Generative civil justice eliminates inequalities by creating accessible supports that give people what they need, when they need it, in a format they can use to resolve their issues. It would advance policies and rules that level the playing field, such as courts requiring debt collectors to produce documentation proving their claims (most courts accept the word of collectors that a debt is owed).

Our research suggests justice champions and organizations interested in creating the conditions for a generative justice system exhibit 10 critical characteristics, including the following:

1. Divergent thinking

Divergent thinking involves reframing issues and their solutions to challenge dominant institutional logic, going beyond the traditional set of choices.

2. A pioneering attitude

When staff adopt a pioneering attitude, they become leaders outside of their institutions and can set the pace of evolution in the sector.

3. A systemic perspective

Understanding that staff operate in a larger system and have broad market intelligence enables them to better anticipate the emergence of new dynamics that catalyze change. Adopting a systemic perspective can help ensure the civil justice system prevents economic, health, education, and social issues from becoming legal issues.

4. Adaptable structures and processes

Adaptable structures that aren’t hierarchical help a system and all its actors adopt changes to remain relevant, instead of inhibiting them.

Creating a generative civil justice system to advance equity for all

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized and exacerbated gaps, barriers, and inequities in the civil justice system. By embracing the characteristics described in our research, justice champions are reinventing the civil justice system to make it more accessible, accountable, and fair for all members of society.

Read the full article about transforming the civil justice system by Sandra Ambrozy and Shena Ashley at Urban Institute.