London, 18th June, 2019
New methodological approaches and technical tools can multiply the effect of pro bono activities – but every stakeholder has still to learn the appropriate use of these.
We attended PILnet European Convening in London.
Pro bono lawyers, legal experts and representatives of non-profit organisations got together and discussed how technological progress and innovation can strengthen pro bono cooperation.
Technology and innovation supporting pro bono activities
The use of digital technology tools does not build trust by itself towards the activity of non-profit organisations, although the use of the adequate tools can make the realization of non-profit and pro bono activities more efficient, so it can contribute to the development of social trust and keeping it on high level.
We got to know inspiring American and Australian examples about how it is possible to make skills-based volunteering more organised, more transparent, smoother by using online platforms and applications.
The use of digital technologies brings up various legal questions, data protection has a significant role in this area. In order to use the digital technologies in a socially useful way, an intensive dialogue is necessary between developers, non-profit organisations and legal experts.
Similarities between management and legal pro bono activities
Independently from the area – management or law – corporate and skills-based volunteering has several similarities, according to the different sessions of the convening.
Pro bono activities have high significance because they contribute to the resilience of the non-profit organisations.
Corporate volunteering can help in keeping fluctuation at a small level and prevent burnout of employees.
In case of a bigger organisations, it could be advisable to form an individual unit in charge of supporting pro bono activities.
Management and legal pro bono activities support complementary areas of a non-profit organisation, so that they can have multiplied effect.
No matter what area a professional expert works in, it is important to create opportunities to learn from each other. Management and legal professionals recognized that they can offer support with a bigger impact by establishing interdisciplinary cooperation. The network of pro bono law offices tries to reinforce and share this message.
Openness and creativity in applying theoretical methodologies to practice are important both in management and legal fields. The available professional tools, frameworks can be of better use in the non-profit sector after customization – according to the specialities, needs of the organisations. The support of social enterprises can be a good example: lawyers can support the organisation in the legal issues around the foundation and operation of the social enterprise.
Pro bono support of social impact investments
Social impact investors expect from the amount invested in an organisation representing a social purpose not only financial return (also on a longer time period and at lower rate of return), but they also evaluate the positive impact the organisation has on the society.
Based on this, social impact investors have to be more flexible than other investors. From the legal side, this can be supported by creating the adequate legal framework of the transaction.
Social impact investment is a new form of funding. Traditionally, non-profit organisations leaned on non-refundable grants of donor organisations (considering the completion of some indicators and goals). Legal experts can also support the organisation receiving the social impact investment by helping them prepare for the transaction.
The task of lawyers is to minimize risk on both sides: establish a trusted relationship, where both the investor and the social enterprise feel protected, in order to maximize social impact.
The use of design thinking in legal topics
The innovative approaches of solving social problems can be strengthened in several aspects.
Laboratory-like (lab) workplaces can really inspire the development and testing of new ideas.
Design thinking can give new approaches, creative solutions on fields where its use can be unusual, for example law. In legal protection, for example, it helps to find simple, easily understandable solutions (e.g. making legal texts easily understandable), keeps the needs of clients in focus, facilitates the involvement of beneficiaries in development processes, it can support creative activities with analogies brought from other fields of expertise.
The design thinking method does not only support the consideration of outputs and outcomes, but it sets in focus the impact made on the broader public community, the society itself.