After the Access to Justice Commissions meeting this spring in Austin, the Commissions were invited to respond to a brief survey as to their interest in following up on the areas for possible initiatives that had been the focus of the meeting.
I am very pleased that I can now share the results of that survey, and that they show a broad level of interest in moving forward. The results also give a strong sense that the Commissions are moving in a common and broad general direction. This chart tells much of the story. The possible areas of activity are shown in order of definitively planned activity, with 25 states providing significant data.
Firstly, there is a significant level of interest in having such areas of activity. In fact, the average responding state has 3.9 areas of project or definite planning, and 3.9 under consideration. That’s a total of 7.8, a major change from the relatively narrow focus of a few years back.
Secondly, with one exception, the totals (not shown on the graph) are very close together. For each of the areas, between 22 and 25 states are either definitely planning or are considering them. The exception is the one dealing with community legal system chasm, which has only 2 definitely planning, but 12 considering, for a total of 14. From this pattern, we can conclude that there is general agreement about the general possible focuses of the movement. (It should be admitted, however, there might be other options not offered that are in fact receiving significant interest.)
Thirdly, it is noted that while funding are as usual the most two common areas that is definitely planned, it is also the fact that one communication strategy and one court system improvement strategy find themselves in the top four, and not so far behind, confirming that Commissions now have a broader view of their role as innovators as well as funders.
Please note that the names of activities used here are very abbreviated. The full survey questions, and slightly fuller data presentation are shown in the Report here.
The second series of questions gauged interest in networking among Commissions to support each others’ activities in these areas. Here the average state was definitely interested in 1.7 areas (out of a lower maximum) and possibly in 3.4, for a total of 5.1. These are lower numbers than plans for in-state activity, and significantly more tentative. Here is the chart, sorted this time by the total, given that that seems to be a more useful number here both for analysis and planning purposes.
There is, I think, a greater spread in the totals, a different ordering, and, of course, the much greater occurrence of networking between states being considered, rather than definitely desired. With the exception of those definitely wanting such networking on a total funding plan, there is less interest relatively in funding issues.
Of course, many strategic and planning considerations will go into any decisions about priorities and next steps. But Public Welfare Foundation funded support for the meeting planning and this follow-up are to be congratulated on the much more focused meeting and the gathering this data, which gives a much more comprehensive view of what the state-level Commissions believe they want.