Why Now?

The events of 2020 highlight the many challenges facing America’s democracy. In addition to the pandemic, the visible cracks in the nation’s democracy and justice system underscore the importance of civic education to help equip current and future generations with the capacity to support and steward our democracy.

The assault on the integrity of the 2020 Presidential elections show the fragility of our democracy. Subsequent initiatives to further limit voting rights in states, pose a direct threat to America’s election system.

The murder of George Floyd in May, 2020 put a spotlight on the racial inequities across the nation and the biases of the justice system. For many, it was the first time they became aware that the American justice system does not work for all.

Yet there is hope as America’s youth stepped up. The youth vote increased by more than 20%, showing the next generation’s renewed interest in the next generation in the direction of our nation. The Black Lives Matter protests that awakened much of America to racial inequities was fueled by youth leaders who want to confront the racial biases and inequities in the justice system.

In this context, the Discovering Justice Board of Trustees and staff engaged in an six month organization-wide strategic planning process to reexamine and focus the organization’s strategies and priorities.

Approved unanimously by the Discovering Justice Board of Trustees in March of 2021, the strategic plan lays out clear and inspirational vision, mission, and values statements. The plan presents four bold strategic directions, 26 strategic initiatives, and seven priority investment areas in an exciting blueprint to guide the organization over the next three years.

Why Discovering Justice?

For 23 years, Discovering Justice’s civic education programs have helped prepare the next generation with the skills, perspectives, and opportunities needed to protect and steward our democracy. The organization is well positioned to expand its programs to meet the needs of the Commonwealth’s students.

Our location in the Moakley United States Courthouse provides opportunities for students to interact with judges and experience the working of the justice system up close. With a Board of Trustees consisting of leaders of the Commonwealth’s legal community, the organization has built a Commonwealth-wide network of hundreds of legal professionals who volunteer to develop curriculum, speak in classrooms, help fund the organization, and mentor students for our after-school programs.

Discovering Justice’s dedicated staff of educators, lawyers, and social change activists have the experience and knowledge to create and present engaging curriculum for grades K-12.

The 2021 Strategic Plan reaffirms and continues Discovering Justice’s two-decade long work to strengthen. the nation’s democracy and its institutions by delivering its in-school, out-of-school, and in-courthouse civic education programs for K-12 Massachusetts students and community members.

Discovering Justice programs work to move students from observers of justice and injustice into active participants in the justice system. Through learning critical thinking skills, analyzing different viewpoints, working in teams, and practicing speaking and listening skills, the programs provide students with the opportunities and capacity to identify and address community challenges.

Priority Investment Areas

Discovering Justice will increase its organizational capacity to deliver its increased program demands. The organization will expand its reach to foundations, grow its annual gala, and establish a personal visit program to increase support from individual donors. By 2024, Discovering Justice will increase its annual revenue by 29% to become a $2 million organization. 

New funding will support:
  • Increased staff and consultant capacity to revise curricula to create more engaging accessible, and culturally appropriate programs.

  • New programming throughout grades K-12, including development of a Grades 7-12 Topics Program and a 9th Grade leadership program in Springfield and Boston. The organization will continue its unique focus on Grades K-5.

  • New programming throughout grades K-12, including development of a Grades 7-12 Topics Program and a 9th Grade leadership program in Springfield and Boston. The organization will continue its unique focus on Grades K-5.

  • New staff to identify and recruit more legal professionals and school systems to engage in its student programs.

  • Communication resources to increase the organization's internal and external to broadcast its work to its constituents.

  • Training to ensure staff, board, and volunteers have the skills to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion principles are integrated into the organization’s programs.

  • New staff to increase fundraising capacity and expand Discovering Justice’s individual giving program.

  • Institutionalization of the Fellowship Program to engage and train emerging nonprofit professionals.

  • Expand outreach to advocacy nonprofits to partner with them on new and existing programming.

We envision a society in which everyone is well-equipped with the knowledge, skills, and desire to build and sustain an equitable democracy.

Discovering Justice brings students and communities together to examine the workings of the justice system, explore the ideals of justice, and prepare them to engage in our democracy.

We are mission-driven, vision focused.

We believe in the power of the next generation to sustain our democracy.

We value diversity, equity and inclusion.

We believe the justice system can and should work for everyone.

We value constructive and critical discourse.

Strategic Direction #1

Strengthen, deepen, and expand programs to be engaging, timely, and accessible to students and communities across the Commonwealth.

Goal:

Deliver exemplary programs that provide opportunities for students to examine the workings of the justice system and explore the ideals of justice. All programs will ask and discuss the question: What is justice?

  • Increase by four fold the number of Mock Trial/Mock Appeal teams to 80 and number of legal mentors to 320.
  • In partnership with advocacy organizations, pilot the Topics Program to explore the themes of justice around contemporary issues such as voting rights, the environment, and immigration.
  • Run an annual four-month Leadership Program in Boston and Springfield for 20 students.
  • Welcome 3,500 people a year to the Moakley Courthouse and other courthouses throughout the state to attend student events, field trips, tours, and speaking events.
Organizational & Program Impact:

New programs will be added and existing programs updated, with curricula and materials that are culturally and historically responsive, research-based, relevant, accessible, engaging, and fun. This programming, focused on the issues of justice and injustice, will increase the opportunities for students to meaningfully examine the workings of the justice system, explore the ideals of justice, and prepare to engage in our democracy.

Strategic Direction #2

Increase opportunities for students to learn directly from legal and advocacy professionals.

Goal:

Introduce and connect students with legal and advocacy professionals who can expose them to the legal profession and advocacy strategies.

  • Double the number of volunteers and legal mentors to 700, with 30% of them people of color.
  • Partner with advocacy groups to provide issue oriented civic programming.
Organizational & Program Impact:

Each Discovering Justice program will have opportunities for students to engage with or be mentored by legal or advocacy professionals. These partners will provide rich learning experiences and help steward the next generation of diverse legal professionals and justice advocates. Students will develop new perspectives and a better understanding of career paths through their connections.

Strategic Direction #3

Integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion principles in all aspects of Discovering Justice.

Goal:

Integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion principles in all aspects of Discovering Justice.

  • Invest in and implement a comprehensive plan to ensure the organization and its programming addresses issues of race, color, and privilege.
  • Create a sustained staff training and development program around diversity, equity and inclusion practices.
Organizational & Program Impact:

A stable, diverse, and experienced staff and an investment in visible and comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion programs will support the Discovering Justice staff and community in understanding how race, power, and privilege affects organizational culture, the justice system, and our student communities.

Strategic Direction #4

Strengthen Discovering Justice’s organizational infrastructure and capacity.

Goal:

Recruit and steward a racially diverse and talented staff, Board, and volunteers to maintain a stable and diversified funding base that grows to meet the program needs of the organization.

  • Double full-time staff to ten
  • Add 7 new Board members
  • Institutionalize Fellows Program
  • Increase budget 28% to become a $2 million organization
Organizational & Program Impact:

With a diverse, talented staff, board, volunteers, and financial supporters, Discovering Justice will build the capacity to bring its robust civics education program to students across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.