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Mutual Aid

A DEFINITION:
mutual aid: An organizational model that works inside and beyond political structures to support a community.

CONTEXT & HISTORY:
Mutual Aid is the radical act of caring for each other while working to change the world. (Dean Spade, Mutual Aid)

Mutual aid is “cooperation for the sake of the common good.” It’s getting people to come together to meet each other’s needs, recognizing that as humans, our survival is dependent on one another. (Mutual Aid Toolkit)

Mutual Aid is a practice and politics that emphasizes solidarity rather than charity. What does that mean? It means we recognize that our well-being, health and dignity are all bound up in each other. It means that we understand our survival depends on cooperation, not competition. In this particular moment, we see that our health is also dependent on other people’s health, and we can literally save each other’s lives. Rather than disengage and feel powerless, mutual aid allows us to plug in where we can make the most impact — locally. (Mutual Aid Legal Toolkit from Sustainable Economies Law Center)

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. (Big Door Brigade)

The mutual aid or cyclical reciprocity logic of rooted Indigenous constitutional orders, in contrast, supports a holistic view of community—beyond political community—that emphasizes collective responsibilities among a broad array of community actors, both human and nonhuman. Individuals are expected to support the community by sharing their gifts through mutual aid or cyclical reciprocity. Individual autonomy, in this sense, is maximized by freely contributing to community wellbeing. (Indigenous Rights, Collective Responsibilities, and Relationship to Land in Haudenosaunee and Anishinabe “Dish with One Spoon” Territory)

MEDIA LINKS:
Explanation of Mutual Aid from Dean Spade and Ciro Carrillo (8-minute video)

Mutual Aid chart from Dean Spade (4-minute read)

8 Black Panther Party Programs (4-minute read)

Let’s Talk Mutual Aid” a zine by Regan de Loggans (4-minute read)

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