Wednesday, May 18, 2011. We taped a lively chat with Janelle Orsi and Jenny Kassan, co-directors of the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in Oakland, California. These passionate women are using their lawyerly skills to help people form sharing organizations like worker cooperatives and cohousing partnerships. They’re also supporting local enterprises of all types, including reducing the legal barriers to local investment and structures.Working towards a sharing culture centered in local enterprises sounds like the perfect successor to the consumer culture that’s drawing down planetary resources everywhere.Janelle Orsi calls herself a “sharing lawyer.” For several years she lived in a “casual cohousing” arrangement where fences were figuratively taken down between several houses. She so valued the many sharing aspects — shared gardens, shared meals and shared stuff — that she co-authored a book with lawyer Emily Doskow titled The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community. It brings together practical ideas, real-life examples, sample agreements and legal information that that will reduce hurdles for sharing (including communications tools for dealing with challenges and conflicts!). It’s a highly readable, thorough compendium that’ll expand your personal sharing economy from casual to small groups to structured organizations.Jenny Kassan’s passion is to keep resources local so they can support local enterprises — especially money. She wants to enable personal savers and retirement funds to invest in local food and businesses. However, laws meant to protect the small investor instituted during the First Great Depression now are a huge hurdle that pretty much keep this from happening. Times and needs have changed. Last summer, two of SELC’s law student interns wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to work towards enabling the small investor to keep some of their money in local enterprises. We’ll have to keep posted on their progress to change a deeply entrenched system.What a gift to have these lawyers’ expertise empowering ordinary people to make clear and legal agreements to share and cooperate! Jenny and Janelle are empowering a perfectly timed cultural revival of sharing and localism.Check out the book The Sharing Solution, the Sustainable Economies Law Center, who introduced me to a pertinent website featuring many facets of sharing — Shareable: Sharing by Design.
Watch Young Lawyers Lower the Bar to Sharing Economy (episode 210).