Expanding the Rule of Law Skillset: Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Beyond

December 23, 2013


Cross-posted on INPROL – International Network to Promote the Rule of Law

By Marie Mainil, Business and Product Development Consultant, Amani Institute

At a recent gathering of the United Nations International Crime Research Institute in Torino, I had an interesting conversation with Judge Wolfgang Schomberg, a prominent international judge best known for his work at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  Our discussion centered on the lack of available talent for building post-conflict justice systems. As our discussion progressed we began to wonder, what kind of talent do we really need to fill those positions, and what kind of trainings would help foster those talents?

Amani Institute in actionMany of us working the rule of law field started out with traditional legal training – we are trained to know, research, and apply the law, sometimes to the letter, sometimes through creative interpretations and arguments. In post-conflict settings, where there are no effective laws and institutions, is no trust in the justice system and is little no desire to access the formal justice system, the skills and talents developed through traditional legal training seem not to be enough. In amorphous and unpredictable post-conflict contexts, rule of law practitioners must be capable of innovation and social entrepreneurship.

By way of example, consider Bribe Hacker, a justice related innovation and recent awardee of the World Justice Challenge. This project aims to address widespread corruption in India where anti-corruption laws have failed. Anti-corruption legislation is rarely implemented in India for a wealth of reasons ranging from political interference, to delayed justice, to fear of retribution. Bribe Hacker acts as a bridge between law enforcement agencies, media, higher level officials and victims of bribery. Through an interactive website, victims of bribery share their bribery experience, with the option to take action against corrupt perpetrators.

At the 2013 World Justice Forum, I was fortunate to meet one of the founders of Bribe Hacker. Rather than drawing on legal expertise, her approach to India’s corruption problem owes much to design thinking, a creative problem-solving process more commonly used by companies like Google in developing social innovations.   Bribe Hacker was born out of careful exploration of the problem she wanted to solve. In developing the idea she considered who would use her innovation, what value it had for them, and how best to deliver her idea to users. She also put thought into how she would generate an income to sustain her innovation, the cost advantage of her solution, and the partnerships and team she would need to build to make it work.

Amani Institute staff at work

Social entrepreneurship is a valuable lens through which to address broad social challenges like weak rule of law as it requires a focus on systemic solutions, innovative approaches, and the skills and mindsets of 21st century management.   Developing skills and talents required commonly associated with social entrepreneurship would greatly enhance the effectiveness of those working on strengthening post-conflict justice systems. In post-conflict situations, where there are chronic systemic justice challenges, lawyers and rule of law professionals need to be social entrepreneurs and social innovators too.

True success in creating social change requires a host of skills outside the training rule of law practitioners generally receive. Innovation and social entrepreneurship are most successful when accompanied by the ability to lead others and self for social change. This requires self-knowledge and self-care among professionals. While rarely mentioned, making a thoughtful, lasting impact requires exploring one’s own values, skills, and aspirations and consciously building personal resilience and the ability to communicate effectively. It also requires, shared reflection on these challenges in a safe space.  Platforms like INPROL can serve this important purpose but a gap in availability of training for non-traditional skills still remains.

Recognizing the gap in available training for peacebuilding and rule of law professionals to develop their capacity to innovate and to act as social entrepreneurs, the Amani Institute was established in Nairobi, Kenya.  The Amani Institute provides hands-on practitioner training designed to enable serious social impact. For Amani, social innovation is best described through the values of vision, courage, empathy and change-making. In other words, social innovation succeeds when we:

This summer, the institute is offering a training course that will focus on innovating and managing peace, justice, and aid. The two-month collaborative program has been endorsed and supported by a range of organizations and institutions such as The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership, Ashoka East Africa, the Harvard Social Entrepreneurship Collaboratory, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the African Management Initiative, the Unreasonable Institute and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Innovation Lab. Participants will be guided through the processes of social innovation and entrepreneurship while applying their new skills in consulting projects with local partner organizations in Kenya that match their interests. The training will also focus on participants’ personal leadership journeys. This personal leadership development process is a core component of the program and is unique among educational institutions. 

This unique program will bring together a group of competitively selected, talented individuals from around the world. Participants will receive and further shape a holistic, present and future-oriented training endorsed by leaders across the social, business, education, and government sectors The course possesses the depth and pace necessary to start a journey in effective social and law change making. I hope to see the pioneers among you there.


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