How to Get Involved in a Mutual Aid Network
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.
Coordinate grocery (or hot food) pickup and delivery for the elderly and other homebound community members.
Organize volunteers to make and serve lunches on weekends to underprivileged kids who typically receive meals at school.
Mobilize food bank volunteers to collect and distribute donated food.
Connect volunteers with elderly neighbors that need prescriptions picked up or rides to essential doctor appointments.
Match up volunteers with homebound community members that need social interaction and emotional support – this could simply be making greeting cards to send, talking on the phone, or making an in-person visit.
Walk, feed (and foster if needed) pets for neighbors who may be too frail to care for them or unable to go outside.
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.
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 college students with parents 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.