Sustainable Economies Law Center

About the Sustainable Economies Law Center

(extracted from SELC’s website)

Legal education, research, advice, and advocacy for just and resilient economies.

Our Mission

SELC cultivates a new legal landscape that supports community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment. We provide essential legal tools so communities everywhere can develop their own sustainable sources of food, housing, energy, jobs, and other vital aspects of a thriving community.

Or as Lady Justice says it:

How We Create Change


Neither our communities nor our ecosystems are well served by an economic system that incentivizes perpetual growth, wealth concentration, and the exploitation of land and people.

Communities everywhere are responding to these converging economic and ecological crises with a grassroots transformation of our economy that is rapidly re-localizing production, reducing resource consumption, and rebuilding the relationships that make our communities thrive.

However, as new solutions for resilience emerge, many are running into entrenched legal barriers: laws originally designed to protect people from the ills of industrialism are now preventing many communities from growing and selling their own food, investing in local businesses, creating sustainable housing options, and cooperatively owning land and businesses.

SELC 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.

New Economy in Practice


Part of SELC’s approach in catalyzing a more just and resilient society is to be the change we want to see. SELC has 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. These policies include:

  • An equal and capped pay rate: Every member of our organization is compensated equally for their work – whether an attorney or not. That salary is based on two objective measures of our local economy – the average Oakland income and a regional living wage indicator calculated by the Economic Policy Institute.
  • Cooperative 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.

Read SELC’s full policy documents in their website

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