Mutual aid groups were a lifeline for many during the pandemic. In the face of near constant loss and uncertainty, neighbours and communities came together to create networks of food provision, emotional support and more.

Emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, The UK — like many global communities — remains an economically-precarious and socially-traumatised place. Adding insult to injury, we are now facing a cost-of-living crisis. A growing number of people are requiring help to secure adequate housing, food and shelter. Now more than ever, the mutual aid groups that acted so vitally during the pandemic continue to be needed.

From Below is a feature length documentary film (now being screened across the country) that showcases the human, emotional stories of the mutual aid phenomena. The film also highlights the ways mutual aid can continue to be used as a force for change in a post-pandemic future. The wider research that the film supports is an examination of the people at the center of these crisis care mutual aid networks as well as the barriers and pitfalls they faced at the height of their practice.

Emotional burnout was the primary problem faced by many volunteers and organisers. Many of them expressed their exhaustion, explaining that the lack of time for self-care and (in some cases) inability to access necessary mental health services contributed to their fatigue.

In other groups, a lack of a functional space hindered their work, which made it difficult to pack bags and cook meals for sometimes hundreds of people. Lack of operational skills affected some groups: team leaders and members sometimes lacked co-operative and team-work skills, had little food safety experience or little financial expertise. Often important vehicles to continue working (such as a bank account to collect donations) were difficult to obtain due to the group not being recognised as an ‘official’ institutional form, i.e. a charity or community interest company.

Read the full article about mutual aid by Oli Mould at Shareable.