ROLE UK Review and Learning: Testing the value of pro bono

6 September 2016

ROLE UK is committed to testing the value of the pro-bono assignments it supports and adapting its model based on learning. From May to August 2016, ROLE commissioned two independent consultants to review 12 case studies of ROLE assignments to date, and to use the evidence from these cases to recommend improvements to the ROLE model. The reviewers conducted field work relating to 4 assignments in Kenya and Rwanda and undertook desk-based analysis of a further 8 assignments.

Key observations and recommendations from the report:

  • The country assessments uncovered significant untapped demand for the type of support ROLE offers. A key conclusion was that ROLE should think more strategically about what type of demand it wants to build proactively
  • The key to successful assignments so far, and the key to the Value for Money of ROLE’s model, has been the high quality and the ‘right fit’ of the expertise that ROLE is able to secure. In some instances, ROLE has identified the specialists, while in others, applicants have done so. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to getting the right experts and the reviewers judged that ROLE has done a good job of identifying appropriate experts, where required
  • ROLE has limited resources and a wide thematic range. While the ability to receive applications from a wide range of countries is valued, ROLE may in future consider devoting particular attention to a set of core countries, in order to stimulate further demand and strengthen in-depth knowledge of rule of law contexts
  • ROLE aims to support the way international applicants plan for and use pro-bono support and to strengthen the way UK providers design and deliver their pro-bono legal and judicial assistance. This is supported particularly through ROLE’s lesson learning and influencing products, for example packaging lessons from decades of international development approaches for use in pro bono support.  From September 2016, a curated list of such resources will be available via ROLE’s new website
  • At the assignment level, there is evidence that ROLE has ensured assignments have a strong design and has offered support on monitoring and evaluation, which has been valued
  • Moving the dial on the rule of law in the contexts where ROLE works is a long term and complex process, and in the spirit of collaborative working, ROLE is making relevant and strategic contributions to wider interventions
  • Indicative evidence of ROLE assignments found that they are generating the type of intermediate results that would be expected soon after an assignment has taken place. For example, there was evidence that trainees had absorbed learning and increased their knowledge as a result of one assignment, and that drafting advice in another assignment had been highly valued and had helped progress a bill through the legislative process. Both these outcomes demonstrate positive progress and are examples of how well targeted assignments can contribute to longer-term change.
  • ROLE was also praised by many stakeholders for its flexibility and responsiveness, compared to other mechanisms where applicants might look for support.

Further reading: Independent review and learning report 

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