9/21 Advisory Council Recap

Written By Lina Buffington 10/1/2017

Meeting Reflection

We have been doing a great deal of work both in front of the scenes and behind the scenes to realize the vision for this organization. While this work is beginning to pay off, we still have a very long way to go.  Our success will be measured, not only in the number of properties that we are able to acquire, but also in the degree to which we are able to build an organization that is reflective of our mission.

One critical component of truly Democratic process is education and awareness. How do we make truly informed decisions if we are not equipped with the tools and information that we need in order to fully understand what is going on? How do we build a business and make solid business decisions when we do not understand how business works? How do we create an alternative to the present economy when we do not understand how economies work? How do we create any kind of wealth, collective or otherwise, when we do not understand how wealth is created and sustained over time? This knowledge gap is one of the major challenges that communities face who have traditionally been cut out from the predominant systems. We can talk and dream and gather and advocate, but if we do not have the strategies, tools, and resources that we need in order to put shovel to dirt and build that which we seek, we will forever find ourselves relegated to the margins.

This talk by Richard Wolff provides some important context for understanding how systemic economic inequality works in this nation and potential solutions, including cooperative economics. It is a long video, but worth watching in part or in whole. He focuses primarily on class and does not really address the ways that race has impacted this economic story, but the information he provides helps us better understand some of the business that is required in order to "Democratize Enterprise".

Clearly we have a heady task before us. In order to accomplish this work we need to do all of the “heart work” of building community and strengthening our bonds AND we will also need to remember that our hearts are fed by our stomachs. This means that we must also do the gut work of ensuring that our needs are met. We must also do the head work of learning and strategizing so that we can assess how to best make use of the resources that we have in order to secure both the desires of our hearts and the needs of our guts.

We must be willing to bring all of ourselves to the table (heads, hearts, and guts) and resist the false tendency to divide these necessarily interconnected parts of ourselves. Taking care of our health, our planet, our families, our spirits... does not have to be in opposition to taking care of our business. In fact, it CANNOT be if we are going to create a sustainable economy that will work for everyone.

East Bay PREC has reached a phase in our growth in which it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that we are doing our head and gut work alongside our heart work.  We are becomming more clear about the financial model that we will need to adopt in order to ensure our fiscal success. We are developing the necessary infrastructure and working hard to secure the start-up support from funders and investors that we need to continue to grow this work.

The start-up process is challenging for any new business. It is especially challenging for a non-traditional business with a new model, like ours.  It is especially challenging for a non-traditional business, with a new model, that is also committed to placing the needs and experiences of communities of color at the center.  With the continued support of community these are all challenges that we will continue to face and overcome.

While what we build and how we build it may not be “perfect”, I am confident that we can build something better and better and better… than a system that continues to leave so many of us further and further behind. That is what keeps me going.

Meeting Snapshot

East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative is committed to doing all of the work that is necessary to realize our mission.  We want to ensure that in addition to building a strong community, we are building an organization that is fiscally responsible, well-managed, and will ultimately have the resources needed to create and sustain the beautiful communities that we envision. This means that, in addition to providing opportunities for people to connect, we are also committed to sharing the technical skills necessary to grow this work by involving our community in the “business” of creating this organization. This gathering focused on creating "User Personas", one of the key components of creating a successful business plan.

Gathering Agenda:
​​  "Breaking bread" together ​​
Our evening meal was catered by Basil Pizzeria

Learning together
We learned about the importance of creating User Personas in preparation for our first major campaign

Building together 
Everyone was invited to create a User Persona that either represented themselves or someone else who might be interested in joining EB PREC
We viewed a brief video that provided an introduction to User Profiles and their role in business planning and marketing.
Each person was then encouraged to create their own User Persona that would answer the question, "Who are the people that we want to target for this campaign?" 
Front of Card

Picture: Choose an icon or cut out a magazine image (place in upper left hand corner)

Demographics: Name, age, education, marriage status, children… (next to picture)

Story: Create a story about your persona’s life and habits. Especially as they relate to the person’s housing and living situation.

Images: You can use other images that tell a story about your persona and his/ her life, habits, etc…

Back of Card

Identify at least two pain points/ needs that your persona has related to real estate/ housing

Identify at least one value proposition related to these pain points (value proposition is a clear statement that explains how EB PREC solves the community member’s problems or improves their situation, and delivers specific benefits, tells the ideal customer why they should become a member of EB PREC.)

