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The economy is people powered!
Meet the team that is working to create innovative and cooperative solutions to our destructive economic systems. Check out our staff, former staff, interns, board of directors, legal fellows, and supporters below! Wondering why we don’t have an Executive Director? Click here to learn more.
We're proud to be a worker self-directed nonprofit (a cross between a worker cooperative and a 501c3 nonprofit!) Read more about our structure here.
Click here for board member bios.
We wouldn't be where we are now without the stewardship of our former staff members. They've helped us set policy priorities, build internal resilience, and recruit the team we have now.
Click here for legal fellow bios.
Click here to read about our supporters.
That's right! We're looking for a Bay Area resident interested in a full-time position (which we define as 30 hours per week), to join our dynamic, democratic, and delightful organization.Read more
Cooperative economies aren't created in a vacuum, nor do they take root without the participation of broader community involvement. Every year during the month of May, we ask our friends, families, and allies to become monthly contributing members of the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) and support the cultivation of the legal roots of just and resilient economies.Read more
After our month-long #PeoplePoweredEconomies campaign, the results are in: you rock! We continue to be motivated by a sense of both urgency and opportunity to create people powered economies everywhere, and YOU give us the inspiration and support we need to make that happen. This is what a People Powered SELC looks like:
- Over 150 donors during the month of May
- 50 new Community Members
- Over $20,000 pledged
- Hundreds of dollars raised for our allies Richmond Grows Seed Library (Richmond, CA), Cooperation Jackson (Jackson, MS), and Phat Beets Produce (Oakland, CA)
- Oh yeah, and this…
Contact Ricardo at [email protected]
Ricardo Samir Nuñez is a worker cooperative ecosystem development specialist supporting cultural practices, policies, organizations, and systemic changes that allow communities to build beyond the interlocking systems of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. He is currently the Director of Economic Democracy and a Staff Attorney at the Sustainable Economies Law Center where he collaborates on educational programs, legal services, policy advocacy, and regional and national ecosystem development to restore human labor to right relationship with people and the planet. He is board president of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and an at-large board member at the California Center for Cooperative Development and the Southern California Focus on Cooperation. He also became a lawyer without going to law school through California’s Law Office Study Program! Check out Ricardo's Favorite Cooperative Resources here!
Past Law Center Work (2013 - 2021)
A National Legal Landscape to Support Worker Cooperatives (Co-coordinator)
Co-opLaw.org (Developer & Coordinator)
Legal Course for Economic Democracy (Developer & Coordinator)
California Cooperative Landscape Analysis Report (Researcher & Co-Author)
Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives’ Conflict Engagement Team (Mediator)
Worker-Owned Recovery California Coalition (Policy Campaign Support Staff)
Grassroots Finance (Trainer)
Resilient Communities Legal Cafe (Director)
Legal Education Coordinator
Think Outside the Boss (Facilitator & Coordinator)
California Worker Cooperative Act, AB 816 (Campaign Co-Coordinator)
Oakland City Advocacy Campaign Supporting Worker Cooperatives (Campaign Staff)
Worker Co-op Academy (Facilitator & Coordinator)
Communications Circle (Co-Coordinator)
Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit (Workshop Facilitator)
Conflict Engagement Team
Bay Area Cooperative Ecosystem Coalition (Coordinator)
Lots of other stuff. You get the picture.
Education & Training
Law & Social Change Jam (2019)
Democracy at Work Institute Cooperative Development Fellow (2015)
California State University Long Beach: BA in Political Science (International Relations) and International Studies (Western Europe), minor in Anthropology (Cultural).
St. John Bosco High School (Bellflower, CA)
Presentations, Publications, & Interviews
Life Before the Law Center
Ricardo is from Long Beach, California, and he doesn't mind if you know it. #StrongBeach!
Ricardo began working domestically with cooperatives at the Los Angeles Eco-Village with the Los Angeles Worker Ownership Resources and Cooperative Services (LAWORCS) Committee. LAWORCS was an initiative to start a worker cooperative incubator and resource center for the greater L.A. area. Prior to LAWORCS, Ricardo was a Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Case Manager working with low-income families to stop pending evictions and re-house homeless neighbors in southern LA County, primarily in Bellflower and Paramount.
Prior to his housing work, Ricardo was a Rural Education Development (RED) Specialist in Zambia with the U.S. Peace Corps. Ricardo led efforts in capacity building with 15 rural, up-country schools. His focus as a RED Specialist was teacher training, teacher monitoring, and strengthening administrative management systems. His heart, though, belonged to the two village based Women’s Cooperatives that he supported and helped co-found. Working with the Women's Cooperatives displayed the transformative power of the cooperative model in action. Ricardo also worked in concert with multiple Farmer’s Cooperatives providing training on sustainable farming practices and connections to resources.
Ricardo was voted Orange County Weekly's 2007 Best Bartender of the Year.
Other Interesting Tidbits
Ricardo enjoys bodyboarding, cycling, traveling, and the ocean breeze. He is deeply committed to family, friends, and community.
