Vivek Maru

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Washington, DC

Follow Vivek on Twitter here.

Vivek believes we can advance social and environmental justice by deepening democracy.

Vivek started Namati in 2011. Since then, Namati and its partners have supported cadres of community paralegals—sometimes known as barefoot lawyers—in ten countries. These advocates work with their communities to protect common lands, enforce environmental law, and secure basic rights to healthcare and citizenship.

In all six countries, paralegals and communities have achieved concrete remedies to grave harms as well as major improvements to entire systems, including a new national program in Mozambique to ensure healthcare is accountable to local communities, Myanmar’s first legal commitment to honor the customary land rights of ethnic minorities, and in Sierra Leone, one of the most progressive laws on land, environmental, and climate justice in the world.

Globally, Namati convenes the Grassroots Justice Network, made up of more than 3,000 groups from over 174 countries who are learning from one another and collaborating on common challenges. This community successfully advocated for the inclusion of justice in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and for the creation of the Legal Empowerment Fund, with a goal of putting $100 million into grassroots justice efforts worldwide.

Vivek is co-author of Community Paralegals and the Pursuit of Justice (Cambridge University Press). His TED talk, “How to Put the Power of Law in People’s Hands,” has been viewed over a million times.

Vivek is on the road a lot, but he has a home and family in Washington, DC. He tries to spend time in a forest or other natural place every week, wherever he is.

Vivek studies and teaches capoeira at Universal Capoeira Angola Center.

Work life before Namati

From 2003 to 2007, Vivek co-founded and co-directed the Sierra Leonean organization Timap for Justice, which has been recognized by the International Crisis Group, Transparency International, and President Jimmy Carter for advancing justice in the context of a weak state and a plural legal system.

From 2008 to 2011, he served as senior counsel in the Justice Reform Group of the World Bank. His work focused on rule of law reform and governance, primarily in West Africa and South Asia.

In 1997-1998 he lived in a hut of dung and sticks in a village in Kutch, his native place, working on rainwater conservation and girls’ education with two grassroots development organizationsSahjeevan and Kutch Mahila Vikas Sanghathan.

Learning, writing, teaching, supporting

Vivek graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude, and Yale Law School. His undergraduate thesis was called Mohandas, Martin, and Malcolm on Violence, Culture, and Meaning.

Vivek writes regularly—see links to publications below—and has co-taught the Legal Empowerment Leadership Course, which Central European University and the Bernstein Center for Human Rights at New York University School of Law co-host.

Vivek serves on the boards of Renew New England, which is pursuing a Green New Deal across that region, and the Constitutional Accountability Center, which is focused on fulfilling the progressive promise of the U.S. constitution. He also serves on the advisory council for the Climate Justice Resilience Fund. Vivek was an affiliate expert with the UN Commission on Legal Empowerment and is a member of the global Task Force on Justice.


  • Human Rights Global Treasure Award, Article 3 (2023)
  • Racial Equity 2030 Prize, a $20m award granted to Namati by the Kellogg Foundation and Lever for Change (2022).
  • Global Pluralism Award, granted to Namati Kenya by the Global Centre for Pluralism (2021).
  • Social Entrepreneurship of the Year Awardee, co-named with Sonkita Conteh, Director of Namati Sierra Leone, Schwab Foundation and the World Economic Forum (2017).
  • Skoll Awardee for Social EntrepreneurshipSkoll Foundation (2016).
  • Legal RebelThe American Bar Association (2015).
  • Ashoka FellowAshoka (2014).
  • Pioneer Award, North American South Asian Bar Association (2008).