Sustainable Economies Law Center exists to bridge the gap in legal expertise needed to transition from destructive economic systems to innovative and cooperative alternatives. Our 10 programs work together in identifying key leverage points in our existing economic and legal systems, removing strategic legal barriers, and creating replicable models for community resilience. We work to:
Envision more just and resilient economic and legal systems;
Identify and advocate for public policies that remove legal barriers to resilient communities while maintaining and strengthening worker, consumer and environmental protections;
Empower community-based entrepreneurs and innovators to create replicable legal structures that will form the blueprints of the new economy;
Educate communities and law-makers about the potential of new economic strategies; and
Train the next generation of community-based lawyers to meet the burgeoning legal needs of resilient communities everywhere.
See below to see how we embody this change in our own organizational structure and processes:
Part of Sustainable Economies Law Center's approach to catalyzing a more just and resilient society is to be the change we want to see. We have adopted policies that distribute "ownership" throughout the organization, allow for more dignified livelihoods, expand access to our legal services, and empower a new generation of grassroots legal experts.
We offer our Internal Policy Wiki to the public as an example of our organization's internal policies, not necessarily as recommendations that your organization should copy. There is a story behind every policy, and our stories may not be relevant for your organization. That said, many of our policies and practices have been informed by learning from and with other organizations. You are welcome to copy and remix these policies: everything we create is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0.)
These policies include:
An equitable pay rate: We believe equal pay for all staff is an essential foundation for compensation when, historically and structurally, pay differences have generally mirrored dynamics of oppression, disenfranchisement, and marginalization in society. Nevertheless, when people face different challenges, both historic and present, addressing systems of oppression and individuals’ different circumstances requires a commitment to equity, not just equality. Therefore, we start with equal pay rates as a profound alternative to the inequities of the labor market and continue to evolve our compensation practices as we find sound methods for considering equitable variations in pay.
Decentralized governance: We take pride in our ability to get a lot done, and we credit much of our efficiency to the implementation of a highly structured system of distributed decision-making. Each program is run by a semi-autonomous circle of staff and volunteers, nested within larger circles of accountability. Our decision-making processes enable each staff member to propose projects and take significant leadership roles, optimizing individual autonomy and collective responsibility.
Time off policies: To maximize employee well being and optimize individual autonomy and collective accountability, we recognize the value of a 30 hour work week. After 5 years of employment, staff are eligible for a 16 week paid sabbatical. To further our commitment to supporting staff members as whole persons, Sustainable Economies Law Center allows staff members to take up to 40 weeks paid leave in one 12-month period to recover and care for a new child; care for an ill family member; anticipate the arrival of a child by birth or placement in connection with adoption or foster care, and/or recover, care for, and/or bond with a child by birth or placement in connection with adoption or foster care.
We have also launched a project to promote and support emerging models of decentralized nonprofit governance, which we're calling worker self-directed nonprofits. Find out more about this project here, and check out the resources, webinars, and teach-ins we've already put together to learn from and support other nonprofits.