A puzzling question: where on a Saturday morning might you find 35 creative professionals – designers, artists, writers, technologists, and more – donating their time and expertise to help generate support for bail reform in Ontario?
The answer: why, of course, you’ll find them squeezed into a conference room at the Law Society of Ontario!
On Saturday February 1st, a diverse group of creatives – armed with coffee, muffins, flipcharts, sticky notes, and sharpies – excitedly dove into a 6-hour design sprint to find new ways to create enthusiasm for bail reform.
The Law & Design CoLab’s fourth project, “Building Momentum for Bail Reform”, exemplifies our mission to use design and digital media to improve access to justice by making legal advocacy and education radically more impactful.
The Creative Design Challenge on February 1st was this project’s half-way point and represented the culmination of three months’ work by our team of volunteers – a collection of lawyers, UX/service designers, graphic designers, marketing strategists, and more who share a passion for using creative design for social good.
What is the Law & Design CoLab?
To help break through Canada’s access to justice crisis, we believe that the legal nonprofit sector needs to adopt bold new ways of using digital media and technology to exponentially grow their impact and drive cultural change across the justice sector.
The Law & Design CoLab (the “CoLab”) is a volunteer-led nonprofit based in Toronto and Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. We convene skilled professionals in technology, design, and digital media to work alongside legal experts and community stakeholders. Together, we conceive, scope, build and test new digital products and experiences to make legal education and advocacy more impactful. You can learn more here about how the CoLab selects projects, engages stakeholders, and recruits volunteers.
The Action Group on Access to Justice (“TAG”) established by the Law Society of Ontario played a key role in the creation of the CoLab in 2018 by graciously facilitating introductions to the nonprofit legal community. TAG has remained instrumental to our success through its role as a core collaborator and convener.
Why Bail Reform?
Ontario’s bail system has long suffered from delays, high costs, bad outcomes, and the erosion of foundational legal principles. While recent Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation signal an emerging shift in the culture and practice of bail in Ontario, the momentum generated by these changes must be built upon and sustained.
At this juncture in Ontario’s story of bail reform, the CoLab identified an opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration, i.e. how might design, digital media, and marketing help build momentum for widely-agreed-upon reforms.
Progress to Date
We began in October 2019 with a literature review, system mapping exercise, and design brief. We then conducted off-the-record interviews with leading academics, defence counsel, duty counsel, community legal clinics, and other expert stakeholders.
We synthesized our research into a concise and compelling Creative Brief which served as the key plank of our social media campaign to attract applications from talented creatives for our Creative Design Challenge. From a field of over 80 applicants, we selected 35 participants on criteria including level of experience, quality of portfolio, personal connection to the issues, and ensuring a balance of skill sets among participants.
On the day of the Creative Design Challenge, we were joined by a complement of four experts on bail and two creative leaders from a world-class ad agency who helped engage and inspire the participants.
All our workshop materials, including the day’s agenda, a media collage, stakeholder posters, and more, are shared online.After a day of learning and exploration, participants presented a wide range of compelling concepts which have already opened many exciting pathways for further development. Some common themes included:
- Experiential design: an art installation that helps users better understand the process/experience of being on remand
- Interactive products: data visualizations or a “choose your own adventure”-style narrative
- Storytelling: a video documentary series of true-to-life stories
- Marketing tactics to provoke and engage: a series of “missing person” posters that highlight unfair bail decisions or unfair conditions of release
Over the next few weeks, the CoLab team will explore these ideas further, collect feedback from stakeholders and scope opportunities for executing one or more concepts.
The CoLab’s plan for 2020 includes developing/testing two prototypes of digital legal information products and scoping/launching two media campaigns.
With increased awareness and support for our work from the legal community, we hope to increase the number of projects we can deliver each year. You can support us by:
- Sharing our work with your friends and colleagues
- Following us on social media via Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook
- Sharing an interesting project idea with us
- Providing in-kind or financial support
- Volunteering your professional expertise on a project
 R. v. Antic in 2017 and An Act to amend the Criminal Code (former Bill C-75) in 2019.
 Webster 2016 at 55 describes the broad consensus on needed reforms: [C]ultural change is no small undertaking … [A]ny effective solutions will… be part of a multifactorial, long-term approach… [I]solated changes will have little effect without altering the mentality of the criminal process more broadly… [T]he construction of a framework of general principles… [and] the development of explicit guidelines… may likely need to be defined from ‘above’ while the actual… [while] strategies for [implementation are] negotiated at a more local level.