Identify at least 3 marketing channels that we should use to reach this persona

We learned a great deal, not only about who was in the room, but also about the kinds of solutions that people would like for EB PREC to provide in order to better meet the needs of our community.  Information that will help to inform our ongoing business plan development.

9/7 Advisory Council Recap

Written By Lina Buffington 9/14/2017

Meeting Reflection

Here is my elephant, one of them anyway, I went into last Thursday’s meeting with a great deal of anxiety. Will anyone come? There were very few RSVPs so I was nervous that maybe we had finally hit that ceiling of interest… or maybe people are not actually ready/ willing to dive into such a potentially challenging conversation… I did not know what to expect and I was really nervous. But isn’t that the point of vulnerability in some way? To take the risk of being authentic and leave oneself open to the possibilities of what might arise? The gathering started off very intimate with just a few of us in the room, but grew as people drifted in throughout the evening. I had searched a great deal for some reading or video that would set the right tone for this gathering and I stumbled upon this amazing performance piece and talk by The Laby B entitled, Voice and Vulnerability: Healing the Scars of My Political Body.
​This performance so beautifully expresses the healing power of vulnerability. As Lady B says, “showing up for myself means that I can show up for all of you”. I have found this to be true. I can only be present for others when I am present in my own life and in the reality of my own experiences. This is hard enough to do as an individual; trying to do this in community can feel like an overwhelmingly daunting task. The trick is that we have to be willing to “show up” not once, not twice, but again and again and again--This is what the “elephant” activity was about. By naming and claiming the “elephants in the room”, we began a conversation that will continue to evolve and unfold over time. A conversation that we must embrace as a process and will come back to again and again--there will be no “healing circle” moment.

Our "elephants" are the unasked questions, the unvoiced concerns, preconceived notions, feelings and anxieties that all of us carry into community. They are not "bad" or "wrong", but they are there and can cause tremendous havoc when ignored. Acknowledging them may cause some discomfort, and yet, create a space of greater clarity and pave the way to individual and collective healing.  We may not even be conscious of some of our elephants and that is OK. Some may be so scary, painful, embarrassing... that it will take some time to name and claim them, that too, is OK. To borrow from another elephant related mataphor, and quote Desbond Tutu, "There is only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time."

One bite at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time, that is how we will overcome the challenges that we face as a community.  The most important thing is that we be courageous enough to pick up a fork and keep on chewing.

Meeting Snapshot

The theme for this gathering focused on naming and claiming the "elephants in the room.  So often, in our desire for “inclusivity” we focus on the convergences and avoid those places where our stories diverge, especially divergences that might lead to conflict, and call that “diversity”. What if we were to embrace the totality of who we are when we come to the table together; the rough, sharp angles where we collide along with the smooth places of convergence?

​Gathering Agenda:
​​  "Breaking bread" together ​​
A delicious Indian meal provided by Marhaba Indian and Pakastani Halal Restaurant

Learning together
We viewed an amazing performance piece by The Lady B

Building together
We did a creative activity intended to take some of the angst out of naming and claiming our elephants.  
I brought in blank pictures of a variety of cute and friendly elephants and invited each participant to name and decorate as many as they wanted. Each elephant represents some question/ concern/ observation that folks felt needed to be presenced.

Each elephant was taped up and folks were invited to react via sticky notes to the various elephants. We then had an amazing conversation in which folks were able to start processing the activity and some of the topics that arose.

As always, we are so thankful for the beauty and vulnerability of this amaxing community that we are all building together.

Elephants on Parade

A Few of Our Elephants Named and Claimed



Class privilege

White Elephant

What is the effect of my presence- as a White person- in the room in a POC-centered organization? I have a particular position of privilege as host, lawyer, ED of funded org, White person, etc… How to use that privilege in beneficial ways, without re-inforcing inequities?
Gentrification/ economic violence


Will we get the support/ resources that we need in order to make this thing happen?

8/17 Advisory Council Recap

Written By Lina Buffington 8/28/2017

Meeting Reflection

An article written by Stokely Carmichael in 1966 raises the question, "Who Is Qualified?" This article challenges prevailing notions about who is and who is not "qualified" to influence the economic, political, and social policies that shape this country. He argues that, "Excluded people must acquire the opportunity to redefine what the Great Society [program launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson] is and then it may have meaning to them." In other words, because Johnson's plan is rooted in a world view that is itself exclusionary; the ideal of a "Great Society" that he posits serves to further alienate those who are already on the outside from his vision for the nation.
During our gathering the group read the article together and found that Carmichael's message continues to resonate strongly today.  You can download the full article here:

EB PREC believes that no one is more qualified to create real and sustained change in our communities than the people themselves? This is why we seek to leverage the immense wealth (intellectual, financial, spiritual) of the collective in order to create solutions to the housing crisis that we face in the East Bay.

