Vivek Maru

Organization: 
Namati
Country: 
USA
Website: 

Namati trains and deploys community paralegals who help people to understand, use, and shape the laws that affect them. Together, these paralegals and their clients are taking on the world’s most urgent justice challenges. Namati operates in 8 countries, and convenes the Global Legal Empowerment Network, with a membership of nearly 1000 groups from 150 countries.

Focus: Human Rights, Civic Participation
Geographic Area of Impact: Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Kenya, Liberia, Myanmar, Uganda, Bangladesh, India,
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 54,000 people (since 2011)
Annual Budget: USD $5,300,000 (2015)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 0.5%
 
The Social Problem
Billions of people around the world live outside the protection of the law. For these people, law is an abstraction, or worse, a threat, but not something they can use to exercise their basic rights. They can be driven from their land, denied essential services, extorted by officials, and intimidated by violence. Lawyers play a crucial role in providing access to the law. But lawyers are costly and often focused on formal court channels that are impractical for most of the problems that people face. We need a world in which laws reside not only in courtrooms and books but are within the grasp of every person. 
 
Innovation and Activities
Namati is dedicated to placing the power of the law in the hands of people. Namati trains and deploys paralegals who work with communities to advance justice. Together with grassroots groups in 8 countries, Namati has supported more than 54,000 clients (direct beneficiaries) to protect community lands, enforce environmental law, and secure basic rights to healthcare and citizenship.
 
Namati tracks data on every case, from the steps the clients take and which laws they invoke to the way institutions respond and whether bribes are requested in the process. Together with their clients, Namati uses this information to advocate for systemic changes that affect millions of people, like smarter environmental enforcement procedures in India and stronger legal protections for the land rights of women in Sierra Leone. In order to achieve this, Namati deploys several strategies: high-level advocacy, public awareness campaigns, and capacity building of paralegals at the grassroots level. They share their insights and learning in the form of articles, manuals, short videos, and illustrated guides for practitioners and communities.
 
Namati convenes the Global Legal Empowerment Network, the world’s largest community of grassroots justice practitioners and advocates. Its 900+ groups from 150 countries are learning from one another and collaborating to bring justice everywhere. Members connect in person and online through Namati’s Community Discussion platform – an email-integrated space for ongoing learning and resource-sharing. This virtual hub is the largest, most navigable collection of resources for legal empowerment practitioners globally.
 
Since 2011, Namati and its partners have worked with over 54,000 clients and successfully advocated for more than 80 improvements to policy or state practice. Namati and the network are also using their evidence base to influence the global agenda, and played a key role in securing the inclusion of “access to justice” in the Sustainable Development Goals, as Goal 16.
 
The Entrepreneurs
Vivek and Sonkita started working together in 2005, while Vivek was co-directing the Sierra Leonean legal empowerment organization Timap for Justice. Sonkita was a lawyer in private practice and began providing training and litigation support to paralegals pro bono. Vivek and Sonkita co-founded Namati in 2011 to grow the movement for legal empowerment around the world. Vivek received the Pioneer Award from the US Bar Association in 2008. He was named an Ashoka Fellow in 2014. Namati received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2016. Sonkita has been a member of Sierra Leone’s General Legal Council since March 2016 and was recently appointed to the Sierra Leone Bar Association’s Law Reports Committee.