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How to Get Involved in a Mutual Aid Network

"The species in which peace and mutual support are the rule, prosper, while the unsociable species decay." - Peter Kropotkin 


Though the phrase ‘mutual aid network’ or ‘mutual aid group’ might feel new to you, you’re probably already participating in mutual aid to some degree. Do you have people in your life that you count on for support, and that you support in return? Whether they’re blood relatives, friends turned family, neighbors, parents and teachers at your kids’ school, or congregation members, you’ve already discovered the value of organizing mutual aid/help groups for the purpose of thriving, and sometimes for the purpose of overcoming grave challenges.

Participate in a mutual aid network


Why You Should Get Involved in a Mutual Aid Network

With the coronavirus emergency forcing many people to stay at home and lose their livelihoods, the support of close neighbors and community members is more important and more needed than ever. Generally, neighbors can help neighbors overcome fear and the feeling of isolation that this pandemic has brought with it. Specifically, neighbors may need help with food deliveries or childcare, or coordinating access to healthcare and public assistance. Mutual aid group members may also rally to support first-responders and those on the frontlines of the crisis in your community – for example you could gather volunteers to prepare meals or to source (or sew) personal protective equipment.

It couldn’t be a better time to start or to join a mutual aid group! While social gatherings are against the rules, virtual gatherings are encouraged and allow communities to stay connected and empowered during these unprecedented times.


How to Start Your Mutual Aid Pod

{This guide was adapted from Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville’s “Neighborhood Pods How To” guide.}


Plan Your Strategy

Start by brainstorming and mapping out (even if just mentally) possible mutual aid pods -- groups of people who can help and also what municipal and nonprofit resources may be available. This could be a tight-knit group of 20 family members and friends, a group of 50 like-minded neighbors, or your entire apartment complex. 


Helping fragile neighbors with food assistance is one of the most common support missions of mutual aid networks. Review and share these food and supply distribution safety practices


Get the Word Out

Many folks aren’t online and it’s highly unlikely that you have all of your neighbors’ phone numbers. Remember the old tried-and-true personal note? With social distancing of utmost importance, it’s the perfect time to revive that method! (And you now have a legitimate reason to play Ding Dong Ditch!) 


Print or write out notes to your potential pod members explaining what your goal is, providing your contact info, and asking them to reach out if they are interested in participating. Distribute them throughout your neighborhood – leave them in the crack of your neighbor’s door or somewhere obvious where they will see it. Knock or ring their doorbell, then walk away. PRO TIP: Save time writing notes by printing these MadLib-style intro letters!


Build Your Pod

Set up a group text on your phone or create a group email or chat using an app like Slack, Google Groups, Nextdoor, Facebook Groups or Whatsapp – whatever makes the most sense for your pod. As they reach out, add the people that opt-in to be a pod member. PRO TIP: If you choose an app for communication, be sure to offer help to members if instructions for downloading and how to use the app are needed.


Communicate regularly with your pod members. You may want to start by sharing a “get to know you” questionnaire with all participants – this will help you understand what types of support are needed so you can formulate a game plan for meeting those needs through mutual aid. 


You should also share information about community resources, in case the support needed is outside the scope of your pod’s abilities. Many locally-run websites have popped up with this information to share, such as this one for Austin, Texas.


Connect with Other Pods

Networking is a powerful thing. Connecting with other organizers of neighborhood pods can spark ideas for your own pods, can motivate you through shared success stories, and can clue you into valuable resources you were previously unaware of. Slack now has a channel for Mutual Aid coordinators with tips and subgroups by community location and interest.

Kinds of Mutual Aid to Consider


  • Distribute food:

    • Coordinate grocery (or hot food) pickup and delivery for the elderly and other high-risk community members.

    • Organize volunteers to make and serve lunches to underprivileged kids who typically receive meals at school.

    • Mobilize food bank volunteers to collect and distribute donated food to high-risk and needy members of the community.

  • Connect volunteers with elderly neighbors that need prescriptions picked up or rides to essential doctor appointments.

  • Match up volunteers with disabled community members that need even more emotional support during this time – this could simply be making greeting cards to send or talking on the phone with those with disabilities that need the social interaction.

  • Walk, feed (and foster if needed) pets for neighbors who may be too frail to care for them or unable to go outside.

  • Make face masks for frontline essential workers at hospitals and other medical facilities.

  • Help others with navigating benefits processes, such as applying for unemployment or other government assistance programs.

  • Offer technical assistance to those not familiar with the internet or apps that are valuable resources.

  • Give emotional support to those who need it – it’s amazing what a 15 minute phone call, a conversation through a cracked window, an online game, or a video chat can do for your mental health!

  • Host online tutoring, lessons or video playdates with neighborhood kids using a platform like Zoom. 

  • Write notes of encouragement and drop off treats and meals for first-responders and healthcare workers living in your neighborhood. 

  • Connect at-home (and sufficiently isolated) college students with essential workers needing childcare. 

  • Collect donations for families and neighbors needing a bridge before formal financial assistance can be secured.

  • Coordinate volunteers for lawn care schedules for neighbors who cannot do it themselves or who can no longer afford to pay for it.

  • Set up a web page or a process to provide information about community resources available, and keep it up-to-date.


mutual aid signup on mobile phones


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