Building Resilient Communities: Summer 2014 Newsletter

Welcome to the legal landscape of the new economy.

The Sustainable Economies Law Center has been hard at work this summer, and there's more coming! It's time to let the entire SELC community in on what we've been working on and the exciting projects, resources, and events we're planning. All the photos below are links to their relevant pages on SELC's website, so click away. Hope you enjoy what we're serving up, and keep on sharing!








SELC Events!


Volunteer Celebration Happy Hour

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 05:30 PM

SELC wouldn't be creating the waves for the new economy without the commitment and dedication of its volunteers. SELC's volunteers are at the heart of providing the education, research, advocacy, and advice that is building more just and resilient communities. To say thank you and show our appreciation, we're hosting a Happy Hour in their honor tonight, August 27th at Comal in Berkeley. RSVP here or just show up!

Legal Professional's Happy Hour

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 05:30 PM

Are you a legal professional wanting to build a new economy and network with others doing the same? Are you a friend of a fan of SELC or want to learn more about our work? Most importantly, do you want to relax over a drink and some nibbles after a day of work? Then come to our informal networking happy hour and share stories of ways to build more just and resilient local economies. RSVP here.


Pollination & Seed Saving Teach-in
Wednesday, September 03, 2014 at 06:00 PM (LOL Makerspace, Oakland)

Have you ever wondered how a seed forms?  Did you realize that that little grain breathes?  Do you want to know more about the connection between insects, flowers, fruit, and seed?  Then come and take part in this fascinating and engaging teach-in hosted at SELC’s Resilient Communities Legal Cafe on September 3rd from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. Members of City Slicker Farms, Sarah and Joseph, will explain and demonstrate the “magic” of pollination and seed saving. RSVP here.

El Proceso Legal Para Iniciar Tu Negocio Cooperativa
Saturday, September 06, 2014 at 10:00 AM (Latina Center, Richmond)

Únase con el Centro Legal de la Comunidad del Este de la Area Bahía (EBCLC) y el Centro Legal Para Economías Sostenibles (SELC) para aprender como empezar una empresa cooperativa en su comunidad. Si usted tiene un interés en crear sus propios empleos y servir a su comunidad, o si tiene una organización sin fines de lucro y quiere apoyar empresas poseídas de los trabajadores, esta presentación es para usted. Confirmar su asistencia aqui.

The Gritty, Moral Solution to the Housing Crisis Teach-in
October 21, 2014 at 6pm - 7:30pm (Alchemy Collective Cafe, Berkeley)

Fixing the housing crunch isn't easy, but there is a permaculture solution. Dave Giesen, playwright and economist at the Henry George School in San Francisco, makes the case for socializing the rent of land in a hands-on, interactive seminar that identifies the value of what real estate agents mean by "location, location, location" as the lynch-pin in a holistic, sustainable economy. "Is there one good reason one human being should pay another for merely occupying land itself?"

Resilient Communities Legal Cafe

Three times per month in Oakland and Berkeley.

SELC provides direct legal support to individuals and groups who are working to create new solutions for resilient local economies.  The Resilient Communities Legal Cafe is a first-come, first-serve, donation-based legal advice clinic, providing a collaborative space for community building and connecting. SELC and our volunteers specialize in serving cooperatives, nonprofits, cottage food businesses, social enterprises, urban farms, complimentary currencies, time banks, and small businesses. Find all future dates and locations here

Conferences SELC is participating in!

COCAP - Community Capital Conference
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Hacking Community Capital at CoCap: SELC’s cofounders, Jenny Kassan and Janelle Orsi, will both be presenting at CoCap - the Community Capital Conference at Impact Hub Oakland on September 2. Among other things, we’ll be leading a hackathon to generate policy ideas and strategies for harnessing community-sourced capital to finance development of new farms, renewable energy projects, small business, cooperatives, and many other projects that generate wealth for our local communities. Please join us!

SOCAP Igniting Vibrant Communities
September 2 - 5, 2014

Investing in the Sharing Economy: Equity and Ownership: If you’ll be at this year’s SOCAP Conference, come see SELC co-founder Janelle Orsi on the main stage on September 4th discussing considerations related to investing in the sharing economy. Janelle and the panel will explore the nuances and tensions of growing and scaling a company built on shared value.

The Economics of Sustainability Conference
October 06, 2014 at 9:30am - October 09, 2014

Think Outside the Boss: Legal Basics on Starting a Coop: Presented by Ricardo Nuñez (SELC) and Sushil Jacob (Green Collar Communities Clinic) at the Economics of Sustainability Conference, this is an interactive walk through of the 101s of how to start a worker cooperative. Through the story of a group of landscape workers wanting to escape their exploitative boss, they form their own cooperative business. Please join SELC and a host of other amazing individuals and organizations as we work through strategies and practices for creating a more sustainable, just, and prosperous future. For more info and to RSVP, click here.

