At the beginning of the year, I was in Brooklyn welcoming a newborn and looking forward to re-joining the Thomson Reuters Foundation as Director of TrustLaw. 2020 was mostly shaping up to be like any other year, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and life as we know it changed dramatically, particularly for underserved and vulnerable communities. Despite the tremendous hardship the world is facing, I am heartened to see the solidarity with which the legal community has responded to the crisis. Working closely with our partners around the world, TrustLaw has been able to deploy the COVID-19 Resource Hub –a combination of legal assistance, practical tools and webinars– to help civil society organizations and social enterprises access the legal support they need to survive the pandemic.
In these challenging times, it’s crucial to take stock of where we are as an organization. Growing exponentially since it first launched in 2010, TrustLaw has reached some important milestones in 2020: our network of high-impact NGOs, pioneering social enterprises and leading law firms and in-house legal teams has grown to over 6,000 members. We have also facilitated 6,500 pro bono legal projects across 180 countries – empowering thousands of organizations to achieve greater impact.
Looking back at the past ten years, I am inspired by the extraordinary work we have had the privilege of supporting. We have helped organizations protect domestic worker rights in the Philippines, ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth, improve access to HIV self-testing in Africa, outlaw child marriage across the US, fight social exclusion through housing rights in Latin America, use technology to bring war criminals to justice, and drive innovations that save newborns in developing countries. We have also trained 300+ lawyers in the emerging fields of social entrepreneurship and social finance to equip them to better serve the social innovators and impact investors that are tackling some of most significant challenges of our time. By bringing together key stakeholders (non-profit, legal, business, academic or otherwise), we have produced ground-breaking tools and resources that have a catalytic impact on vulnerable communities around the world.
It’s been a remarkable decade that could not have been possible without the tremendous generosity of our legal partners – hundreds of leading law firms and corporate legal departments across the globe who have contributed the equivalent of $172 million in legal know-how and brainpower to support mission-critical needs of NGOs and social enterprises on the frontlines of social change.
Our work is far from done, however; in fact, this is only the beginning. As the world prepares to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, businesses and civil society are being called upon to contribute to building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and communities that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, socio-economic inequality, climate change and many other global challenges. At this unique juncture, I look forward to working with our partners to lay the foundation for a sustainable and inclusive recovery by facilitating critical pro bono legal support that enables NGOs and social enterprises to survive and thrive, and by helping share knowledge and develop tools that inform legal and policy reform. This story of transformation, I hope, is the one I can tell my child about when we look back at 2020.
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