Here's a few articles that are inspiring our work and the research we need to reinvent economic systems.

We'd like YOU to contribute to this monthly feature. We'll share some of what we're reading and finding interesting but if you read (or write) an article you'd like to share on Next Legal please send the link to me!

Oakland Grassroots Groups Unite to Purchase 23rd Avenue Building
from KQED Arts by Nastia Voynovskaya

Cycles of Change, Peacock Rebellion and other tenants envision a permanent social justice center led by queer and trans people of color, and are organizing to purchase their mixed-used residential and commercial space with support from Oakland Community Land Trust and other economic justice organizations. Can this become a model of community stabilization and resisting displacement?

3 Steps to Building Just Transition Now with a Permanent Community Energy Cooperative
from Sustainable Economies Law Center by Subin Varghese

On the just transition to community solar through a new model in development: the Permanent Community Energy Cooperative.

Crowdfunding Real Estate Isn’t Just For Millionaires Anymore. Could It Be For You?
from YES! Magazine by

Examples of equity crowdfunding to improve communities and build local wealth

Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

I love the work I do! I went into law school knowing that I wanted to do social justice work, but wasn't sure exactly what that would be. After a series of internships, I knew what I *didn't* want to do (namely, litigation). I took a community economic development (CED) clinic in my final year and found my passion in working with communities and groups. 

After law school, I started in the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, where I worked on transactional matters for groups organizing towards systemic changes. I had the opportunity to teach in various CED clinics for a number of years before coming back to the Community Development Project to supervise attorneys working with non-profits, cooperatives and other grassroots organizations.

What specifically drew you to working with social enterprises and democratically-led organizations, such as cooperatives?

While my colleagues down the hall from me toiled away on wage-and-hour cases where employers had cheated workers out of wages and had inflicted other abuses on their workers, I was drawn to a model of business that sought to curb those practices, namely worker cooperatives. Workers running their own businesses and setting the terms and conditions of their own work represented the flip side, and a possible solution, to worker injustice. Also, my work early on focused on low-wage, immigrant workers, an especially vulnerable population for whom cooperatives hold even more potential for just work and worker control. 

What do you find to be the most challenging about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal professional]?

Aside from the challenge of working within a system that often does not favor vulnerable populations, functioning "in the grey" can be challenging....

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The Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, started its first bakery over 20 years ago, and how has five locations in the Bay Area. All are worker owned. Photo credit:

 

Here's a few articles that are inspiring our work and the research we need to reinvent economic systems.

We'd like YOU to contribute to this monthly feature. We'll share some of what we're reading and finding interesting but if you read (or write) an article you'd like to share on Next Legal please send the link to me!

Cottage Food Industry May Get Boost From Bill
From The San Francisco Chronicle By Jonathan Kauffman

Discussion of a newly introduced California homemade food act that would permit the sale of home-cooked meals directly to consumers. But how should new legislation be tailored to ensure tech companies don't corner the market?

Cooperative California Cities and the “New Economy”: Learning From History, Starting from Success
From CoLab Radio by

The “New Economy” label is used by a rising generation seeking to promote economic democracy, and build an economy which achieves the three e’s of the famed “urban planner’s triangle”: environmental sustainability, social equity, and economic development. Have have communities in California learned from the past to...

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1. Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

 About 10 years ago I realized that communities need smart attorneys to handle transactional (i.e. non-court-based) legal work and advise them about complex legal concepts – not only entity formation and governance, but also Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, for instance, which are the most complicated section of the federal tax code.  This realization happened when I was a student in a community economic development law clinic.  We were advising a group about forming a community development bank or credit union (highly regulated entities).  I caught the community economic development law clinic bug and now direct a community economic development law clinic in the Capital Region of the New York State—I have my dream job.

2.  What specifically drew you to working with social enterprises and democratically-led organizations, such as cooperatives?

