New Zealand Law Society - Making a difference through the law

Making a difference through the law

At the heart of every philanthropist and grant maker is the desire to make an impact. At the Borrin Foundation we know it is a unique privilege to participate in distributing money to make the world a better place. And we are eager to create a powerful and effective result through our philanthropy.

We believe in making a difference to the lives of New Zealanders through the law. We also believe that law is essential to a flourishing society – one that is just, inclusive, tolerant, and free. Our vision is of an Aotearoa New Zealand where everyone understands the role and value of the law, and everyone enjoys the protection and opportunity that it provides.

The foundation was set up to support legal research, education and scholarship, and our current strategic focus areas are the criminal justice system and family law. These were also areas of deep concern to our founder, the late Judge Ian Borrin who established the foundation with a $38 million bequest.

Grant making decisions are made by the foundation’s Grants and Scholarships Committee, who are leading members of New Zealand’s legal profession. Among the factors that are considered in making grants is the potential of a project to: have a significant and enduring practical impact on the lives of New Zealanders; to be a catalyst for change; and to address systemic issues.

How does the Borrin Foundation approach the intersection of law and justice with philanthropy?

At the Borrin Foundation we see ourselves as an active participant in the business of solving social problems and seek to maximise the impact of our funding.

Like other philanthropies, one of our challenges is that there are many more worthy projects than we could possibly fund. However, we have chosen to focus on ‘areas of profound concern’. These are areas where the law is not serving New Zealanders well. This involves tackling some hard issues and big challenges over a long time.

As we seek to be a proactive and focused funder, our approach is to fund a smaller number of grants that are of higher value and for the long-term.

How does the Borrin Foundation encourage leadership in the legal community?

Over the last three years of grant-making, our grants have primarily supported projects. However, we also want to support people in the legal profession develop on their leadership journey. Last year we ran our first ever fellowship round to invest in an individual who was passionate about using the law to deliver social justice and had a lifelong commitment to justice and service.

The inaugural Borrin Foundation Justice Fellow was Jennifer Braithwaite who will carry out research on access to justice for children and young people in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

More recently we launched a new Fellowship opportunity for Women Leaders in Law, to support women who are on a journey to becoming leaders in the legal world. A pool of $50,000 is available annually.

We also launched the Borrin Foundation-Community Law Fellowship with a pool of $80,000 available annually for lawyers working at one of the 24 Community Law network’s centres. We are looking forward to announcing inaugural Fellows for these two new Fellowships in due course.

Later this year, we will also be announcing new opportunities for funding individuals, so, watch this space!

How does the Borrin Foundation support and amplify the aspirations of changemakers?

Although we are a legal philanthropy, people are at the heart of what we do. We seek to support the talented individuals and organisations who want to make a difference through the law, and improve the lives of people in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

As an organisation, our aim is to support our grantees, or as we call them the “Borrin Doers.” These are the people who contribute to our shared vision. In this column we will aim to highlight and give profile to our “Doers” and their efforts to contribute to transformative change.

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