Sustainability of Paralegal Projects

I was reading a beautiful article by @caitlinpierce about private sector as an alternative option for funding for paralegal work and it has inspired me to write this piece. For the past six months I have been trying to think of how to sustain the Kenya citizenship paralegal project when its funding is lifted. We often think of how a project shall be sustainable in the community when it comes to an end. Rarely do we think of the trained personnel who we spend thousands of dollars empowering them to support their communities. For example the citizenship paralegals are well trained personnel in that field but can other sectors absorb them when the project comes to an end? Do we need to empower them with other life skills to fit the job market when the project comes to an end? Or do we just let them go and let life take a toll on them?

As much as we might be thinking of alternative funding for projects, have we ever thought of income generating activities for partners and Namati to sustain the projects past funding? Or is there a guarantee that funds shall always be at our disposal? What about the sustainability of the partner organization that runs these projects?

During my visit to a partner organization (Council of Minorities) in Bangladesh running a similar paralegal model on citizenship, I got an opportunity to visit other organizations and this sparked all these ideas of post funding and the fate of projects and the partner organization. We visited Brac offices and during our visit we noted that Brac internally raises a significant amount for their projects and they are capable of funding all their paralegal projects. But how did they reach to this level? They have microfinance projects, banks, chicken – a significant amount of businesses that they have invested in to raise funds for their community activities. They are now a global organization. This is the dream of every organization but in order to reach this level we should start brainstorming on how to support each other and grow together.

We may be confident of funding but are we sure that the regulations and laws governing partner organizations locally will be conducive enough in the years to come? It is common knowledge that in 2014 the Kenyan government pushed for the enactment of a law that would limit NGO funding to 25%, requiring them to raise the rest of the 75% locally through self-funding of their activities. This should be a lesson for everyone that this can happen again in Kenya or even in other countries. This unknown should inspire all of us to start thinking of how we can sustain our projects during this time should it reach, or should we just brush this issue aside and hope to address it when we reach that time?

According to me I think Namati and other legal empowerment organizations should start thinking of such issues at this time and we should all join hands and share best experiences of self-sustainability of projects. I recall I had this discussion with @lauragoodwin and she shared that in some countries paralegals charge fees to sustain the project. But what is the essence of charging fees if the paralegals are meant to cut down the costs of the application of identity documents which were high as a result of brokers charging applicants in the name of assisting them in their application. Won’t we be training a group of brokers in the name of paralegals to replace the former?

We were able to also meet another organization in Saidpur called Eastern Screen Printers. This group creates beautiful artifacts ranging from gift cards, success cards, bags and other hand-made crafts and later exports them to Europe and the money is used to pay the workers and fund other activities of the organization.

August 13, 2015 | Namati Author