The Escambia Project: An Experiment in Community-Designed Justice

18 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2019

Date Written: June 20, 2019


This article shares observations made during an experimental community-led, participatory design project undertaken to identify promising new solutions for civil justice services, from which the people in the local community would benefit and that they could easily use.

Nationally, the Escambia Project is likely one of the first times community members have served as equal partners and decision-makers throughout a civil justice participatory design project. Community-led approaches can help improve civic participation, create more democratic outcomes, build a sense of community, and strengthen participants’ attachment to their community and each other. The Foundation’s hope for this experiment was that this methodology could benefit Escambia County in the same manner and ensure that Foundation future investments in new projects to improve people’s access to legal assistance would be embraced and effective.

The Florida Bar Foundation funded and dedicated staff to the year-long experiment that generated three new initiatives that were prototyped, field tested, and prepared for continuation. Two of the three initiatives have been adopted by the community and continue. The Escambia Project ultimately engaged more than 100 community members and relied on the support of dozens of local volunteers and organizations.

The article also contains lessons learned and recommendations for how community-led participatory design could help transform the justice system.

Keywords: design thinking, participatory design, civil justice, legal aid, community-led

Suggested Citation

Moss, Melissa A, The Escambia Project: An Experiment in Community-Designed Justice (June 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Melissa A Moss (Contact Author)

CatalystZone ( email )

United States
3177506075 (Phone)
32034 (Fax)


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