 It is about access to justice.  If only large companies or wealthy individuals have access to an attorney then the legal profession is not serving society.  Small businesses, whether social enterprises, democratically-led cooperatives, and neighborhood institutions need quality legal advice too.  Small businesses in particular are the engines of economic growth – not large companies.  Even though public policy clearly favors big business.  Small, democratically-led firms play key roles in our social and economic life. 

3. What do you find to be the most challenging about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal professional]?

 When most people meet with a lawyer it is usually because something bad happened – a divorce, a death, a lawsuit.  We need to make the case that lawyers can help people avoid disputes through advance planning.  Lawyers need to demonstrate value and that can be a challenge.

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Veterans, water protectors and the independent media facing riot police. Photo by Rob Wilson.

One of the things that fuels our hearts and minds over here at The Sustainable Economies Law Center is reading the writing of others about the work and the research we need to reinvent economic systems.

As a new monthly feature we'll share some of what we're reading and finding interesting. If you read (or write) an article you'd like to share on Next Legal please send the link to me!

Thanks to Chris Tittle for this month's links!

Why have all attempts to fix Britain’s housing crisis failed? Look to the land
from The Guardian by
Brief exploration of the role of land in modern economies and why it needs to be decommodified to address the interconnected crises of growing inequality, homelessness, and economic decline.

Water Is Life: The Story of Standing Rock Won’t Go Away
from yes! Magazine  by
"The Dakota Access pipeline is set and oil will flow. But this is not the only fight about water, and Standing Rock is only one chapter somewhere in the middle of a long story. "

Divisions Of Labor
from The New York Times by Barbara Ehrenreich
Long-form journalism on the new working class, new forms of labor organizing, and potential solutions...

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1. Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

As a senior in college I started a research project on holistic thinking and systems theory. I convinced all my professors to let me tie my assignments into that theme and I got to be a little obsessed. Whenever I would get stuck, and need some inspiration, I would go volunteer on a farm started by friends. All my best ideas came to me there, while weeding and harvesting. I met several people with legal questions related to their farms and food businesses, and I thought, ‘I bet I could help them if I went to law school.’

I heard about a new Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, applied to Vermont Law School, and spent my three years there focused on food systems and agriculture. Afterwards, the LL.M. program in Agriculture and Food Law at the University of Arkansas offered me a full ride and a paid position through which I was glad to learn about another part of the country. In March, I joined the Agrarian Trust as a legal fellow coordinating the Agrarian Lawyers’ Network. I returned to Vermont after the LL.M. program in-person component, and opened a solo law practice for farmers and food businesses, with an environmental sustainability angle.

2. What specifically drew you to working with social enterprises and democratically-led organizations, such as cooperatives?

Egalitarian organizations tend to bring forth the best solutions, since they are as Donella Meadows said, designed around the principle of feedback. For an equitable world, we need equitable organizations, and people who are empowered to participate. Studying the food system, I find that the cooperative model tends to have the best outcome for workers, communities and natural systems.

3. What do you find to be the most challenging about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal...

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Written by Elizabeth L. Carter of Urban Cooperative Enterprise Legal Center

“The creation of a new housing cooperative in Newark will benefit from an institution that seeks to empower tenants rather than simply serving them. This requires a rethinking on the role of nonprofits, tenant associations, and government in the pursuit of cooperative development.”  -Housing Cooperative Part II: The Collective Effort

Historically, cooperatives were organically created through grassroots efforts. They were created simply through the mobilization and organization of similarly situated people with a common cause to share and exchange resources for their mutual benefit. This is especially true among historically marginalized groups where such members brought their resources together to provide necessary goods and services to the community in the face of “racial segregation, racial discrimination, and market failure.[1] However, cooperative development has sophisticated overtime, such as through legal structures that now define and regulate them. This includes the Private Housing Finance Law of New York which defines, regulates, and financially supports limited equity housing cooperatives in response to significant grassroots developments of tenant-controlled buildings throughout  New York City.[2] Likewise, the State of New Jersey adopted its Cooperative Recording Act in 1987 which regulates housing cooperatives due to “cooperative corporations and other cooperative legal entities...becoming a popular practice in New Jersey.” In general, local governmental support of cooperatives has expanded over the years towards financial and programmatic support. Examples include New York City’s approval of $1.2 million out of its budget for worker cooperative...

