John Richardson

Ashoka Fellow
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Fellow Since 2005


This profile was prepared when John Richardson was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
John Richardson analyzes legal systems from the perspective of the marginalized, finding the gaps and injustices that are invisible from more privileged points of view. He works on the street, through mass media, and in courts and halls of governance to fix these injustices and create legal systems that follow through on unfulfilled promises of equal protection for all. His programs bring a wide range of people together in service of this goal: for his Pivot Legal Society, lawyers practice their craft, citizens volunteer, and people living on the fringes of society educate and empower themselves. He makes everyone part of the solution to systemic injustice, shifting the discussion from a confrontation between police and marginalized people to a constructive dialogue among all sectors of society.
Pivot’s legal strategy includes three main campaigns: education projects aiming to spread information on legal rights to marginalized people and the general public; strategic legal action from formal correspondence to civil litigation, aimed at challenging barriers to the exercise of civil rights; and policy reform, based on research about administrative and legislative changes needed to enable lasting improvements in the social and legal status of marginalized people.
In his work with Pivot, John advances the principle that marginalized people are the ultimate authorities on the problems they face, and works alongside them to address those problems. Like a lawyer to a client, Pivot carefully documents social issues through legal affidavits and focus groups, building a strong case for change from the ground up. The society then brings its members and partners to the lead, enabling them to assert their voices and advance their own vision of a just future.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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