Oakland’s history of social justice, combined with the tech spillover from Silicon Valley and San Francisco, has molded the East Bay into a thrilling epicenter of social enterprise. In a single day, you can get insider access to artisan collectives, co-working spaces, urban farms, and community banks that embody the principles of conscious business: People, Planet, and Profit! Experience first-hand the ecosystem that supports these mission-driven organizations and the community networks that stimulate local economic development, break down barriers to economic opportunities, and spark innovation!
On this tour, groups like Youth Radio, Hack the Hood and Black Girls Code will demonstrate how East Bay pioneers use novel social equity strategies to fight the wage and education gaps. Leading edge “solutionaries” will teach you about carbon drawdown strategies like zero waste, smart grids, telepresence, ride sharing, green roofs, and living buildings to make “sustainable” successful — economically and environmentally.
Some Suggested Stops
Back to the Roots
Back to the Roots is a company focused on bringing sustainable grow-at-home products into households. They produce a line of indoor gardening kits and aquaponic fish tanks for producing organic mushrooms, herbs, and vegetables at home. Their mission is to reconnect families with their food.
Founded by brother and sister Ahmed and Reem Rahim in 1999 in a tiny 750 sq/ft apt in Oakland, Numi Organic Tea blends premium organic teas and herbs with only 100 percent real ingredients, allowing nature to speak for itself. Pulling inspiration from art and the exotic, they created a company whose hallmark is premium, organic, and Fair Trade Certified teas. They also encourage conscious work practices, giving employees four paid hours each month to volunteer for a non-profit in one of four areas: the environment, food (such as promoting organics), social services, and education. Additionally, they plan a half day each quarter where everyone takes part in an activity to benefit a local non-profit.
O2 Artisans’ Aggregate is an experimental network of individual artisans based out of a collective community workspace in West Oakland. They are practicing traditional crafts, re-imagining lost arts, and developing new processes to preserve the spirit of both pre- and post-industrial workmanship through innovative and socially useful production. In an effort to reduce and recycle industrial waste, the members utilize both new and waste material to create finished products. We will take a look at Ponderosa Tree Service, an urban sawmill where fallen trees from Oakland parks are brought to be milled, and Perennial Farm’s small aquaponic production facility and chicken coop that produces fish, vegetables, and poultry for Perennial Restaurant in SF.
Beneficial State Bank
Beneficial State Bank grew from the vision of Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor and the team they formed to create a triple bottom-line bank and a supportive nonprofit foundation of the same name. In 2007, that vision was realized when OneCalifornia Bank and OneCalifornia Foundation opened in Oakland. Fashioned in the image of the great socially responsible banks and credit unions of national and international fame, the Bank is mandated to produce meaningful social justice and environmental benefits at the same time that it is financially sustainable. The Foundation owns all of the economic rights of the Bank — when profits of the Bank are distributed, they can only be distributed to the Foundation which is mandated to reinvest those proceeds back into the communities and the environment on which we all depend.
Top Leaf Farm
This enterprise provides design and consultation services for living roofs on residential and commercial projects. They not only build and install planter beds so that residents can grow crops, but they also offer full management and operational oversight of the systems. These rooftop and modular systems can be employed on roofs, boxes or stand alone planters. They love working with architects and other design teams to deliver the specific needs of a living roof and highly productive farm. Their innovative designs are helping roofs become a green and sustainable place!
Kapor Center for Social Impact
The Kapor Center for Social Impact is diversifying tech by removing barriers. Along with sister organizations, the Level Playing Field Institute and Kapor Capital, their “STEM to startup” approach is closing gaps of access, opportunity, or outcome for underserved communities. Kapor Capital invests in social impact tech start-ups that narrow gaps in opportunity and access for underrepresented communities while the Level Playing Field Institute eliminates barriers to people of color in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), by teaching them tech and workplace skills that lead to college, internships, and good jobs. The Kapor Center also supports programs like Hack the Hood and Black Girls Code. From education programs to advocacy and social impact investing, they help all people gain access to the tech economy.
Co-working spaces are on the cutting edge of emerging innovation and social entrepreneurship. They are the meeting places for entrepreneurs who can rent a desk to set up a small office, share an idea for a venture, and network with people of common interest. We’ll learn how these resources nurture local economic development programs like Fund Good Jobs, Inner City Advisors.
There are several commercial kitchens in Oakland that help incubate small food businesses and connect them to the resources they need to grow. They support an environment of education to expand skills and encourage creative collaboration. Their goal is the success of our members and creating a community around local food.
Mosaic is a solar fin-tech company that makes financing solar energy accessible and affordable for homeowners. They build partnerships with leading home energy companies to offer easy, innovative home improvement financing with the ultimate goal of helping customers transition to 100% clean-energy home.
Free Range Studios
Free Range Studios is a purpose-driven design and innovation consultancy that brings world-class business innovation and creativity to small and mid-sized businesses and NGOs. Their main objectives are to build brands, drive movements, solve problems, and partner with organizations to foster positive change in the world.
Kaiser Rooftop Garden
We’ll visit one of the first rooftop gardens built in the United States which Henry Kaiser commissioned next to his historic Kaiser Center. Inspired by the gardens of the Rockefeller Center in N.Y., the garden is 3 acres with over 6,000 feet of combined indoor space. This internationally acclaimed and renowned garden set the stage for green roofs, and has inspired the proliferation of roof gardens across the planet.
Balance Edutainment is a Mixed Reality/EdTech firm that produces uplifting children’s edutainment products at the intersection of entertainment, education, and social change. Their augmented reality app brings their animations to life and their vision is to highlight humanity’s interconnectedness and interdependence with nature.
Red Bay Coffee
Red Bay Coffee focuses on creating opportunities within the community at large while fostering single origin, fair-trade, direct trade, organic and sustainable coffees. They believe in the creation of a value chain emphasizing ethics and diversity, not just a supply and demand chain. They envision a world in which coffee is a vehicle for inclusion, social and economic empowerment, entrepreneurship, innovation, and environmental sustainability. Located in a repurposed shipping container!
Wendel Rosen Black & Dean LLP
Wendel Rosen Black & Dean LLP creates legal solutions that help their diverse clientele achieve results. In addition to being a certified B-Corp, they became the first law firm in the country to gain third-party certification as a Green Business in 2003.
Oaklandish began as a public art project in 2000 designed to highlight Oakland’s local history and unique cultural legacy. It has transitioned into a fashion line and retail store that promotes civic pride. They contribute to creating quality inner-city jobs for locals and give back to grassroots nonprofits committed to bettering the Oakland community.
Lunch Stops May Include
Meet with a community member and experience Agave Farm Fresh Oaxacan Mexican Restaurant. This destination is in Uptown Oakland’s Kapor Center for Social Impact. The spacious, ground-floor spot goes chic with natural wood, banquettes covered in festive fabrics and murals inspired by Oaxacan culture
Lake Chalet Waterfront Restaurant
Transforming Lake Merritt’s formerly dilapidated municipal building, this waterfront, 425-seat seafood behemoth offers oysters, calamari, and other oceanic bites, with a stunning view of the lake. Depending on mood and weather, diners can choose between a fireplace setting inside the grand, white tableclothed dining room, or a dock patio open year-round, located just a few breezy steps from the water.
At this unique coworking kitchen the underserved youth are trained in culinary skills. Enjoy lunch on the beautiful and expansive Kaiser Rooftop Garden where participants will learn about Henry Kaiser and have a panoramic view of Lake Merritt and beautiful downtown Oakland. Check out historic pictures in the Kaiser building next door on the way in or out!