JustLead Washington, formerly known as the Washington Equal Justice Community Leadership Academy, is growing a sustainable network of community leaders who can effectively and collaboratively work toward equity and justice for low-income and marginalized individuals and communities throughout Washington State. Its signature program, the Leadership Academy, is a year-long, cohort-based leadership training where Fellows ground their work in shared values and learn competencies that further leadership at the individual, organizational, legal system, and social justice movement level. Since its inception in 2013, the Academy has graduated 85 leaders who continue to work together to advance social change.
The Leadership Academy was initially proposed in 2010 as a response to a number of changes in the legal services field, including increasingly strained resources, the pending retirement of the founding generation of legal aid leaders, intensifying economic inequality, and a growing awareness about the impact of structural racialization and other systemic oppression. The Washington State Access to Justice Board (“ATJ Board”) and Alliance for Equal Justice (“Alliance”), a network of civil legal aid providers and supporters, recognized that new leaders and strategies were necessary to respond to these changes with creative ideas, sustained energy, and greater capacity for collaboration. They also recognized the need to be deliberate and strategic in efforts to develop and support new leaders.
In response, the ATJ Board and Alliance secured the leadership development expertise of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law (“the Shriver Center”) and support from the Legal Foundation of Washington, the Office of Civil Legal Aid, and Seattle University School of Law. In 2013, these partners recruited a first cohort of Leadership Academy Fellows and began to cultivate and educate a diverse network of equity and justice leaders from legal and community-based organizations.
In 2016, the Leadership Academy began offering additional capacity building services, including leadership training and consulting for organizations as well as ongoing coaching and mentorship for the growing network of Leadership Academy alumni. In response, the Leadership Academy rebranded and incorporated as JustLead Washington, an independent organization that continues to work in close partnership with the ATJ Board, the Alliance, and other entities working to eradicate poverty and further social, racial, and economic justice. The organization currently operates under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of the Center for Justice.