One of the most inspiring outgrowths of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rise of local relief efforts under the banner of "mutual aid" and a commitment to "solidarity, not charity." These groups seek to address the impacts of the pandemic while also working for transformative social change. Their work can be lifesaving, but it can also produce burnout among participants. During the summer of 2020, MEDLab is offering (free of charge) to help mutual aid groups develop healthy, sustainable governance structures—and learn from each other in the process.
We do not approach this project with pre-ordained answers or special expertise so much as to accompany, listen, and learn.
The unstated, informal decision-making practices that tend to operate in moments of crisis work well for short sprints. But they rarely support the kind of longevity that the pandemic appears to demand. There is also often a danger of what 1970s feminist activist Jo Freeman famously called "the tyranny of structurelessness"—the invisible, entrenched hierarchies that tend to arise in groups that claim to forego explicit structures. For groups ready to evolve into resilient, powerful agents of change, clarity and accountability are essential.
To aid in these collaborations, MEDLab has developed CommunityRule, an online tool that helps groups create simple governance documents and share them with each other. We will be using CommunityRule to support and, if collaborators are willing, to document and analyse the evolution of governance among mutual aid efforts.
If you are part of a mutual aid group, we would love to work with you, starting with a 1-hour online meeting.
Are you part of a group that wants to work with us? Please fill out this form to get in touch.