Can nonprofits be the change they want to see?


In a world that desperately needs change, what if we could unleash the full changemaking potential of nonprofit organizations everywhere? It’s time to explore the power of worker self-directed nonprofits (WSDNs) to cultivate more diverse leaders, accountable organizations, and equitable workplaces that represent the same values of justice and democracy that we work to create in the world.

That's why we have created a program, resources, and videos to support the emergence of worker self-directed nonprofits! At Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), we attribute a lot of our success to our highly fluid and decentralized governance model and an organizational culture that values all voices. Power and decision-making are equitably distributed among our 11 staff co-directors, who receive equal salaries and share equal responsibility for shaping our work. Nearly 4 years of practice in our own organization – and work with hundreds of other nonprofit leaders, staff, and members – have shown us that worker self-direction can catalyze new and highly effective leaders in our change movements.

So why do so many nonprofits either reproduce the hierarchies of the corporate economy or the tyrannies of structurelessness of earlier social movements? Here are some resources to support nonprofits to better embody the more just, democratic, and sustainable world they are working toward:

Recorded webinar: “Worker Self Directed Nonprofits: Implementing Workplace Democracy in Nonprofit Organizations"

Peer network: Join our Google Group and our Facebook Group to participate in an informal peer network for active and aspiring worker self-directed nonprofit practitioners. Connect with others, ask questions, and share resources about nonprofit workplace democracy.

WSDN: TV for Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits: ”WSDN” sounds so much like the name of a TV station that we couldn’t resist: We started a news show featuring short clips discussing various facets of worker self-direction. Click here for a playlist and join our Facebook group to receive notifications of new episodes. Here are a few episodes to give you a taste:


Topics and Videos (more coming soon here):

Consultations and training: If you need help forming or transitioning to a worker self-directed nonprofit, we are now offering phone consultations on a sliding scale. Learn more at the bottom of this page.

SELC's own internal policies and governance structure: Click here to see all our own internal policies and processes for worker self-direction.

Other things we’re thinking about:

  • Organizing a cohort-based training for nonprofit staff and board members;

  • Publishing a legal guide to running a democratic nonprofit;

  • Creating an online wiki-style website to house many of these resources; and

  • Shifting philanthropic money toward democratically run organizations.    

Events & Announcements

SELC is Hiring an Operations Manager! We’re looking for someone that we can solidly rely on to calmly and carefully manage important details of our operations. We are looking for a wonderful new team member and we’ll support you in learning what you need to be successful. Applicants should email a cover letter and resume to [email protected]Read the full description here. 

books.jpgResilient Communities Legal Cafe - July-Sept in the 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.

COCAP: Radical Redistribution of Wealth through Impact Investing - September 12 in Oakland, CA
This event is organized by our friends at Impact Hub Oakland, Jenny Kassan Consulting, and Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). Our Executive Director Janelle Orsi will be speaking along with other advocates for local investing and entrepreneurs who are raising funds from their community. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Living the New Economy 2016 Convergence - October 21-23 in Oakland, CA 
This year’s convergence is inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and others’ call to overcome systemic racism that to this day deprives Black Americans, indigenous peoples, and others of their inherent dignity and fair share of Oakland’s economic prosperity. Get your tickets today!

People Power for the Planet: Community-Owned Energy Teach-in - August 16 in Berkeley, CA
Join us to explore challenges and opportunities for building a community-owned renewable energy project! This interactive teach-in will examine models of cooperatively-owned and collectively-managed energy systems that expand local wealth. We will review California’s dynamic regulations in this field, and have an opportunity for community members to share experiences and questions. 

Summer Members & Volunteers Happy Hour - August 3 at Mad Oak
Calling all SELC volunteers, interns, members, and sustainers! Come and let us celebrate your part in building community resilience! Join SELC staff and your fellow SELC community members to cultivate connections at our upcoming happy hour!

End o' Summer Happy Hour - August 30 at Comal
Come celebrate the building of community resilience with SELC staff and cultivate connections at our friends and fans happy hour! If you're a friend, fan, volunteer, member, or an attorney looking to build your network of resilience minded legal professionals, join us!

Thanks to our Partners and Collaborators: