Across Latin America and the Caribbean social movements and NGOs working with civil society organizations are at the forefront of applied, citizen-focused research to strengthen citizenship rights and human rights and to improve access to justice, particularly for the most excluded and marginalized sectors of society. Such organizations work to secure civil rights, for example to due process and fair trials, or to end violence and discrimination against women. Others have pioneered strategic litigation to strengthen social and economic rights, such as the right to health care and basic services, or worked to secure land rights and environmental justice for marginalized groups. And across the continent alliances of NGOs and movements of indigenous peoples and afro-Latin Americans have pioneered applied research to secure collective rights guarantees and fight discrimination. 

The Otros Saberes Initiative on Justice Reform and Citizenship Rights aims to enhance such research, strengthening collaboration between academy- and civil society-based intellectuals to produce work that will strengthen the citizenship rights of ordinary citizens and improve their access to justice. LASA, the premier international association of scholars of Latin America, has defined two central goals for this Initiative. First, it seeks to strengthen existing networks of civil society-based knowledge producers by allowing them to: formulate research topics crucial to their work; recruit university-based researchers to work with them on these topics, and; enhance their capacity to use research to advance their organizational goals. Second, the Initiative will energize LASA by highlighting civil society-based knowledge production and bringing it more centrally into universitybased research agendas. 

The Initiative will provide research grants to teams that include both university based researchers, and civil society-based knowledge producers. These grants, at a maximum of US $20,000, will support basic research expenses over the period of one year, beginning August 2009. After completing their research, grantees will attend an intensive workshop, held at the 2010 International LASA Congress, to present their research results, and subsequently work toward their publication. Collaborative teams will require the involvement of at least one LASA member and the active participation of at least one civil-society-based organization or social movement that formally agrees to support the proposed project within its priorities. 

Proposed collaborative research may address any problem involving justice reform and citizenship rights for excluded sectors. We encourage research proposals that focus on the social processes— local, national, transnational—through which citizenship rights are named, claimed and expanded, and through which people struggle for broadened access to justice. We understand “justice reform” in a broad sense: in addition to research which examines the norms, institutions and actors of national justice systems, we will particularly encourage research on the dynamic interplay between state and non-state justice systems (such as indigenous law, or different forms of community justice), and between international and national legal systems. Proposals are due on April 30, 2009, and must be submitted electronically as an attachment in PDF to