Over the next few months, Director of Programming Carol Guttery will be contributing a series based on Making Pro Bono Work: 8 Proven Models for Community and Business Impact, a white paper released by Taproot identifying multiple unique ways that organizations can adapt and deliver pro bono service to address a variety of social issues and business goals. She will be spotlighting organizations that successfully exemplify each of the eight models.
If you ask the man on the street to describe someone who does pro bono work, they will likely mention ‘lawyer’ or ‘graphic artist’. ‘Forensic psychologist’ and “blood spatter expert” would probably not roll off the tongue, and yet renowned Forensic Psychologist Richard Walter and his peers from the Vidocq Society have created a compelling and impactful pro bono model.
A study on pro bono at The Vidocq Society
The Vidocq Society brings the deep and varied crime-solving expertise of its 150 members to bear by helping law enforcement and families solve cold murder cases and other serious crimes. They apply pro bono to help local law enforcement close old cases, take violent criminals off the streets and bring comfort and closure to friends and family.
Pre-screened cases are presented by the investigating law enforcement officer at the monthly member luncheon. There is an opportunity for a question-and-answer session, and members offer ideas and theories during the lunch. At the conclusion of the event, members who have a particularly relevant expertise or strong interest can choose to take the case farther, offering deeper consultation to the case officer.
According to Frederick Bornhofen, the Society’s chairman and case manager, the unique expertise of the individual members has the remarkable effect of illuminating the circumstances of the case, bringing to light new suspects or avenues of exploration.
“General Contracting” model of service
Among the eight models of pro bono delivery identified by Taproot, the Vidocq Society would be described as the “General Contracting” model of service. The Society acts as a coordinating body that brings together the varied resources and collaborators necessary to solve a specific problem (in this case, cold cases). The strength of this model is its interdisciplinary approach, exemplified by the large size and deep expertise of the society’s member base.
Now, the closest I get to being a crime-solving detective is seeing if I can figure out who-dunnit before Miss Marple does. However, there are lessons in this model for all of us. Trade associations can bring together the core competencies of their members. Foundations can fund intermediaries to perform the necessary coordinating function. U.S. cities and states can explore this model to solve complex civic issues. And we should all model the passion and dedication to service demonstrated by the Society’s members.
Lawyer. Graphic Artist. Forensic Psychologist. Who would you add to this list?
Learn more about the Vidocq Society by reading “The Murder Room.”
Explore how Taproot’s experienced Advisory Services team can help build out your own employee engagement strategy – in the spirit of The Vidoq Society or otherwise.
Carol Guttery is the Director of Programs at the Taproot Foundation.