“Worker cooperatives are my jam.”
Updated July 2020
We want to live in a society where reliable and affordable legal support is available to all those creating the transition to localized, resilient economies.
The primary way that the Sustainable Economies Law Center provides legal advice is through our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe.
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. Legal advice is provided on a first-come, first-serve basis, so no appointment is necessary. Find our where the next Legal Cafe is and sign up here!
At the Legal Cafes, our staff and volunteers specialize in serving cooperatives, nonprofits, cottage food businesses, social enterprises, urban farms, complimentary currencies, time banks, and small businesses. We provide advice and legal consultations around the following legal areas:
Legal formation for small businesses
Legal entity choice
IP agreements and licensing
Food Safety Laws
Seeking ongoing legal representation?
Due to limited staff capacity, the Sustainable Economies Law Center very rarely provides ongoing legal representation. Nearly all of our past clients have come through the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe first, so why not start there?!
We are only able to provide low- or no-cost legal advice because of the generous support of people like you! Support our capacity to provide legal services for a people powered economy here and see why others support our work here!
A message from our Executive Director, Janelle Orsi:
Lately, this big word has been stuck in my head:
Three things are happening right NOW that are creating a sense of urgency at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Sometimes, it's hard to see that they are happening, so we thought some visuals might help...Read more
Board of Directors
ITZEL NUÑO is the Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Workplace Democracy Project Coordinator.
Itzel is a first generation Mexican American who was born and raised in San Diego, California along with her two sisters. Being raised by an immigrant single mother near a national border, has made her acutely aware of the many systemic injustices in our country and the people power required to fight back. Itzel received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Community Studies from UC Santa Cruz.
Prior to her work at the Law Center, Itzel was the Rapid Response Network Coordinator for the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ). Itzel coordinated emergency legal and community led responses to Immigration and Customs Enforcement across the state of California. Before she joined CCIJ, Itzel worked at a social impact strategy firm called Third Plateau as their Community Manager. As the Community Manager, Itzel was responsible for growing, strengthening, and leveraging the firm’s network of social impact leaders.
Itzel previously taught video production to youth in San Diego and Guatemala. She currently lives in a small but warm apartment in Oakland with her partner, cat, and plants. She enjoys dancing, backpacking and sewing in her free time.
HASMIK GEGHAMYAN is a community lawyer committed to social and economic justice whose solo practice primarily focuses on formation and labor compliance for nonprofits and cooperatives. Hasmik believes that a cross-functional model of activism, policy, organizing, and law can be effectively used to bring about social and ecological transformation. Hasmik also teaches Political Science at the College of Alameda.
EUNICE KWON is the Director of Asian Pacific American Student Development at UC Berkeley. Previously, she was the Director of Community Engagement at the Sustainable Economies Law Center and a Coro Fellow in San Francisco, where she worked with a range of organizations that included the Haas Sr. Foundation and the Bay Area Community College Consortium. She started her career as a communications consultant for several congressional and local political campaigns and for labor organizations such as the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and the United Food and Commercial Workers. She currently serves on the board of the Oakland Asian Cultural Center and Asian Women United, a nonprofit that spotlights the diverse experiences of Asian American Pacific Islander women through publications, digital productions, and educational materials. She received her Masters in City Planning at UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design.
FARZANA SERANG is the Great Communities Collaborative Initiative Officer at The San Francisco Foundation, and former Executive Director of CoFED, the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive. Prior to CoFED, she worked at PolicyLink, one of the primary national advocacy organizations shaping a social and economic justice agenda for the country. She received her Masters in City Planning from MIT with a focus on community and economic development. During her studies she also worked with the Democracy Collaborative, Milk & Honey, and National Congress of American Indians.
ADRIEN SALAZAR is an environmental advocate, political ecologist, and poet receiving his Masters in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Adrien is committed to supporting communities in shaping policy and managing their resources to achieve community resilience, empowerment, and self-determination. His work focuses on land and resource rights, and engagement of frontline and marginalized communities in resource management and policy. He has supported campaigns in the San Francisco Bay Area with the Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity and the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter. He has also supported conservation of traditional agricultural practices among indigenous farmers in the Philippines. He hails from San Jose, California and Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines. He enjoys running, yoga, mindfulness meditation, and growing heirloom vegetables.
DESEREE FONTENOT is a black organizer, farmer, and ecology nerd. She is a collective member of Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project (MG). MG inspires and engages in transformative action towards the liberation and restoration of land, labor, and culture. Deseree grew up between Southwest Louisiana and the Los Angeles area and has been based in the Bay Area for the last decade. Before joining MG, Deseree worked as both a farmer and educator focused on land & liberation with the People of Color Sustainable Housing Network and the Queer EcoJustice Project. As a descendant of three generations of rural Louisiana sharecroppers, Deseree is committed to strengthening movements for black land, healing and liberation. She loves to nerd out on queer botany, creole/cajun food and history, and regenerative design practices.