Founded in 2010, the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) provides free legal advice and representation to low-income Philadelphia residents whose criminal records are holding them back from achieving their potential.
Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity
Trailhead: Where We Started
PLSE came to TrailBlaze with a communication problem. They knew they needed a well-designed website to meet the needs of their wide audience but weren’t sure how to start or even what the end result should look and feel like to accomplish the organization’s desired social action. They needed a creative design team that empathized with their mission and could walk with them towards an equitable social environment for those with criminal records through individual representation, strategic litigation, community education, research, and advocacy. Thanks to major reforms to the pardon process starting in 2019, the process is free; the forms and instructions are clearly written and available on the internet; and those seeking pardons won’t need a lawyer – that’s where PLSE comes in, providing critical resources to create a second chance. They needed the TrailBlaze Creative (TBC) team to create a website for individuals seeking a second chance, and the advocates and volunteers who want to help get them there.
Trek: Steps We’ve Taken
Social justice requires social action. A report from the Economy League shows that pardons bring millions and millions of dollars into local economies just by allowing people to get jobs they’re qualified for which means a second chance for communities too. The TBC team ensured that they understood the heart of PLSE and its clients, and they worked to organize the digital information using a human-centered design approach. TBC took bold action to support the PLSE website design and its role in impacting social justice. A critically important piece of providing second chances is awareness and education. Many with a criminal record don’t realize that over 80% of all the pardon applications heard by the Board of Pardons get signed by the Governor. PLSE enlisted TrailBlaze Creative’s web design and development expertise to update their website to effectively share information, tools, and access to those seeking criminal record erasure. With a keen eye on audience development and digital communications, the TrailBlaze Creative team went to work curating and organizing content in a way that made the PLSE site functional for those ready for their second chance and those looking to volunteer with or learn more about the organization. The PLSE website plays a valuable role in social action, it serves as the first building block for those establishing a new foundation for their lives.
Summit: Vision Realized
Since the beginning of our collaboration with PLSE in July 2021, PLSE’s Pardon Project has seen a more than 400% increase in freestanding countywide projects in the state of Pennsylvania, with additions in Beaver, Berks, Centre, Erie, Lancaster, Washington, and York county. Empowering individuals in communities in not only Philadelphia, but the entire state leads to expanded opportunities and impact. Each granted pardon leads to economic development.
With a focus on simplicity in design, and by visually communicating the important facts, the PLSE website has become the critical communication tool the organization so desperately needed. The thoughtful design and development by the TrailBlaze Creative team helped to shape the future, for not only the organization, but also for individuals across Pennsylvania. Volunteers are now easily trained in the pardon process and seamlessly access key forms, so they are ready to help people from their community apply for a pardon. Visitors to the site easily find events supported by community-based non-profits; workforce development agencies; communities of faith; colleges and universities; and professional and service organizations. County-wide networks called “Pardon Projects” are digitally connected across the state, allowing for consistency in process and broader impact.
Currently, the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity are a Marketing-in-Residence® client, leveraging TrailBlaze Creative’s full offering of marketing and communication services to support the mission and vision of PLSE’s work. In 2022, TrailBlaze Creative’s website design and development work was awarded a Gold Davey Award in the category of General Law and Legal Services. By partnering with TrailBlaze Creative for its website creation, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity is fulfilling its purpose to help individuals begin a new path toward a life that all starts with a second chance.
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TrailBlaze believes actions and opportunities that create equity are critical to developing a society without division. Vibrant communities develop more efficiently and sustainably when division is acknowledged and reduced. We offer this perspective in every project we do.