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Impact of Community-Based Paralegals: Work in Perspective

By: Carol Friedman, Winnie Martins

Since 1997 the Centre for Community Justice & Development (CCJD) has been running a community-based paralegal (CBP’s) service for the rural and marginalized people of the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal.

A pilot impact study of the work of the paralegals was undertaken in 2006. In order to refine this, an impact research study was carried out from 2008 to 2012 to coincide with and complement the comprehensive review of the outreach programme, spanning the fifteen years of operation, 1997-2012

This report is published as part of the Community-Based Access to Justice Series which focuses on different aspects of the work of community-based paralegals to make justice accessible to people at the grass-roots level.

Objectives of the Impact Study

Within the broader evaluation framework, the objectives of the impact study were:

  • To demonstrate the extent to which the Paralegal’s Programme’s intended outcomes have been achieved, in terms of indicators of success.
  • To demonstrate the extent to which people empowered by the Paralegal’s Programme directly have cascaded this benefit to others through their newly gained knowledge.
  • To demonstrate the extent to which the paralegal work has impacted other institutions in ways that were both intended and not intended and how this has changed these institutions.
  • To demonstrate the extent to which knowledge and awareness of human rights and the right to legal and social services have empowered the people served by Paralegals Programme, and how this has impacted their lives.
  • To demonstrate the extent to which the paralegal Programme has impacted communities in ways that were both intended and not intended, and how this has changed these communities.
  • To demonstrate the extent to which the community-based paralegals have been empowered through the capacity building programme to enable them to deliver services on this programme.
  • To track the relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of the impact for the communities involved.

The central question that underlies impact can be stated as: has the community based- paralegal programme made a substantial difference in the lives of the beneficiaries, directly and indirectly?

The specific research protocol identified five priority areas of impact. These are:

  • Increase in Knowledge and Empowerment
  • Change of Behaviour, Attitudes and Skills
  • Client Satisfaction
  • Cascading Benefits to Others
  • Challenges and Weaknesses

 

Each of these five priority areas is explained in detail below. These themes form the backbone of this report, and wider issues contained in the broad objectives will be further elaborated in other sections of this document.