This is part two of a two-part blog series drawing on a conversation with OCJ’s executive director, Jagjit Nagra. Read part one of this series, OCJ’s journey to now, to learn about our work to date.
OCJ programs will quickly grow in the coming months as our team scales to advance consumer rights for Oregon families. Our approaches span advocacy, strategic litigation, research, education, and engagement, robustly supporting our vision for a safe, fair, people-first consumer marketplace.
How will OCJ’s team grow?
We are a person-first organization. We are applying this ethos to how we shape an equitable and inclusive marketplace for Oregonians and how we build OCJ’s team and culture. At our core is a commitment to racial justice, mindfully embedding principles of equity, transparency, and inclusion throughout all layers of our organization. Our hiring practices, pay scales, and employee benefits reflect these values.
In late spring, we began staff recruitment to expand and complete our executive team. These roles include Chief Equity, Inclusion and Engagement Officer, Legal Director, Communications Director, and a permanent Chief Financial Officer. These new leaders and a Director of Community Lawyering and Movement Building will join team members already in place beginning September 1.
“Strategically, it made sense to recruit for the executive team now. Having these key staff in place will allow us to have important perspectives and expertise at the table as we move into organizational planning in October,” Jagjit described. “And it means we can move quickly to action once our next steps are defined.”
How will OCJ’s programs help Oregon families be financially secure?
We can make it possible for Oregon families to safely do business with others without the risk of predatory business practices. OCJ’s four program areas of equity and engagement, policy, law, and consumer communications are situated to help us get there.
Equity and Engagement
Consumer justice for all means shaping an inclusive marketplace for everyone who lives here. To this end, we’re taking a community-led approach, focusing on communities most harmed by unfair and predatory practices, including Black, Indigenous and tribal Oregonians, and people of color, people living with disabilities, and elders.
- We are committed to working closely with community partners to better understand what Oregonians need to help protect them from harm. Read the findings of OCJ’s Community Listening Sessions to see what we have learned so far.
- We support organizations already working to advance consumer justice in their communities so that together we can build a movement for lasting policy change. Learn about our recent community and consumer grant recipients.
- Earlier this summer, OCJ recruited a cohort of Oregonians who have experienced consumer injustice to help shape OCJ’s direction at our organization’s planning retreat later this year. We will continue to meaningfully engage community members in the future through committee membership, board involvement, or other leadership opportunities.
In coalition with community-based organizations, we will develop and champion pro-consumer legislation addressing priority community needs and strengthening legal protections for Oregonians from bad business practices.
- OCJ invests in community-based organizations and coalitions through policy grants to enact transformational change. Our funding supports capacity-building and helps community partners deepen their state-level advocacy efforts to address consumer justice issues.
- OCJ will also engage this group of grantees (policy, community, and consumer) in working collaboratively to train staff members focusing on policy and advocacy work and to support research and analysis of policy solutions for legislative action.
- In the upcoming 2023 Legislative Session, we will support a targeted legislative agenda to advance consumer justice. OCJ will lobby lawmakers and work in coalition to take on consumer protection legislation, including auto financing, one of the top issues elevated through our Community Listening Sessions. OCJ is already having meaningful conversations with lawmakers and stakeholders to identify legislative approaches to address this consumer need.
Strong legal representation is often crucial for people harmed by predatory practices. Still, not everyone can access the legal support they need. We are working to change that. Through our legal efforts, we are taking steps to support and strengthen consumer law in Oregon so more people can access meaningful justice through the courts.
- Our legal program will center around OCJ’s Community Legal Institute (OCJCLI), which will launch later this year! The OCJCLI brings together dedicated lawyers, paralegals, law students, and community members to advocate and litigate on behalf of Oregon consumers.
- Through the OCJCLI, community lawyers, expert litigators, and advocates will engage in impact litigation, amicus briefs, a community consumer-focused legal clinic, and special legal projects to advance consumer justice in Oregon.
- The OCJCLI will train prospective and current legal practitioners and law students in consumer protection to equitably cultivate Oregon’s next generation of consumer protection law practitioners.
Oregonians need easy access to the tools, information, and other supports that will allow them to do business safely without the threat of predatory business practices. Across multiple platforms, we will use outreach and communication strategies to build trust, educate, and authentically engage consumers, growing a community-led movement to achieve consumer justice in the state.
- We will promote a compelling narrative around consumer justice in collaboration with Tribal and indigenous, local, state, and national partners. We will drive catalytic systems and policy change by mobilizing broad support and engaging community members in our work.
- We will develop and launch inclusive, culturally-resonant campaigns informed by community needs to ensure Oregonians know their rights and resources as consumers.
Together, we can advance consumer justice in Oregon.
Bringing balance to consumer justice will take time, energy, resources, and the dedication of advocates. But we know we can tip the scales to ensure our marketplace puts people first. We can build an equitable marketplace where every financial and business transaction is fair and safe, and Oregonians know and can exercise their consumer rights. We are excited to lead this work with partners and individuals as we build a broad, community-driven movement to advance consumer justice statewide.
“We are living in trying and difficult times. The impacts of the ongoing pandemic coupled with political and social discord can feel unrelenting and discouraging. But we can’t waver now because we know our communities can’t wait for justice. Let us learn from the lessons of our ancestors, call on our resolve, and recommit to one another. Know that OCJ is a resource and willing partner as we navigate the work ahead together.”
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