Our Capacity-building for an Inclusive Sector (CBIS) grants were a concentrated effort to support the development of legal programs within organizations that have direct and meaningful connections with underserved communities. It was also an opportunity for us as a grantmaker to identify and support organizations looking to evolve into leading players within the access to justice landscape. In late 2019, the Foundation funded a total of $8.3M in grants to nine organizations.
Despite the pandemic, the Capacity-building for an Inclusive Sector (CBIS) programs launched in 2020. CBIS grantees are small, community-based organizations that serve people who face unique barriers to justice such as Indigenous people, immigrants and refugees, and racialized groups. CBIS grants gave them the opportunity to build their legal expertise and capacity and establish a stronger and long-term presence within the access to justice landscape. These organizations will be better positioned to provide reliable and culturally appropriate legal support on an ongoing basis.
Most organizations used their CBIS grants to pilot or expand an intake and referral program. For example, the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association (CMLA) sought professional support to develop a strategy for long-term organizational growth. Having already piloted its Muslim Legal Support Centre (MLSC) with a previous Foundation grant, CMLA hired organizational development consultants to help establish the
MLSC as a permanent, sustainable service. The MLSC provides culturally competent legal education and summary advice and referrals to low to moderate-income Muslim communities in the Greater Toronto Area. CMLA is implementing the consultants’ recommendations, which include refining the mandate, developing a governance framework, and developing a communications strategy.