Living the New Economy Convergence
October 23 - 26, 2014 (Oakland, CA)

Join SELC and other local entrepreneurs, investors, activists, non-profits, producers, and makers at the 2014  Living the New Economy Convergence in Oakland. Hear from new economy thought-leaders, network with others in the new economy movement, use the inspiration you gain to design tangible solutions rooted in New Economy principles, and win prizes that will assist you in turning your New Economy idea into a thriving business or project! SELC friends get 10% off registration if you use the discount code “SELC” - register today!

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you know how we do. Program news comin at ya!

Worker Coop Academy

The Bay Area Worker Coop Academy is about to launch! We had so many applications and we're happy to say that we've selected and are about to invite our first cohort! SELC is honored and humbled to be partnering with the East Bay Community Law Center and Project Equity (together known as the “Bay Area Blueprint Collaborative”) to bring a more robust technical assistance and training program for the growth of worker cooperatives in the Bay Area. The Academy is providing a menu of workshops specifically tailored to each team’s needs, designed to help start or grow successful worker-owned businesses. The training includes business basics, management, workplace culture, cooperative development, and legal topics. The Blueprint Collaborative will also provide individualized business coaching and legal counsel in order to give the highest likelihood of success for the creation or worker-owned jobs!Complimentary Currencies.

Two New Videos on Complementary Currency Law

About a month ago, SELC’s currency law team (Yassi, Janelle, and Chris) created a series of instructional videos detailing the legal basics for complementary currencies, time banks, and barter networks. Whether you currently operate a time bank, barter network, or local currency, or are thinking of starting such a project, these videos will equip you with the essential legal knowledge to comply with existing laws. Watch all of the free online videos: 1) Legal Basics for Time Banks and Barter Exchanges, 2) Part 1:Legal Basics for Complementary Currencies, and 3) Part 2: Legal Basics for Complementary Currencies.

For all your other complementary currency law questions, consult our free online legal resource library, And remember, we could always use your volunteer help with If you are interested, please contact [email protected].

Governor Brown Approves CA Alternative Currencies Act

In June, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 129 - the California Alternative Currencies Act! SELC and a network of supporters across the state have been advocating for this bill for nearly two years, as it removes an outdated yet significant legal barrier to the continued growth of community currencies and other innovative means of exchange. Thanks to Assemblymember Dickinson and the many community currency supporters who helped pass this important bill for monetary resilience! Read more about the bill here.

Economic Development Without Displacement in Oakland

Along with allied organizations in North Oakland, including Phat Beets Produce, Causa Justa:Just Cause, Destiny Arts Center, Place for Sustainable Living, and Green Collar Communities Clinic (EBCLC), SELC has been exploring strategies to build community resilience and economic empowerment in the context of economic displacement. Building off an exciting community forum in April to discuss community-driven responses to gentrification, SELC hosted a teach-in on Democratizing Urban Land Use. Watch the full teach-in here. The Economic Development Without Displacement Coalition meets monthly and is developing a long-term strategy for holistic community development in North Oakland.

Neighborhood Food Act

SELC’s Neighborhood Food Act, AB 2561, passed out of the full State Senate! The bill gives members of homeowners’ associations and renters of single family homes and duplexes the right to grow food on their property. An earlier version of the bill had additional provisions to remove city and county zoning law barriers to growing and selling food, but these provisions were removed. The bill encountered fierce opposition from several interest groups, which made this a challenging effort. We are very pleased with Assemblymember Bradford and his staff and our partners at Slow Food California and the Social Justice Learning Institute for working with us on this bill and for the success we’ve had in protecting peoples’ rights to grow food. SELC is considering future legislative ideas that will further secure our right to grow food and promote urban and suburban agriculture generally. If you’d like to be kept in the loop be sure to sign the Neighborhood Food Act petition if you haven’t already. Our work here is not done and we need continued support to promote fresh, healthy food for all!

Seed Libraries Threatened Across the U.S.

By some estimates, there are 300 nonprofit seed libraries operating around the U.S., and they are suddenly under threat after Pennsylvania and Maryland departments of agriculture took action to stop the sharing of member-harvested seeds. SELC staff took a crash in seed law and wrote this article, Setting the Record Straight on the Legality of Seed Libraries. Even though we have good arguments that seed libraries do not violate state seed laws, we may need some legislation to establish this more clearly. SELC is in conversation with seed activists and with about what such legislation could look like. Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you want to help us crowdsource seed law information, check out this library where we are compiling seed laws from all 50 states

It’s Coming: One Million Lawyers!

SELC and a crew of attorneys are hard at work developing and testing a new network for legal professionals in the new economy, Why one million? We envision the creation of hundreds of millions of new projects and enterprises throughout the world, as every community reinvents its systems for accessing food, energy, clothing, goods, water, housing, transportation, healthcare, and other components of a good life. At the rate that humans are currently disrupting climate, overwhelming ecosystems, and widening the wealth gap, nothing short of one million lawyers will be needed to envision, establish, structure, advise, and advocate on behalf of the cooperatives, land trusts, community organizations, and other projects and enterprises that build the foundation for just, equitable, and sustainable economies. is a place where legal professionals can connect with each other, learn, share resources, grow their visibility, and strengthen the legal foundations of new economies. To receive an invitation to the network when it launches, please sign up here.

