What our lab is all about

Based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, the Global Justice Lab is a hub for research, knowledge sharing and collaborative inquiry across many dimensions of justice – including criminal justice systems, formal responses to counterterrorism and violent extremism, and the international governance of human rights.

What we mean by…

Global – learning from every corner of our interconnected world, in Canada and abroad, as geographical and political boundaries become increasingly porous or even irrelevant.

Justice – not a lofty principle, but the concrete practices of systems under stress and strain, as we examine how various actors and organizations push for reforms, develop indicators of success, make process improvements, produce legal rationales or work to change public beliefs about what is just.

Lab – a place for testing ideas and sparking provocative conversations, for learning by studying innovations in practice, for bringing together diverse disciplines to look at problems differently, and for reaching outside academe to share insights with justice practitioners and policy-makers.

Our three dimensions of impact

1. We investigate and try to understand the activities of justice systems and organizations worldwide, examining data that are publicly available or provided by participating groups, as well as information derived from surveys, interviews, ethnographic studies and the evaluation of other scholarly research.

2. We work with justice organizations – either as the next phase following our initial research or in unique collaborations – to help gauge performance, explore innovative approaches and promote internal dialogue about goals and challenges while generating insights into ways forward. In addition, we help justice practitioners connect with peers to compare perspectives, debate issues and build networks for sharing experiences and support.

3. We foster dialogue with a concerned and engaged public. As we work to broaden awareness of justice challenges in Canada and worldwide, we welcome diverse points of view and benefit from the knowledge that others have gained through firsthand experience.

The common thread connecting these efforts is our dedication to research, documentation and analysis. With a foundation of explicit knowledge about how state and non-state actors address justice challenges, we can then collaborate on developing strategies and responses with partners around the globe.

Understanding grounded in data

The collaborative research we pursue at the Global Justice Lab is data-sensitive. We take a broad approach to data that includes qualitative and quantitative methods, scholarly research and documentary analyses. Our aim is to develop perspectives and draw inferences that can be leveraged to strengthen the resilience of existing systems and organizations and – without being prescriptive – to develop new practices and models of justice.

The insights we unearth are intended to support action: by justice players looking for better ways to measure performance and develop strategies, or by disruptors seeking a clearer understanding of the systems they hope to influence or redefine. Whether the pressures we explore are legal, economic, bureaucratic, political or moral – or blend multiple layers of impact – our work begins with hard facts and builds from there.