Carmichael asserts that, "When improvements within the system have been made, they resulted from pressure - pressure from below. "  Meaningful systemic change is never a top-down process. It has always been the result of people coming together to create solutions that are anchored in a deep understanding of that community's cultural, socio-economic, and historical context.

Solutions to gentrification and affordability are so often positied in ways that limit us to the very capitalist and individualistic practices that created the problem in the first place.  At a SNCC teach-in in Brooklyn a faculty member remarked, "They talk
about participating in the mainstream, when they don't realize that the mainstream is the very cause of their troubles."  Just the act of gathering together is an alternative to the mainstream solutions to the housing crisis that continue to keep us divided and disempowered.  This is why we view the Advisory Council as being such a key component of our work, and are always enlivened and inspired by the amazing energy generated by the community.

As always, we are so thankful to those of you who have chosen to come along on this journey.​

Meeting Snapshot

The theme for this gathering focused on the role of storytelling in movement building. We recognize that the story of East Bay PREC will ultimately be the story of all of us, so we began the work of cultivating a collective narrative through storytelling.  Primary question: What is your story and how has that story brought you to EB PREC? Where do our stories converge/ diverge and how do we create a collective narrative from those points of convergence?

​Gathering Agenda:
​​  "Breaking bread" together ​​
A delicious Vietnamese meal provided by Mac Khai Restaurant .

Learning together
The group read Stokely Carmichael's article, "Who is Qualified?", published in the The New Republic, January 8, 1966.​

Building together
The group did in a group exercise in which everyone reflected on the two prompts: 
  • What draws you to this community?
  • What will this community be like in 2017?
Through sharing in pairs and with the larger group, people identified core concepts within each individual story that we will use to inform the continued evolution of our organizational principles.
Both the reading and the exercise led to powerful community dialogue and insights. One member summed it all up perfectly in her remark, “We are doing something right by being here now.  Our ancestors did something right because we are here.”

So, what does the future of EB PREC look like?

8/3 Advisory Council Recap

Written By Lina Buffington 8/7/2017

Meeting Reflection

"Your dreams should be at least as big as your challenges". Words of wisdom from Nick Tilson's TedX Talk, an idea that continued to resonate strongly throughout the meeting. 
East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative is a big, audacious idea; one that can feel overwhelming, even for those of us who have been working on this project for a number of years.  I admit, there are times I fear we have bitten off way more than we can chew. Maybe this idea is too big and complex? But then I look around. I remember what it was like to be forced to shortsale our first home after the economic crash of 2007.  I drive by the rapidly multiplying tent cities on my way to rapidly gentrifying downtown Oakland, and I know that it is going to take a lot of big, bold ideas to solve these challenges.  

The housing challenges that we face in our communities, especially communities of color, are enormous, daunting, and often overwhelming.  Because of this, as Nick reminds us, we cannot afford to dream small, polite, comfortable little dreams. 
Will we fail sometimes? Most definitely. Will we get some things wrong? Most definitely, but we will also get some things right and we will have at least as many successes as failures. In the end, the most important thing will be that we bet on eachother and took the chance to fail and to win, together.

 We are so thankful to those of you who have chosen to come along on this journey.​ 

Meeting Snapshot

Last Thursday a vibrant group of community members gathered together for the very first EB PREC Advisory Council meeting.  There were some familiar faces (folks who have attended other events in the past), and several new faces who were joining us for the first time.

Advisory Council is an invaluable opportunity for us to come together and begin to cultivate the culture of trust and self-reliance that will make it possible for us to realize the dream of collective liberation. To help facilitate this community building we do three things each time we gather:

1) "Break bread" together
2) Learn together, and
​3) Work together​​

We ate delicious Indian food from Marhaba Indian and Pakastani Halal Restaurant. We watched an inspirational TedX talk entitled, Building Resilient Communities: A Moral Responsibility, ​given by Nick Tilson of the Oglala Lakota Nation. The gathering culminated in an incredibly lively conversation that focused on the question: "How do we get a diverse group of strangers to come together to: share resources, work together and/ or live together, share ownership, take risks, and share the rewards of this labor equitably? What will be the ties that bind us; what are some of the principles and values that we envision might serve as the foundation for this work?"

This conversation generated a rich body of ideas that we will use to inform the development of East Bay PREC's organizational principles.