SELC’s Apprenticeship Program Featured in New York Times!

Yep, we were in the New York Times! SELC is currently the organization in the U.S. that is most prominently promoting and modeling the apprenticeship route to becoming a lawyer. Four staff members at SELC are becoming lawyers without going to law school, and our blog,, is currently the most comprehensive resource on the topic. We expect this movement to grow, so it won’t be long before SELC is just one of many organizations getting attention for starting legal apprenticeship programs. Speaking of that, check out Chris Tittle’s recent blog post about the United Farm Workers’ apprenticeship program and Ricardo Nuñez’s post about UCLA Law Professor and former apprentice Gary Blasi

Join our Facebook Group on Becoming a Lawyer Through Legal Apprenticeship

SELC created a facebook group to grow the community of apprentices and supervising attorneys. If you are interested in apprenticeships and want to join the conversation, please join the Apprenticing To Become A Lawyer Facebook Group.

Advocating for Legal Apprenticeships at the State Bar

Last year, the State Bar of California created a the Civil Justice Strategies Task Force to generate solutions to narrow the “justice gap.” SELC Staff Attorney, Neil Thapar, reached out to the conveners of the Task Force, recommending examination of the potential for legal apprenticeships to narrow the justice gap. The Task Force asked SELC to submit comments for the group’s consideration. Read the comments we submitted and our blog post about it.

Rebuilding Our Water Commons

SELC recently hosted a very stimulating discussion about community management of water resources. We heard from Pearl Kan, Staff Attorney at California Rural Legal Assistance, where her legal advocacy is aimed at ensuring access to safe drinking water in the Salinas Valley. Pearl's work has led her to begin asking questions about the potential for cooperative legal structures to help communities take control of their water. We also discussed acequias, which are fascinating community managed water systems in New Mexico. Now, ideas are bubbling up at SELC, and we’ll eventually drill deeper into questions about how water can be managed in sustainable economies. We are also learning from the successes and challenges of water management around the world. For example, when we see how commoditization of water resources in New Mexico has undercut the efficacy of acequias, it helps us to see how commoditization of many other resources can undermine the social and environmental goals of many types of organizations. So this is just a note to say that SELC has some water work on the horizon. If you know of any funding sources to support our water work, please let us know!

SELC’s Executive Director Named an Ashoka Fellow

In case you haven’t heard the news, SELC’s co-founder and Executive Director, Janelle Orsi, was recently named an Ashoka Fellow! Ashoka Fellows are leading social entrepreneurs who are recognized for their innovative solutions to social problems, and their potential to change patterns across society. Watch Ashoka's three-minute video showcasing SELC's work and vision for a more just, compassionate, and resilient world.

Save The Date Fall Celebration: November 18th, 2014 at 6:30pm - 9pm

WHEN: November 18, 2014 at 6:30pm - 9pm
WHERE: Impact HUB Oakland, 2323 Broadway, Oakland, CA


Sara!!!Why we love Sara: No law student on Earth has spent as much time volunteering for SELC as Sara Stephans has. SELC has worked with Sara since her very first semester in law school. Now Sara has graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law and has taken the bar exam, so we were thrilled to snag her before any other legal organization did. 

A few facts about Sara: She lived for five years in Bangkok, Thailand, where she worked with communities struggling with poverty, pollution, and displacement. She was a community organizer in Pomona, CA, where she worked to oppose the unjust siting of a waste transfer station. During law school, Sara led a student workshop that supported Brazilian communities threatened with displacement due to a destructive development project. She also studied journalism!


Why we love Eunice: We hired Eunice to be SELC’s Chief Operations Officer because, after interviewing her, she drew cartoons of each SELC staff member a bear. That’s the kind of initiative-taking, creativity, and quirkiness that we look for at SELC! Oh, and Eunice has background working for economic justice, in public policy, with organized labor, doing program management, and doing graphic design, among many other things. 
A few facts about Eunice: She has served as a housing commissioner for the City of Berkeley. She is currently on the board of Asian Women United, a nonprofit that spotlights the diverse experiences of Asian American Pacific Islander women through publications, digital productions, and educational materials. She graduated UC Berkeley with dual bachelors in Ethnic Studies and Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies.

ELIZABETH!!! Why we love Elizabeth: Few people vocalize as much love and enthusiasm for SELC as Elizabeth does, so having Elizabeth around is good for SELC’s confidence! She’ll be helping us broaden our grantseeking opportunities and spreading the good word about SELC to funders that don’t yet know us. Elizabeth has been volunteering for SELC for over a year. 
A few facts about Elizabeth: She is a lawyer who provides affordable employment law advice and assistance to small and medium-sized cooperatives, nonprofits, and other businesses with a focus on serving environmentally and socially sustainable, mission driven enterprises. She has worked at law firms, both large and small, as in-house counsel for a commercial start-up and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. In her free time she loves to be on a bike, on a hike or in an organic community garden.

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