How mutual aid is changing the way we serve our communities, and how to get involved in your own.
– KEYS SOULCARE
We’re in the midst of a time of national (and international) social, economic, and community reckoning. After months of history-making, racial justice demonstrations, shelter-in-place mandates, and economic stagnation, last spring and summer, it has become clear that the power to change the world rests in our collective hands.
Another emerging idea we hope never ends: mutual aid, which is where members reciprocatively swap services and resources for the greater good of the community. (You know, it’s like a “you scratch my back, and I scratch yours” kind of deal.) Though mutual aid is a tale as old as time, and was first studied in the early 1900s, it’s been making headlines as a grassroots way to get involved in other communities. (It makes sense; mutual aid is often practiced in Black, migrant, and LGBT communities, to name a few.)
Want to give back to your community? Here are a few ways to get started.
Think “Join” vs. “Give”
One of mutual aid’s biggest differentiators is that it’s an alternative to charity. Instead of being a one-way street, mutual aid ensures the giving and receiving goes both ways. “It’s not a new term, or a new idea, but it has generally existed outside the mainstream,” writes The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino, who described her own experience with an aid network last summer. “Informal child-care collectives, transgender support groups, and other ad-hoc organizations operate without the top-down leadership or philanthropic funding that most charities depend on.”
Before you dive into the idea of “getting involved” in the mutual aid movement, ground yourself in your identity as a community member — not just a volunteer or outside “helper” who stands apart from those you’d like to connect with or aid most.
Double Down on Resources
Want to create your own mutual aid network, but have no idea where to start? No worries. Since mutual aids have been around for a long time, there are a lot of resources that teach you how to start and sustain your aid. One of our faves? Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and organizer Mariama Kaba’s Mutual Aid Toolkit, which outlines safe ways to reach out to neighbors and create community pods during the Covid-19 pandemic. Looking for something more specific? This resource gets into the nitty gritty about aid-specific tactics like food, clothing, and childcare.
Act Locally, Start Digitally
Mutual aid tends to happen in real life, but the majority of information lives online, too. (A quick web search can unlock ways to give and access aid.) We’re inspired — and empowered — by platforms such as Idealist and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, which list robust directories, guides, and tools based on need, identity, and location.
What do you and members of your community need right now to grow stronger and feel more connected?