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As a member of the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, I have volunteered to be the Idaho representative to the Sustainable Livestock Policy Initiative (the “Initiative”). The Initiative aims to expand regenerative livestock production in the United States by organizing producers around the nation to reform agricultural policy in the 2018 Farm Bill. What follows is a description of the developing effort and how you or your organization(s) can get involved.

Team, purpose, and goals: The group is led by: Friends of the Earth, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Dakota Rural Action, Rural Advancement Foundation International, Friends of Family Farmers, Johns Hopkins Center for Livable Future, Vermont Law School, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Initiative is focused on creating a solutions-based narrative about improving federal policy to support producers as they meet increasing consumer demand for more humane and sustainable meat, eggs and dairy. The narrative will focus on how these policies can also help sequester carbon, build healthy soil, reduce water use and contamination, protect biodiversity, and improve animal welfare and human/animal/environmental health.  The Initiative is messaging the goals as follows:

  • New policies, initiatives, and...

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Application Due Date Extended

What is the Next Legal Network Writer in Residence Program?

The Next Legal Network Writer in Residence program consists of a small group of columnists who write monthly articles for the Next Legal Network Blog (at nextlegal.org). Next Legal Network Writers in Residence must be lawyers, law students, legal apprentices, or other legal workers who are committed to generating economies, communities, and legal systems that:

  • Empower all people to participate democratically in the management of resources critical to their lives, including jobs, energy, housing, and natural resources;

  • Resist the destructive qualities of profit maximization, racism, and inequality; and

  • Nourish people and ecosystems in the long term.

The Next Legal Network Writer in Residence is an unpaid program. A Writer in Residence will commit to writing one article per month for their column from March 2017 through December 2017. The Next Legal Network is currently in beta, but will be opened to the public in spring 2017. Next Legal Network Writers in Residence will be invited to join the network before it is officially opened to the public.

What is the Next Legal Network?

Next Legal is a network that serves as an online community for lawyers, law students, legal apprentices, and other legal workers who can assist in establishing cooperatives, land trusts, enterprises, and organizations that create locally-owned and sustainable sources of food, healthcare, energy, housing, transportation, and work. Members are able to connect, learn, share resources, grow their visibility, and strengthen the legal foundations of the next economy.

...

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Written by Elizabeth L. Carter of Urban Cooperative Enterprise Legal Center

Now the question becomes: how to empower people to become accountable to and engaged leaders within their community through a housing cooperative?Housing Cooperative Part I: Beyond Bricks and Mortar

By 1984, New York City became the de-facto landlord of 26,000 rental units due to widespread neglect and abandonment of 4,000 buildings by private landlords.[1] The City of New York then became the largest slumlord within the city as mass landlord neglect and abandonment became unmanageable for the city.[2]  Meanwhile, thousands of tenants organized themselves and began picking up the pieces where landlord abandonment and city mismanagement left off. Tenants collectively managed and repaired neglected housing for themselves.[3] After all, they had to live there. The city was so glad to hand over management  to the tenants that it created a housing cooperative program designed to train tenants to be managers and owners of their building.[4] The most successful cooperatives were those that had strong tenant associations prior to conversion.[5] This is because tenant associations allowed tenants to gain experience in operating and making decisions together around housing issues. A a result, highly organized tenants with great tenacity to make positive changes in the community developed.  

Fast forward about thirty (30) years later and about fifteen (15) minutes across the Hudson River and you will find the City of Newark, having all the necessary ingredients to brew housing cooperatives, and yet, only a few have emerged since the 1960s. And even fewer still operate today. [6] This article tells the tale of two (potential) housing cooperatives in Newark. I will call...

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