Even if you have plenty of hobbies, you might want to consider adding this one: Making policy. Our studies show that spending even a few hours per month shaping local or state policy can significantly improve the health and happiness of your local community. Sustainable Economies Law Center has a whole project dedicated, more or less, to this slogan:
We even made a cartoon video about it. After all, if EVERYONE doesn’t make policy, then SOMEONE ELSE will, and that never turns out well.
How do we get our laws and policies to align with the hopes and dreams of our communities?
Do it ourselves! The Law Center has helped introduce more than a dozen pieces of legislation to support the growth of food micro-enterprise, urban farming, worker cooperatives, housing cooperatives, community currencies, seed sharing, and more! Over seven years, this work has taught us that:
1. The number of new laws and policies we need is, roughly:
System-wide change can only happen through hundreds of thousands of policy advocacy campaigns, each hand-crafted by the people most impacted by the policies. For example, the struggle at Standing Rock has since catalyzed dozens of municipal divestment campaigns in cities across the country to defund the Dakota Access Pipeline. Indigenous and frontline leadership is critical to the #DefundDAPL movement, and offers important lessons to all local and regional policy campaigns.
2. Working on even one new policy can make all the difference!
For example, last year, we formed the Worker Cooperative Policy Brigade, consisting of worker-owners of California worker cooperatives (see the photo below). Guess what! That Brigade is on the verge of getting a CA law passed that will help worker cooperatives enormously! Plus, some of these worker-owners are now inspired to get more involved in policymaking going forward! That’s a double win for democracy!
3. Making policy can be fun.
It’s a little like a team sport: You work with others, make new friends, plan your moves, give it your best shot, and celebrate your successes. And, of course, always take an exuberant photo in front of city hall. Here are a bunch of cooperative enthusiasts after Oakland passed our resolution to support worker cooperatives.
4. There is so much potential at local and state levels.
While the news media dwells on scandals and gridlocking partisan politics in Washington DC, we can innovate and make progress at local and state levels, then watch the ripple effects across the nation. For example, we’ve been working with a group of compost entrepreneurs to influence local and state compost laws. We have also been supporting a network of community land trusts to remove state-level barriers to permanently affordable housing and limited equity housing cooperatives.
Here’s what the Law Center is up to (and some of this involves YOU!):
Policy Cafes: Do you have an idea to change your community for the better? Do you have questions about policymaking on a local or state level? Do you want to explore your inner policymaker? Join us on August 22 and/or October 18th for our Policy Cafes, where you can get one-on-one advice from experienced policy advocates. Each policy cafe will begin with a short workshop on the ins and outs of policymaking. The August 22 workshop will provide a broad overview of policymaking process and tips, and the October 18th workshop will focus on California state legislation.
Webinar: California Legislature, Here We Come! Learn about the process of organizing a CA legislative campaign, how to work with legislators and their staff, how laws get written and amended, and how to research California statutes. Find out more and RSVP here.
Policy Teams: Having successfully convened stakeholder groups to lead policy work in 2017, we’ll be gearing up to support more policy teams later this year (like the Policy Brigade described here).
Collaborative Policy Agendas: We’re building coalitions, such as through working groups of the New Economy Coalition, to develop and advance collective policy agendas to support worker cooperative, economic localization, and more! Keep an eye on our campaigns page for updates.
Policy Cafe & Teach-In, August 22 & October 18 (Oakland, CA)
Do you have an idea to change your community for the better? Do you have questions about policymaking on a local or state level? Do you want to explore your inner policymaker? Come get answers, ideas, and strategies from our center's staff, experienced attorneys and policymakers! RSVP here for August 22nd, and here for October 18th.
Creative Funding Lawyer Workshop, August 21-22 (Oakland, CA)
This one isn't sponsored by us, but it's related to the topic of this newsletter, and we think that our volunteers and lawyer friends could find it helpful in learning the ins and outs of capital raising and securities law. The instructor, Jenny Kassan (who happens to be the Law Center's Co-Founder) is offering a 25% discount to Law Center friends and fans (you). Here's the secret code: SELC25
On-the-Spot Legal Advising Training for Attorneys, August 29 (Oakland, CA)
Giving legal advice on-the-spot sometimes feels like flying by the seat of our pants. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin, hard to present information in a clear and organized way, and hard to remember to bring up key legal issues. If you are, have been, or would like to start being a volunteer at our award winning Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, this workshop is for you! RSVP here.
ComCap17, September 10 - 13 (Monterey, CA)
Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Janelle Orsi and Christina Oatfield will be speaking among many other local economy leaders about the critical topic of local investing. Learn about inspiring examples of local investing from around the US, get updated about major legislative developments and challenges, review elements of securities laws, and meet like-minded changemakers. The Law Center’s friends and fans get a 10% discount by registering at this link.
Nonprofit Democracy Network, September 25-27 (Oakland, CA)
At Sustainable Economies Law Center, we envision a world where organizations embody the radical visions of justice that they promote in the world directly in their organizational governance. After years of practice, learning from others, conducting research, and providing consultations and training, we are gathering a cohort of organizations who share this vision to learn and grow together: the Nonprofit Democracy Network. Learn more here.
Webinar: California Legislature, Here We Come! October 25 (Anywhere with internet access!)
Learn about the process of organizing a CA legislative campaign, how to work with legislators and their staff, how laws get written and amended, how to research California statutes, and some tips and strategies for success in state-level policy advocacy. Hear from our staff, Christina Oatfield and Cameron Rhudy, about their years of adventures in and around our state capitol. Register here.
Resilient Communities Legal Cafe (East Bay)
The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe provides direct legal advice, workshops, teach-ins, discussions, and legal services to businesses and organizations that are trying to make their communities a better place to live and thrive. Come, ask us your questions, and join others from your neighborhood who are taking their livelihoods, communities, and economies back! See dates and locations here.