Lessons Learned from "How to Rematriate the Land" Webinar

Over 100 people attended the webinar we hosted with Sogorea Te’ Land Trust on practical considerations for how to rematriate Lisjan Ohlone land to Sogorea Te’ Land Trust. See the full webinar here and the slides here!

Inés Ixierda of Sogorea Te’ Land Trust opened with an overview of Sogorea Te’ Land Trust’s history and vision for rematriation. As Inés shared, rematriation is “not just signing over land,” but a “transformative” process. “It's powerful to see the work people are doing internally...People are making new choices that have generational impacts.”

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Webinar Resources: Intro to Cooperative Governance & Management

Berkeley Coop Governance Management

How do you spread ownership and control across a group of people? On November 9th, 2021, our Director of Economic Democracy, Ricardo Nuñez, sped through a very short introduction to the principles and practices of democratic governance and management for worker cooperatives and worker self-directed nonprofits in this 30 minute teach-in! Below, you'll find the recording and follow up resources that we shared with attendees.

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Oaxxanda: An Afro-Futuristic Vision for East Oakland

By: Mwende Hinojosa, Nonprofit Quarterly

Excerpt:

Tired of ongoing black disenfranchisement and gentrification, this community group came together in the spirit of Black and Brown power. They were made up of members from groups that were already trying to make an impact in Deep East Oakland—Repaired NationsBlack Cultural ZoneThe Deep Grocery Coop, Feed the Village, Sustainable Economies Law Center—as well as unaffiliated community members who were artists, healers, organizers, activists, and entrepreneurs. At the tail end of a second Black out-migration from the Bay, the group felt the name of their collective needed to send a clear message to their families, neighbors, and future collective members: Oaxxanda.

Read full article here.

(Originally published November 11, 2021.)

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October 2021 Newsletter: Did you miss #Coopalooza? Here's all the recordings + resources!

Thank you to all who attended #Coopalooza week last month! We had nearly 300 people participate in our workshops, hosted more than a dozen partners and collaborators in conversations, discussions, and panels, and learned so much from all the great questions you all had throughout the week. And thanks to your support, we made our $20,000 grassroots fundraising goal! We couldn’t do this work without support from people like you. If you’re feeling extra generous, you can still donate here :-)

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#Coopalooza Recap & Resources

LONG LIVE WORKPLACE DEMOCRACY. LONG LIVE WORKER POWER.

#Coopalooza was a week of events held the last week of September 2021, exploring our vision to redistribute wealth and power and dismantle the oppressive dominant economic system by creating more worker controlled enterprises. Nearly 300 people came to our events; we hosted over a dozen partners, collaborators, and panelists; and we grew our imagination as to what a world where work is governed and controlled by workers might look like.

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How community control of housing and land can help solve the housing crisis

By: Jessica Kutz , High Country News

Excerpt:

"One such organization is the Sustainable Economies Law Center, based in Oakland, California. The nonprofit has been around for more than a decade, providing legal tools to worker and housing cooperatives in the region, among other initiatives. 

High Country News recently spoke with Chris Tittle, the center’s director of land and housing justice, and Dorian Payán, co-director of the Radical Real Estate Law School, about their work, and about the possible housing and land futures that can exist under these alternative models."

Read full article here.

(Originally published October 5, 2021.)

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Nonprofit run by homeless people says it was unfairly taxed for trying to build housing

by Natalie Orenstein, The Oaklandside

Our inspiring friends at Homefulness/POOR Magazine have encountered every legal barrier imaginable as they work to build housing for Oakland's unhoused community. The Law Center has partnered with them to address the latest

Read full article here.

(Originally published October 20, 2021.)

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Comprehensive Planning Sucks. These Oaklanders Want to Make It Better.

By: OSCAR PERRY ABELLO, Next City

Excerpt: “We’re trying to hold our ground by not defining the entire process up front or acting like it’s our job to do that,” says Janelle Orsi, staff attorney and co-founder at the Sustainable Economies Law Center, which helped convene the collective starting in May. “What we’re defining instead is a participatory process we’re going to facilitate, giving a lot of examples on how it might play out. We’re treating the budget more like a menu that we could all order off of, as opposed to a budget of exactly what we’re going to do.”

Read full article here.

(Originally published August 24, 2021.)

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Grandmas4Housing: How a Tenant-Led Community Land Trust Came to Be

By: Mwende Hinojosa and Jocelyn Foreman, Nonprofit Quarterly

Excerpt: My mother had just died, and I was being retraumatized by seeing the foreclosure notices. Christine [Hernandez of Sustainable Economies Law Center] was telling me I had more options than cash for keys. But then I realized I had to tell people my situation and be naked. I had to know my rights and stand in my power.

Read full article here.

(Originally published August 18, 2021.)

