On April 19-21, 2016, with the support of the project Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine took place a mission of Canadian experts of Legal Aid Ontario, in the framework of which a number of meetings and expert discussions with the representatives of the legal aid system team, the Coordination Centre and Secondary Legal Aid Centres, took place.
The mission was aimed, on the one hand, at familiarizing Ukrainian counterparts with the experience of strategic planning and monitoring of the legal aid offices in Canada, in particular, through a detailed example of Legal Aid Ontario, which carries out the organization of legal aid provision in one of the largest provinces of Canada, Ontario; and, hence, the possibilities of adopting best practices/experience in strategic planning and determining indicators to monitor the functioning of the legal aid system in Ukraine. On the other hand, the familiarization of Canadian partners with the stages and the current state of the legal aid system development, in particular, the establishment of legal aid offices in all regions of Ukraine this year.
For this purpose, Canadian experts, namely, Vice-President of Legal Aid Ontario Strategic Planning and Monitoring Roderick Strain and Head of Special Projects, Innovation and Support for Legal Aid Ontario Programs Rodney Smith, stayed in Kyiv for several days. Within the mission’s framework, they met with representatives of the Coordination Centre and participated in the working group on strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation of the LA system, which consisted of representatives of the Coordination Centre and Secondary Legal Aid Centres.
On April 19, a meeting of Canadian experts with representatives of the Coordination Centre was held. During the meeting, the Canadian experts spoke about the organization’s management structure, the process of providing legal aid in the province, as well as the process of planning, monitoring and evaluating the system and, consequently, reporting on work results.
According to Canadian experts, in accordance with the law, Legal Aid Ontario is obliged to promote the access of low-income part of the province’s population to justice. Therefore, the strategic goal of the organization is to provide legal aid meeting clients’ needs, and thus to ensure access to justice for vulnerable members of the community for their proper life. The institution has been operating in the province for about 20 years. It consists of the head office (Legal Aid Ontario), 9 district offices and 76 community-level legal clinics. In Ontario, around 3,000 lawyers (out of a total of 30,000 lawyers practicing in the province), with whom Legal Aid Ontario cooperates, provide legal aid. All of them are registered in the respective registry (Panel).
According to the experts, the priority tasks of Legal Aid Ontario in the coming years are to increase the organizational capacity of the LA system in the province (including further introduction of information technology into the legal aid system), the formation and implementation of vulnerable population groups support strategies, improvement of human resource planning, training and advanced training, strategies for consultation with stakeholders and further expansion of access to justice.
The experts told Ukrainian colleagues how Legal Aid Ontario determines the priority tasks and performance indicators of the legal aid offices in the province. In particular, they told how the strategic planning process in the organization is taking place and how the strategic plan is implemented: data about the organization’s activities are collected, and analysed in accordance with the determined goals and performance indicators; how activities of regional representations are assessed in terms of achieving organization goals; what the specific examples of goals and performance indicators are; how performance monitoring is implemented and, in particular, opinion of customers on the service quality studied, etc.
On April 20 and 21, the experts participated in a working group of the colleagues from the Coordination Centre, regional and local secondary legal aid centres. Participants of the working group jointly focused on the priorities of system development and, accordingly, activities of the centres in the coming years. In particular, the discussion of the LA system by colleagues from the Ukrainian team addressed further priorities of the system’s development: broadening access to legal aid services, development of human resources, institutional capacity of centres, alternative means/pre-trial resolution of cases, legal education, and enhancing the legal capacity of territorial communities. The participants of the working group discussed quantitative and qualitative indicators of effective activity in these areas and, as a result, tried to answer the questions “Why measure?”, “What data to collect?”, “How to interpret and use collected information?” and so on.
“What we can see is that your discussion is very healthy,” said Vice-President of Strategic Planning and Monitoring of Legal Aid Ontario, Roderick Strain, “this is what we have been doing in our organization for 20 years. After all, you can figure out the direction of further development only in a common dialogue, so that it is most efficient for clients”. He noted: “Our strategic policy can be defined as follows: there is no wrong door for our clients (“No wrong door policy”). According to him, the most important thing in strategic planning is to understand the needs of clients, to provide such a service, so that every client who applies to a legal aid institution receives answers to his/her questions/receives the necessary aid. “That is exactly what all the efforts of institutions dealing with the organization of legal aid provision should be directed at”, said Roderick Strain.
Canadian experts stressed that indicators of the efficient operation of LA institutions are determined not so much by comparing the activities of one office with others, but rather by learning from experience, measuring progress in a particular direction, taking into account the factors that influence the development of the system, and continuous activity improvement. The indicators allow to record changes that are important to be communicated to different stakeholders. Additionally, the targets are determined at each level, taking into account the specifics of the environment, and then the overall target value of the indicator for the entire system is established.
Participants of the meetings from the Coordination Centre: Director Andrii Vyshnevskyi, his deputies Oleksandr Baranov and Serhii Trotsenko, Head and Deputy Head of the Strategic Planning and Finance Department Serhii Kucheruk and Nataliia Kostryba, Head of Communications and Access to Public Information Department Nadiia Kyzytska, Head and Deputy Head of Legal Aid Coordination Department Svitlana Zdryliuk and Olena Yalova, Head of Strategic Planning Department Oleh Lysiuk, Head of Internal Audit Department Vitalii Okhrimenko. The meeting was also attended by Project Manager of the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Oksana Kikot, Regional Project Coordinator Alina Hladka and its expert Ivanna Ibragimova, who was also moderator of the working group.
This mission is the first one in a series of activities aimed at developing strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation in the legal aid system, and scheduled for 2016 with the support of the project Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine.