– Alison DeBelder

FJTC held a Strategic Planning Retreat for the FLAdvocate website on April 20, 2017. The primary goal of the meeting was to gather input from the website’s most dedicated users as to whether we should continue to operate the FLAdvocate website on the ProBono.Net platform or pursue another alternative. For efficiency, the retreat was held in Miami as the greatest number of invitees hailed from there. The meeting also featured videoconferencing to enable some participants and presenters to a-end remotely. Never before had the users of the FLAdvocate website been convened and asked for their input on how they use the website or for their opinions on what features its designers should prioritize.

Six longtime FLAdvocate users who also serve as volunteer practice area leaders a-ended in person in Miami. Five others were present via video conference. The group heard from FJTC staff member Wilneida Negron who presented her research on the national landscape of knowledge management systems currently in use by legal aid organizations as well as other novel possibilities that could be tried. There was a video conference presentation from experts John Mayer and Elmer Masters of the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) in Chicago on the capabilities of the WordPress platform. An in-person demonstration by Mike Grunenwald, ProBono.Net’s Program Coordinator, showed new features that are expected to roll out later this year should we continue to run the FLAdvocate website on their platform.

Attendees were engaged, dedicated, and helpful as we anticipated that they would be from their years of service to
legal aid and to FLAdvocate. One attorney, Katy DeBriere, of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc., had this to say of the
retreat:

I was glad to be invited to the FJTC strategic meeting to discuss options in improving and making more
user friendly FLAdvocate.org and FLawHelp.org. Given that the so!ware is designed, in large part, for the
use of legal aid attorneys, the meeting was long overdue.  It makes so much sense to survey and collect
input from those who the system is designed to help.  Any other way seems like a waste of time and
other resources.  Thank you FJTC for your extraordinary thoughtfulness towards making my practice
easier thereby increasing my capacity to serve clients.

In addition to the presentations and discussion about FLAdvocate.org, Katie Miller demonstrated some other work of FJTC for the leaders gathered for this meeting. Specifically, she exhibited various document assembly tools and toured the Florida Law Help website for participants. Each of the attendees are leaders in the legal aid community and this was a prime opportunity to share with them the cutting edge work that Katie is doing in this arena.

We were able to gather a great deal of useful information from the %me that we spent with FLAdvocate users. Based
upon what we learned at this retreat Alison DeBelder, our Advocate Community Engagement Manager, performed
follow-up testing at a statewide housing advocates meeting. The results of a poll demonstrated a clear preference for
the look of ProBono.Net’s library (the most used feature of the website). Based upon the focus-group type discussion
held in Miami and the feedback received from the housing advocates meeting we have decided to have ProBono.Net
host FLAdvocate on their new platform that was demonstrated by Mike Grunenwald for us in Miami. It is this evidence-based decision making that will enable us to serve the community more effectively and will ultimately lead to better results in court for vulnerable Floridians.