Right now, people around the country are coming together to take care of each other in our communities.
Mutual aid groups are informal groups of volunteers that help neighbors connect during times of crisis and assure no one in the community has to face it alone, especially those most in need. The support these groups provide to their neighbors include activities like: like grocery delivery, childcare, dog-walking, cooking meals, and checking in virtually. If you would like to start your own group, use this guide to get started.
Identify someone to help share the work. Helping lead a mutual aid group can be a lot easier and more fun with someone else. They can help get the group started, bringing ideas, resources and new relationships.
To find a teammate, ask yourself:
Develop a core team. You might need a few people who can put in more work than others, or who have specific skills. Relationships are the foundation of mutual aid, so remember that everyone is being impacted by this crisis and all have different experiences. You might ask, “How can this core group show up for each other, while also supporting others?”
Establish community norms. Norms help groups build a strong culture of working together, keeping it safe and respectful. Ask the group: “How do we want to work together? What is important to each of you as you help build this group?”
Determine roles. Roles ensure that everyone is clear on how they can best contribute. Distributing important tasks across the group helps everyone feel like an important part of the team. We suggest considering people for the following roles:
Create a system for matching needs and requests with offers of support. Here are a few ways you can do this:
Start reaching out to make your support available and identify new participants. Use multiple outreach strategies to ensure that you are connecting with people who most need support:
Match assistance requests with volunteers. Keep in mind some people might not feel comfortable asking for help or receiving help, so be sure to respect people’s privacy when sharing information. Check in with volunteers and people requesting support after a service was provided and make sure their needs are being met.
Identify opportunities to support and take action to help those in need. This may require some creativity and empathy for the people in your neighborhood and with those most in need. Here are possible ways of supporting each other:
Maintain regular communication with your team and volunteers. Keep building your group’s relationships through weekly check-ins. Make sure to encourage support among volunteers to keep people engaged. And take time to reflect and identify what is working and what is not working.
Be adaptable as the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic change. Continue listening to the needs of your community. Keep up to date on guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and government officials. Adjust how your group is working to support each other based on what you learn along the way.
Please follow all CDC guidelines for safety during this crisis.
Mutual aid participants should take careful precautions to decrease the risk of contracting the virus or spreading it to others, especially to elderly and immunocompromised people whom the mutual aid effort aims to support. Below are some general safety practices that, if followed correctly will help minimize the spread of infection.
This “How To” was adapted and synthesized from many Mutual Aid Group resources that have sprang up in recent weeks around the United States. We are grateful to the many contributions of countless volunteers, organizers, and community leaders across the country. As with all of you, we are learning every day how to adapt and continue supporting one another. We’re honored to help our communities and provide this contribution in the form of Mutual Aid.