What Is Mutual Aid?

Mutual aid is when people get together to meet each other’s basic survival needs with a shared understanding that the systems we live under are not going to meet our needs and we can do it together RIGHT NOW! Mutual aid projects are a form of political participation in which people take responsibility for caring for one another and changing political conditions, not just through symbolic acts or putting pressure on their representatives in government, but by actually building new social relations that are more survivable.  Most mutual aid projects are volunteer-based, with people jumping in to participate because they want to change what is going on right now, not wait to convince corporations or politicians to do the right thing.

Mutual aid projects depart from these norms of charity, social services and non-profitization in several key ways that often include:

  • An understanding that it is the system, not the people suffering under it, that creates poverty, crisis, and vulnerability

  • Governance/control by people who are most effected (can mean having a membership base of those most effected, or being formed in ways that ensure those providing the aid are from the same group as those giving the aid, or models that allow allies to participate but focus on accountability to those being served)

  • Transparency about how they work, any money they use or manage (many mutual aid projects are not funded and are all volunteer run)

  • Open meetings and pathways for new people to join and participate

  • Political education within the organization to help those working in the project to expand their awareness of experiences that are not their own, to build solidarity, and to make the project supportive and welcoming to marginalized people

  • Humility and willingness to accept feedback about how to make the project more useful to the people it serves

  • Long-term commitment to provide the aid the project works on

  • Connection to and solidarity with other mutual aid projects and other transformative work

  • Commitment to dignity and self-determination of people in need or crisis

  • Consensus-based decision making rather than majority rule

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