The Covid pandemic changed everything. All over the country communities recognised that people would struggle to get basic needs during the pandemic, and organised support for those who needed to isolate.
Covid-19 local Mutual Aid groups sprang up everywhere, and within three weeks hundreds had formed.
Mutual aid is a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit. Mutual Aid Groups are a form of political participation in which people take responsibility for caring for one another, and for changing political conditions. They work independently from government and local authorities and are much like co-operatives.
Many, like my local group Rye Mutual Aid, are now posing the questions: do we continue, and how do we evolve post peak-infection? Some have already committed to continue to help the most vulnerable, for example with housing and food. To carry on sustainably, past the wider crisis, Mutual Aid groups will need to look at financing.
Mutual aid is not new, and the Co-operative Movement is based on it. We, as Worker Co-operatives in the UK, built our own SolidFund – something I am very proud to be founding part of. Co-operators donate a small weekly sum, and we give grants to Worker Co-ops for whatever purposes they need. This may be a travel ticket, setting up a new worker-co-op, equipment, converting training materials to online and much more.
The SolidFund is very happy to share our recipe for success:
- One identifiable tribe – an existing community of people with a shared purpose.
- Individual membership rather than collective or organisational membership.
- A small contribution – e.g. £1 a week.
- A simple and clear purpose related to self-help (the people helped are members and contribute to the fund).
- Simple and easy to use technology: Loomio – which is a proposal & voting platform helping groups make better decisions together.
- GoCardless – to receive recurring Direct Debit payments.
- A supportive bank or finance organisation to hold the cash.
Our community held an event, and the idea of how we fund or underwrite future events and activities came up as a community problem throughout the weekend.
- We held a smaller workshop shortly afterwards with the goals of creating shared visions, drawing up a rough plan with actions of what, who, by and when, and establishing a commitment to carry out those actions.
- We created a simple Google form as a way for people to join, and to test commitment.
- We found that people joined very quickly due to our shared vision and close connections to our community.
- We created a Loomio Discussion Group so that more people could get involved, make decisions and organise.
- Alongside those discussion forums we created shared documents to capture our rules, purpose and processes.
- We created a website to extend our reach.
Resources that we are happy for you to use:
I hope Mutual Aid Groups will find something useful from our experience, example and resources. As my teenage daughter would say, it’s ‘lit’, (amazing, exciting, awesome, great).
Photo: “Meet the Rochdale Pioneers”, fighting injustice, 13 of the 28 Rochdale Pioneers photographed in 1865.