Dear movement friends, comrades, teachers, peers, family (if you're reading this, that's you!) ~
This month I’ll transition off the staff collective at Sustainable Economies Law Center. I’ve spent the last several months reflecting on what I’ve learned – and what questions still feel alive – from more than ten years working and organizing with a range of professional, voluntary, and grassroots formations loosely part of the US solidarity economy movement . I’ve been personally transformed by the relationships I’ve built this past decade. And still I’ve found it easy to sometimes see all this work as hopelessly marginal, to lose track of our collective impact while overwhelmed by the day-to-day grind of audits and grant reports and legal work. Have you ever struggled with that?
If so, here is a humble invitation to reflect on what we have built together. As Gopal Dayaneni powerfully reminded some of us in a recent Collaborate to Co-Liberate webinar: “freedom is the pre-existing condition.” I have glimpsed collective freedom enough times in your presence to know it is always possible .Read more
Housing is fundamental because housing is a prerequisite to everything: health, safety, and well-being. Can you imagine what our community would look like if we had all that we need?Read more
Can we build new housing and not plug into the electricity grid? Recently, the Law Center wanted to help an Oakland-based grassroots group do this, and it brought up some interesting questions about law, about climate justice, and about life.Read more
Since 2018, Sustainable Economies Law Center staff have annually dredged the bottom of our souls seeking enthusiasm about our annual financial audit. We’ve learned to make it enjoyable and easeful in many ways. It helps that we’ve worked with wonderful people – our awesome bookkeepers at the cooperative Wholehearted Bookkeeping, and thoughtful CPAs at Crosby & Kaneda.
Yet, especially after supporting several clients with audit processes, I have heavy questions in the pit of my stomach: Could the audit process do more harm than good? Could audits be an unmerited drain on organizational resources? Could they lend toward a culture of distrust? Could they be disrupting organizations’ missions? Could they be a tool to perpetuate racial bias and white supremacy?Read more
Homeowners bear a heavy weight of responsibility, especially once they come to understand the role that property ownership and the speculative market have played in the theft of land, the impoverishment of communities, and the widening gap between the rich and poor. Over the years, Sustainable Economies Law Center has created several resources to help homeowners navigate the possibilities for buying, owning, and selling homes in greater alignment with values of social and racial justice. We've recently compiled some of those resources into one place here: Resources for Radical Home SellersRead more
What might we mean by “tenants without landlords?” This feels like a zen koan, a provocation to help us pause and revisit our understanding of what’s possible. Every person might have a different journey of inquiry with such a prompt. I’ll share one of my recent journeys, allowing me to glimpse the profound sanity of a world without landlords.
I just returned from a 6-month sabbatical in which I traveled to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Kenya, Tanzania, Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Fifteen years after becoming a lawyer, and 13 years after co-founding Sustainable Economies Law Center, I sought to immerse myself in places and cultures that could teach me what a kinder, more just, and more loving world can feel like. This is how I ended up spending a month in West Sumatra.Read more
When we envision ways to create affordable and humane housing, what do we imagine?
A tight knit community of neighbors organize to own and control their multi-unit apartment building in North Oakland.
A Black elder rallies her East Bay community to help buy her Pinole rental home through grassroots fundraising and community developed CA housing policy.
A POC, community-centered development coop that’s democratically led, buys up buildings in Oakland to make them permanently affordable.
These are not visions of the future but a few examples of the powerful cooperative housing organizing that has happened in the East Bay alone! It’s important to celebrate those who, despite the slow movement of policy change and greed of corporate landlords, continue to play with the possibility of a different way.Read more
How do you get your co-workers to support your projects with their input and support? In a worker self-directed organization, where workers have the freedom to choose which projects they dedicate their time and energy towards, this question can be trickier than you might expect. We all have different methods to rally colleagues around our individual work. But over the years we’ve learned, if you make the work a party, people will show up! Hence, Research Explosion Days! (If you want to see a peek into how we did it over 8 years ago, check out this fun video.)Read more
My theory is, strong people don’t need strong leaders.”
- Ella Jo Baker, civil rights movement organizerRead more
There’s something so nerve wracking about getting your photo taken. Maybe it’s from memories of school picture day and the emotions that go with it. Was my hair in place? Did I have anything in my teeth? Were my eyes even open for the photo?Read more
We love a good book here at the Law Center, so we’ve turned our love of sharing book recommendations with each other into an annual blog post where we compile Law Center staff’s favorite reads of the last year. Below you’ll find eight very different books, but books that all ultimately expanded our sense of self and understanding of the world. We hope you enjoy them too!Read more
Introduction: Developing Confidence as an Attorney
“Who will be your primary supervisor, and have you worked with that person before? What experience do they have in the legal areas you will be working in? Have you discussed training, orientation and ongoing support with the supervisor?” This is an important line of questioning for any law student applying for a post-graduate legal fellowship. For one, all of the organizations that select applicants will be looking to see that there is a clear supervision plan in place. For another, the baby attorney themself is likely looking for an environment where they can easily ask questions and get help from more experienced colleagues.Read more
We're kicking off this month’s newsletter by sharing the below message from Sustainable Economies Law Center’s co-founder, Janelle Orsi, who offers a new collection of writings and videos, along with a collection of legal resources to support land return to community stewardship.
Below that, you’ll find our newsletter full of new resources, newsworthy updates, and more!Read more
Dear friends, I hope this post brings you bursts of hope and nourishment. I’m sharing a collection of recent writings and videos in a slideshow called Patches of Aliveness. It’s like a quilt I’ve stitched together for the beautiful humans who are organizing more just, equitable, and caring communities. Each slide is a patch that, on its own, can perhaps bring you warmth or even inspiration when you need it. As a collection, I hope the patches can start to form a picture of a more nurturing world to heal the wounds inflicted by our legal and economic systems.Read more
In 2023, Sustainable Economies Law Center will run low on funding. I sought wisdom about what to do in this situation and learned that one answer is already inside of me, literally.
Gifts that flow like oxygen
Inside us, healthy cells release a signaling protein when they are low on oxygen. Blood vessels respond by growing in the direction of that cell to deliver oxygen. What an amazing system! I imagine the cell feels no shame in communicating its need, and the vessel feels no sense of sacrifice or charity in delivering the oxygen. Each simply fulfills its purpose as part of a larger living system.Read more