What is Mutual Aid?
The Coronavirus pandemic has transformed our lives and left many in our community struggling. One of the most basic and effective ways we can help our community, during this crisis and well beyond, is by connecting with our neighbors to provide mutual aid. Mutual aid is the act of neighbors helping neighbors. Whether that means picking up groceries and medications for a family who is sick or self-quarantining, sharing supplies, or just providing connection, community, and emotional support to our neighbors, it’s one of the most powerful tools to build sustainable community resilience.
A key part of mutual aid is that it is about solidarity, not charity. It means we recognize that our well-being, health and dignity are all bound up in each other. It means that we understand our survival depends on cooperation, not competition. In this particular moment, we see that our health is also dependent on other people’s health, and we can literally save each other’s lives. Rather than disengage and feel powerless, mutual aid allows us to plug in where we can make the most impact — locally.
By participating in this project, we are all agreeing to the following guidelines.
- We prioritize health, safety and security. We comply with physical distancing guidelines and take all possible precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus. We take all reasonable measures to minimize the collection of personal information, and to keep secure any personal data we do collect.
- Everyone has something to offer and everyone has things that they need. Needing things is not a personal failure. We are living in a profoundly unequal society without safety nets. No one is disposable.
- We will remain respectful of our neighbors. We do not engage in or tolerate racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise oppressive language and behavior.
- We avoid blaming and shaming. We live in a toxic system, and will inevitably get things wrong. We aim to support each other’s personal growth, calling each other into continued involvement. We aim to respond gently, with empathy, as well as immediately and publicly to support our values.
- We keep it simple and spread out the work. We use low-tech tools, and try to make things easy to learn and participate in. We maintain a decentralized organizing network where local levels can operate independently.
- We distribute power and use consent decision-making. We distribute work to small groups and trust them to make decisions in their area of responsibility. We move forward when those involved agree that the path is “good enough for now and safe enough to try,” rather than trying to find the perfect solution.
- We finish what we start. We respond to requests in a timely way and avoid the language of promises. We maintain healthy boundaries and are transparent about what we can and cannot do.
- We value listening and learning. We ask and listen to what people need, and shift our actions in response. This is an experiment, and we are flexible: learning from our mistakes, redesigning our systems as we go, and building our muscles of decentralized organizing. We remain committed to each other, even when we mess up.