This is it. We’re launching. After 2 ½ years of planning and excitement, we’re finally going global. Ok, maybe not global, more like a blog entry, but whatever. Small steps right?
We’ve been around for a while now: we formally launched in October 2011, and since then have put on six workshops attended by over 200 people, held 20 clinics and counseled 50 clients. Now we’re representing eleven transformative cooperatives in our incubator program.
But first, a little background on how we got here.
The Green-Collar Communities Clinic (GC3) was an idea borne out of my experience with Just Change, a multi-stakeholder cooperative of indigenous people and small farmers in South India, and more recently, with organizing taxi drivers in Oakland, CA. The common thread connecting both of these far-flung groups is their determination to create the solidarity economy.
Through economic history, the term “solidarity economy” has taken on different avatars and forms. In the U.S. it animated the Populist Movement, the Grange Movement, the Knights of Labor, and the free food and cooperative programs of the Black Panthers. Across the world its been at home within the cooperative movement and the international principles of cooperation. These movements have been united by a commitment to people joining together in mutual aid to overcome the concentrated, corrosive power of capital.
As we’ve seen in the explosion of activity worldwide under the banner of the Occupy Movement, and its game-changing 99%-1% terminology, people are waking up to the fact that we should be governed by People, not Capital. But long before Occupy, the cooperative movement challenged the lack of democracy in our economy through direct economic action. Cooperatives assert that there is a better means of livelihood through housing, worker, consumer, producer and financial cooperatives. But the solidarity economy stretches further than this, from informal barter and sharing arrangements to land trusts which protect millions of acres of farm, forest and tropical lands.
Again, the basic idea is that our livelihood can promote the purposes of People, rather than merely Capital.
And that’s where GC3 comes in. GC3 is a community economic development clinic of the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC). EBCLC’s mission is to make the lives of East Bay residents more “healthy, secure, productive and hopeful.” GC3 furthers this mission by providing transactional legal assistance to advance green, cooperative ownership in East Bay Communities.
Our goal is to Inspire, Inform and Incubate transformative enterprises through workshops, clinics and direct representation.
- Inspire. Our workshops provide an introduction to legal and business themes related to starting a cooperative business. Designed as part popular education, part legal download, the workshops aim to inspire communities to “think outside the boss” and reimagine work and economics. Our Legal Eats! and Think Outside the Boss workshop series provide training and follow-up clinics for community members interested in starting food justice enterprises and worker cooperatives. We produced both of these workshops in collaboration with the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), and their visionary attorney/leader Janelle Orsi. We provide manuals at our workshops, along with an opportunity for attendees to network with cooperative and food enterprise resource organizations. In Fall 2012, we will be hosting both of these workshops in October and November, respectively, in East Oakland.
- Inform. Our follow-up clinics provide an opportunity for workshop attendees to get a personalized legal consultation concerning their start-up business idea. The clinics are staffed with GC3/SELC attorneys, GC3 law students, and volunteer attorneys. The clinics provide legal advice for community clients to take their projects forward, which often means applying to get into our cooperative incubator.
- Incubate. The cooperative incubator program provides direct representation to transformative enterprises, a term GC3 has evolved to mean community-based ventures which are not only green, but also offer the opportunity of cooperative ownership to low-income East Bay Communities.
This blog is a co-creative project of attorneys (currently Sushil Jacob) and law students in GC3. Because our law students join the clinic on a semesterly basis, the blog will feature different voices and perspectives engaged with developing cooperative ownership. We’re excited to have you on this journey and please offer your (constructive) comments on our writings. Together we can put the solidarity economy to work.