On Linking Practice and Innovation

Today’s New York Times has an interesting article on the advantages of co-locating research and production:

[E]xperts say that in industries that produce complex, high-technology products — things like bioengineered tissues, not light bulbs — companies that keep their research and manufacturing employees close together might be more innovative than businesses that develop a schematic and send it overseas for low-wage workers to make. Moreover, clusters of manufacturers, where workers and ideas can naturally flow between companies, might prove more productive and innovative than the same businesses if they were spread across the country.

Why am I blogging about this?  Because I want to make the point that the same may apply in access to justice research.  For too long, the academy has separated itself from the real world.  Now we are starting to get real partnerships between academics and practitioners — as evidenced by the recent Chicago meeting, about which I plan to comment in the near future.

A person from GE adds:

The idea is to knit together manufacturing, design, prototyping and production, said Michael Idelchik, vice president for advanced technologies, who holds a dozen patents himself. “We believe that rather than a sequential process where you look at product design and then how to manufacture it, there is a simultaneous process,” Mr. Idelchik said. “We think it is key for sustaining our long-term competitive advantage.”  (Bold added.)

I think that it is the same in access innovation.  That’s why we need court innovation laboratories, and legal aid innovation laboratories, and we need them in real world institutions, linked to broader systems.  Some of the attributes of such laboratories:

  • Extensive data collection and research capacity built in
  • Innovative staff
  • Flexible management structures
  • Flexible funding with reserves to test new ideas
  • Advisory board from across the country to help identify innovations to be tested, and to legitimize and spread the results
  • Links to academics

The model, of course, is Midtown Community Court.

Disclosure: I led the design for the original technology there way back in 1993.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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