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So You Want To Start a Mutual Aid Network

The purpose of such networks is to help organize, in a decentralized way, your community towards positive direct actions among each other.

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As the stability of society and our economy is pushed further and further into question, Mutual Aid is getting a lot of buzz. We here at the Vermin Supreme Institute have and will continue to support the concept of mutual aid and the positive impact it has on communities, individuals, and the world at large. 

You’re probably asking yourself “Well that sounds like it’s good but what the hell is it?” To that question, it’s easier to start with what it isn’t. Mutual aid isn’t charity nor some quid pro quo system of exchange. It isn’t just for disasters (though it works brilliantly for them) or a replacement for social safety nets. Mutual aid can best be described as the true spirit of community through the offering of real support to each other. In a mutual aid network, everyone works together to ensure that every member of the network is supported. This can be through services such as picking up groceries or childcare in times of need, to direct material support such as sharing meals or essential supplies with each other. 

The purpose of such networks is to help organize, in a decentralized way, your community towards positive direct actions among each other. Offering platitudes in times of adversity is not the same as taking action to help those in need. That’s not to downplay the importance of emotional and social support we can give each other as that is a kind of action in and of itself in an aid network. With that covered, the looming question is “How? How do I get involved or set something like this up?”

Step 1: You’ll want to find other like-minded people to help share the workload. It can be neighbors, friends, coworkers, you name it. It depends on the people you want to help! This group is called a “zone”. It makes the leg work more fun when you’re able to get started with others that are invested in the idea.

Step 2: Review which community you are setting this up for, or which “zone” the network will cover. This could be a network between your neighbors, your co-workers, or broader types of communities such as online social communities or local people that share the same job. (Think “Uber drivers of Anytown, USA Resource Network”). Try to keep zones between 5-20 people as smaller groups are unnecessary for a full network, and larger groups can become difficult to keep together. You don’t have to turn people away, but rather look at setting up separate groups that can, in turn, work with each other on a group level rather than an individual one.

Step 3: Start networking. Find ways to connect to the people in your zone whether through social media, going door-to-door, or even posting flyers in shared spaces. What you’re aiming for is to get everyone’s contact information so you can reach out to them at the same time. This is key in explaining what the network is, how everyone has a role to play, and to get them all to buy-in. Use organization software such as spreadsheets, and use Google Drive to organize all of your network information in a place with easy access for those who need it. Your technology and communication streams will be one of the most important tools you have at your disposal, and one that will enable you to have the greatest impact. 

Step 4: Once you have the contact info for those interested, reach out to them all so you can establish better relationships. You’re going to want to find out who they are, what their needs are, and how the network will benefit them/they will benefit the network. You can’t build rapport with people by giving them a questionnaire. Instead, focus on developing that initial relationship with everyone not only for yourself but between all members as well. Mutual aid requires a sense of community, belonging, and trust between all involved. Take your time on this step as the better these relationships are the stronger your network will be for it. 

Information you will need to collect: 

-Individual needs.

-What they are able to contribute to helping each other. 

-Contact information and preferred method of contact.

-If they will be a participant, or would like to become a co-organizer.

An example mutual aid transaction that networks can facilitate: Jonny from down the street has a car and can get medicine for Agatha, who teaches Polish to Tom’s kids who…etc, etc. 

Step 5: That’s it! You have the framework for a successful mutual aid network! Once the network has been created, keep a continuous dialogue between members who can reach out to help one another. When all is running smoothly, you’ll have a decentralized community aid network with people living richer, fuller lives for their involvement happy they get to take part. 

You can find additional resources such as Mutual Aid Toolbox Kits and more here: 

Big Door Brigade

Collective Care Is Our Best Weapon against COVID-19

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