The Bangladesh Legal Aid & Services Trust (BLAST) is a frontline national non-governmental legal services organisation with a mandate to increase access to justice for those living in poverty or facing discrimination. It has over two decades of solid on the ground experience in providing comprehensive legal services across the country. These include advice, alternative dispute resolution and litigation, including strategic litigation,. It conducts legal awareness programmes, to disseminate information on rights, remedies and services, which strengthen demand for legal services. Alongside this it engages in advocacy and capacity building programmes to build a more responsive justice system.
BLAST as an organisation is now poised to undertake a new five-year strategic plan. Its plans to undertake greater outreach, fostering partnerships in the community to reach out to those who need legal services, through legal clinics, mobile legal aid camps, paralegals, and the increasing use of technology. It also plans to serve as a knowledge hub on issues concerning key developments on legal empowerment and access to justice.
In pursuance of this strategy, BLAST now proposes to overhaul its website to make it an active outreach tool as well as a knowledge hub of legal information.
The BLAST website currently serves as a platform on which organizational and project information, legal developments, research, publications, and other resources are shared and distributed. In line with BLAST’s future strategy of reaching out to communities to deliver legal services there is considerable scope to improve the content and utility of the website. This includes basic steps such as simplifying and sharing content more widely in Bangla. It also requires technical changes, such as making the website accessible to persons with disabilities. The updated website can thus better complement BLAST’s broader ongoing grassroots campaign activities involving research, training, lobbying and advocacy on a range of issues.
Corresponding Facebook pages, monitored and updated by the BLAST team, will expand the reach and impact of BLAST’s website and campaigns and inform the public of relevant news stories and upcoming events. Importantly, these social media platforms will also promote the development of a network of interested individuals, particularly young people, and provide a forum for conversation and organisation.
Lastly, the updated website will complement BLAST’s newly developed case management system (CMS). The CMS developed to enable case tracking and management was developed on an entirely pro bono basis by a software firm but now needs to be customized for use. The CMS, once operationalized, will improve sharing of information among staff; increase efficiency in work processes and ensure better client services. In addition to providing perspectives on case details, trends and caseloads, as well as client profiles, the CMS will help to do quality checks and will serve as a centralized repository of all BLAST applications and cases. A modernized and recalibrated website that complements the CMS will be a step towards developing a more technology friendly and efficient BLAST.
In generating awareness through content tailored to deliver key messages on common legal issues, the website will reach potential legal service clients. It will promote and support a strong network of active youth participants on the main website and the social media platforms. It website will serve as means to engage activists and campaigners from the district level in BLAST’s on going advocacy campaigns. Lastly, the website will also provide academics, both from the legal and allied fields to find relevant information.
The total annual cost for programme expenses is EUR 10,000.
Programme Personnel: The total personnel expenses for the programme will be EUR 6100. The expenses will include monthly salaries for a website and communications manager and a staff lawyer involved in operationalizing the CMS.
Capital Costs: A total amount of EUR 900 will be required to update and maintain the electronics equipment (laptops, computers, software etc.) in the unit and district offices.
Website Redesign: A total amount of EUR 3000 will be needed for website development, including the cost of website design, write-up editing and research report design.