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August 2021 Newsletter: We must expand the definition of "democracy"

To the vast majority of people, the word “democracy” evokes electoral politics and voting booths. But what about our day to day experience living in a democratic society? Maurice Mitchell sums up the limitations of our current understanding of democracy in this Nonprofit Quarterly article:

“If most of our waking hours are spent in a hierarchical workplace at work, that isn’t democracy. That is the definition of capitalism. And there should be a tension there between a democratic society and capitalism.” - Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party

The tension is at a breaking point: Amazon warehouse worker organizing squashed; worker unionization on a decline; income inequality at an all time high. And still, what we see across popular culture continues to deify billionaires and grind culture

Democratic values must permeate every layer of society because we can’t simply wait for election season to vote our way to liberation. Because bosses control so much of our lives, the most impactful place to start is in the workplace. Worker control and power is a way for people to practice democracy every day.

#Coopaloza Week events

We’re spending the last week of September questioning workplace hierarchies, discussing shared leadership in the workplace, and more! We’re calling it #Coopalooza Week and we hope you’ll join! 

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Our Interdependence Bookshelf

What are some of the invisible forces activating the hearts and minds of staff and interns of Sustainable Economies Law Center? Recently, several staff found simultaneous resonance around the word interdependence, and we planned a month of events to deepen our understanding of interdependence. Below, a few of us share sources of our inspiration: the books that helped us each recognize the truth of our interdependence and live into it more fully.

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July 2021 Newsletter: July is Interdependence Month!

In the opening to her book “Braiding Sweetgrass”, Robin Wall Kimmerer invites us into the mythic Potawatomi story of Sky Woman. She accidentally falls from Sky World towards dark water below, animals witnessing her distress and offering help in whatever way they could. The result of her fall is the co-creation of our world; a place where the interdependence of humans, plants, and animals could flourish.

Recently, Wall Kimmerer revisited this story and offered different perspectives: 

“In one version, she was pushed. In another she was thrown—not from malice but because she was needed for the sacred task and needed ‘help’ in leaving her beloved home for the next...

What does it take to abandon what does not work and take the risks of uncertainty? We’ll need courage; we’ll need each other’s hands to hold…”

Is our society flailing in free fall or actively jumping into the unknown, agents of our own future? Whether or not Sky Woman jumped or fell, her future might have ended terribly if not for the assistance and care the animals gave her in that moment of crisis. We at the Law Center choose to imagine ourselves as courageously jumping towards a future we choose, despite the uncertainty, because we are “Living the uncertainty, together” as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke once said. Part of our intention with Interdependence Month is to bring our interdependence into wider focus so we can live into the uncertainty of the future, with the possibility of co-creating a better one.

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Oakland: Much-needed housing held up over three parking spots

By: By Marisa Kendall, East Bay Times

Excerpt: “I’m sure they felt really hopeful that within a short period of time they’d be able to do great things with this land,” said Janelle Orsi, co-founder of Sustainable Economies Law Center, which has been helping Poor Magazine with the project. “I don’t think they ever would have imagined they’d hit so many barriers. And what it shows is that our laws and city procedures are not set up to support the groups that are supporting our community and creating the necessary housing.”

Read full article here.

(Originally published July 1, 2021.)

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Announcing The Oakland People’s Plan

Announcing The Oakland People’s Plan:

29 Oakland Groups Ask the City to Rethink the General Plan Process

June 29, 2021

On June 25, 2021, a newly formed coalition of Oakland organizations called The Oakland People’s Plan, submitted a community-centered proposal to the City of Oakland in response to Oakland’s Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking a prime consultant to manage the City’s General Plan update. The Oakland People’s Plan (TOPP) formed instantaneously – in the space of one week – in response to feelings that the City’s approach to the Plan update would prevent meaningful community participation. 

Staff and interns of the Sustainable Economies Law Center helped convene the group after conversations with several community organizations, planning professionals, and the City’s Planning Department. “The City says it wants to engage the community in this process, but their approach shows the opposite,” said Tia Taruc-Myers, an attorney with the Law Center who helped lead the effort. “We asked the City to extend the RFP deadline so that community groups could come up to speed and get involved, but the City refused. It appeared that only for-profit planning firms were planning to submit proposals.”

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June 2021 Newsletter: A sustainable economy is all about who you know!

Imagine a bustling neighborhood where the local grocery and cafe is cooperatively owned. It’s a hub, a meeting place, a point of connection where people come to shop for the week's groceries but stay to chat over a cup of tea. All the investors in the store are neighbors and the worker-owners know them by name. The co-op hosts a yearly fiesta where neighbors and investors get to meet the farmers who grow the food for the coop.

A beautiful image of a sustainable community that’s interconnected and nourishing itself, right? Because we all know that a sustainable economy centers relationships, not transactions. 

Interdependence has been a recurring concept at the Law Center that has evolved into a closely held value. So much so, that we’ve decided to offer a series of events and happenings next month to explore how we rebuild lives, communities, and legal systems on a foundation of interdependence. This will be a space to conjure images like the one above, and more!

Interdependence Month

As a prelude to Interdependence Month, we’re narrowing in on the individuals in our web of interdependence. Who are the people that hold the Law Center up, push us to strive and think creatively, and support us in all we do?

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Thanks to our Partners and Collaborators: