OJEN is pleased to announce the launch of its Department of Capacity Building and Engagement (CBE), which is new to the organization as of January 2021. While volunteer training and professional development initiatives for both teachers and lawyers have always been a significant part of OJEN’s work, across all of its departments, the creation of CBE will bring all of this work under one roof where it can be strengthened, supported, and expanded by dedicated staff. It presents an opportunity to reinvest in the 1600+ volunteers that OJEN engages every year, equipping them with tools to provide even better justice education experiences for youth. It will also allow the organization to expand its offerings to high school law teachers, youth workers, and legal professionals who offer public legal education and support to the young people who are most vulnerable to legal problems.
The Department of CBE has already hit the ground running. It has expanded OJEN’s Justice Education Fellowship offerings to the University of Windsor and the Lincoln Alexander School of Law and Ryerson University, which means that in 2021-22 for the first time OJEN will have an active Fellow at every law school in Ontario. It has helped adapt OJEN’s professional development programming for teachers in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, offering the Summer Law Institute as a webinar series. It continues to roll out free webinars throughout the year on timely issues like the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, understanding Ontario’s legal aid system, and Ecojustice’s youth-driven Charter challenge of the government’s inaction on climate change.
In the first phase of its work, CBE hopes to achieve a number of organizational goals, including:
- Developing comprehensive training packages for volunteers delivering classroom, courthouse, and community outreach programs.
- Creating standardized volunteer feedback tools to help us improve the volunteer experience and collect more robust organization-wide data.
- Delivering training sessions to justice sector volunteers on how to deliver our Steps to Justice workshop modules online.
- Supporting OJEN’s second virtual Summer Law Institute with an even stronger program.
- Providing our Youth Leadership Teams and Justice Education Fellows with comprehensive orientation and training on OJEN’s justice education model.
- Publishing and disseminating our Guidelines for Better Legal Workshops, a companion piece to Community Legal Education Ontario’s “Guidelines for Better Legal Information,” which will set standards and give direction to anyone who seeks to create excellent legal education workshops for the public.
CBE’s work is evolving under the direction of Michelle Thompson, previously OJEN’s Manager of Legal and Digital Development, but it represents a significant collaborative effort between key OJEN staff, our partners, and our larger community. We look forward to having more opportunities than ever to engage with our volunteers and supporters, and to strengthen OJEN’s justice education initiatives in ways we have always wanted to but never before could. We hope you will see the impact in the coming years.