Law Help Interactive and A2J (at 4), pointing out that it is easy to modify existing templates, and much cheaper than writing them from scratch.
- LEP Populations. (at 5.) A huge area of opportunity. See my recent blog linking to a general report on the subject. from National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. Do not be intimidated by the complexity of the translation software issue into ignoring much lower tech ideas. Remember also that it is not just about language, but also the related cultural issues. This may be a particular partnering opportunity, because of the pressure the courts are under from the US Civil Rights Division of DOJ (see DOJ letter). Multi-lingual information, video, document assembly, resource indexes, etc. all help meet the need.
- Fiscal and Administrative Options. “In the Improving Fiscal and Administrative Operations category, LSC encourages proposals for applications that will use technology to improve operations by, for example, (1) fully integrating the timekeeping records with the accounting and payroll programs or (2) integrating payroll, human resource and accounting systems to avoid duplication of data entry and to comply with the internal fiscal controls found in LSC’s Accounting Guide and with applicable laws and regulations.” (at 5). This is a totally new area, and one that allows the tech folks to work much more closely with the back office operation. Obviously, recent events have highlighted the vulnerability of programs to internal fraud. There is a huge need to build systems that are internally transparent, and have internal audit checks built in. This area also provides the opportunity to develop much better cost accounting systems that will easily demonstrate to funders what the work they support actually costs. It also provides opportunity for better tools to understand the cost effectiveness of different approaches to managing cases, times, etc.
- Mobile Technology. “According to a July 2010 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “six in ten Americans go online wirelessly using a laptop or cell phone [46% have household incomes less than $30,000]” (at 5). I love this area, and we have really only just started (Montana TIG). This is not just about putting our information online, it is about creating tools that are useless unless they are mobile. Examples: find your courtroom; find your legal aid office; get to the nearest location that will let you access (an print) court documents; the phone that listens for the DV victim’s scream, or even just the unusual movements associated with being battered, and calls police and lawyer, and records everything — including movement so that inconsistency with the batterers exculpatory version of events is shown, etc; an app for hourly workers to keep track of their time to reduce non-payment (with geo-coded proof of presence). The list is endless.
- Law Student and Pro Bono. (at 5). The new LSC Board and President are strong supporters of pro bono. Technology tools might include video conferencing (so pro bono lawyers can help from their offices), integration with LiveHelp (same), special document assembly tools designed for those with general legal expertize, but not the substantive area required.
- Technology Tools with Applicability to Federal Laws. “A variety of technologies have the potential to enhance access to legal information and resources related to federal laws affecting the clients of LSC grantees. These resources may be especially valuable given that they could be used by clients and advocates across the country. Substantive legal areas might include, but are not limited to: Social Security Disability, SSI, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Bankruptcy, Fair Labor Standards Act, Public and Federally Subsidized Housing, and Medicare. Resources for clients might include web- based legal information and guidance, including appropriate automated documents and videos. Advocate resources could include web-based trainings, informational materials and automated documents and court forms. These technology tools should be developed so they can be readily used and/or adapted by advocates or clients across the country. Tools also might include mechanisms for coordinating and sharing information about federal legal issues.” I think this is very important for the future. In some ways, the EITC work of Legal Aid of Orange County is the model of how technology can solve clients problems nationally, and can be built in partnership with local legal aid and community groups. Please think if you, or you as part of a consortium of programs, can meet these huge areas of need with tech tools.
All in all a great set of opportunities for LSC.