How to make a pitch

Topic Pitches to the Justice Lab and Systemic Justice Students

Students in the Systemic Justice Courses and the Justice Lab often work with outside organizations on a topic for the semester. For the Spring 2017 semester, topic pitches will take place on Wednesday February 1st between 5:15pm and 7:15pm EST.  We welcome written or oral pitches from any interested individuals and organizations. You can make a pitch whether you want to have a sustained collaboration with students, or whether you merely want to suggest a topic that students can work on independently. If you are interested in submitting or making a pitch, see the explanation below, and contact jlipton@law.harvard.edu.

Justice Lab: In the Justice Lab, students in teams of approximately five work on policy papers and prepare presentations for the conference. You can find some examples of policy papers here. Our standard policy papers take on a problem, explore the historical, legal, political, contextual, psychological, and economic background of a problem, identify a range of potential options for addressing the problem, and make recommendations, including plans for specific stakeholders. Initial problems can range from the very broad (e.g. climate change) to the very narrow (e.g. intake procedures at a specific legal services provider); in the former case students will begin by narrowing down on a manageable sub-problem.

Students select their own topics, and the list of potential topics is generated by us, by the students themselves, and by potential collaborators. In the second class session (Wednesday February 1st, 5:15pm) students and potential collaborators will make a series of brief (sub 5 minute) pitches on potential problems for the students to address, and the students will then select the semester’s problems by ranking their own preferences. Pitches may be written or oral, and the oral pitches may be delivered in person or via skype/phone.

Written Pitches: Written pitches may vary in length from a single sentence to a multi-page memo. The ideal is probably 1-2 pages, briefly explaining the problem, and suggesting some potential directions for research and some potential “experts” (practitioners/academics/ organizers/activists/others) to contact as the first step of researching the problem – you might consider stating who you are and why you are making this pitch. Your impressions regarding the scope of the problem, some promising solutions, how you think the particular problem connects to other problems, how a student project could be particularly valuable to your organization or to others working on the problem would be welcome. That said, the written pitch need be no more than a sentence identifying a problem that you would like our students to consider taking on. Written pitches will be distributed to students in advance of the class.

Oral Pitches: Those who are interested may make a brief informal presentation of the problem pitch to the class, either in person, or via skype/phone – these can complement or replace written pitches. For those who are unable to make an oral pitch, we would be happy to read a statement or part of the written pitch.

Role of Collaborators: The role of collaborators can vary from merely suggesting the problem, and perhaps being available for a phone call with students to discuss it in slightly more detail, to a much more sustained and engaged collaboration that might result in co-publication of the paper by your organization, or continued joint work on the topic. You should ideally indicate your proposed level of ongoing collaboration in your written/oral pitch.

Problem Selection: After the pitches, students will select the problems they wish to work on, and only a subset will be selected. It has been our experience that many students are motivated by exciting potential collaborations, both for the enhanced experience and for the increased opportunity to have a real-world impact.

Systemic Justice Course: Students in the Systemic Justice Course, which is a lecture course, produce two main work products. The first is a paper, either individually, or in teams of up to five. The longest papers may resemble Justice Lab papers, but there is a great deal of flexibility given the varied team sizes. In addition, students produce one additional item which they present at the conference. These may be pamphlets, podcasts, websites, curricula, posters, presentations, documentaries, and more. Students in the Systemic Justice Course are also welcome to collaborate, and will be invited to hear the Justice Lab pitches at the same time, and to take up topics that are not selected by the Justice Lab.

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