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Together is Better

Henry Burrows on Flickr

Speaking from my 26 long years on this planet, something that still amazes me is what can be achieved when people work together, especially when technology is involved. Whether it be a Minecraft server that is filled with the entirety of Kings Landing from Game of Thrones, or how communities can organize trash clean-ups online and transform their local park.

Along this line of thinking, there exists a really cool concept called Mutual Aid.

What is Mutual Aid?

Mutual aid isn’t a form of charity but a way for people to help others in their community directly. It is based on the idea that by working together, people are capable of achieving so much more than when they are alone.

An easy way to understand this is through something I call the community sandwich party.

Imagine you and your classmates want to make a bunch of sandwiches for everyone to eat at lunch. The issue is that nobody has enough ingredients to make a sandwich alone, and some people want to have a sandwich but don’t have any ingredients. So to solve this, everyone that can contribute to the sandwich-making ingredient supply does so, and together you have enough for everybody to eat, even those who did not have any ingredients.

This is in the spirit of how mutual aid works, and it can include everything from doing grocery shopping for elderly folks to finding spare AC units for families during the summer, to even providing people with money in an emergency.

Mutual Aid and Technology

Mutual aid has become more and more important over the years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people created more mutual aid groups than before in order to help their communities. And the cool bit is that because of technology these groups have become larger and more effective networks of aid.

For example, some groups have been creating apps through low-code platforms like Airtable in order to create safe places to record requests made by community members and to connect these people with those in the mutual aid network who can help.

Mutual aid groups like Mutual Aid Medford & Somerville (MAMAS) are using a tool we have talked about previously when it came to peacebuilding in Indonesia: Zoom.

Zoom is used by groups like MAMAS to hold regular meetings and to stay connected/build trust with one another when face-to-face meetings are not possible. They also use Zoom in order to share skills and knowledge so that mutual aid groups become community-based learning environments.

In New York City, one of the ways that groups have been able to stay in touch and get people assistance when they need it is by combining apps like Slack, and messaging apps like WhatsApp.

One group, Astoria Mutual Aid, based in Queens, has synced these two apps using a custom-made Slackbot created by a community member. It allows requests to be easily forwarded to the over 100 people signed up to help. Now that’s some community organizing.

Thanks to technology, mutual aid has become easier to get involved in. And one of the best parts is that even young people can be a part of it! Check out down below for some links to ways you can learn more about mutual aid, and maybe one day even set up your own group or network and start helping your own community.

Learn More

What is Mutual Aid?


Mutual Aid 101


Groups Creating Tech for Mutual Aid


Resources for Making a Mutual Aid Network


Mutual Aid in Schools


Mutual Aid Set Up PDF