Giving Compass' Take:

• Rhodri Davies, at CAF, provides an in-depth overview of mutual aid and its implications for philanthropy before, during, and after the pandemic.

• What can you do to learn more about mutual aid? How can you maintain pandemic-level giving when COVID-19 has become less relevant?

• Learn more about how and why you should increase your giving today as your respond to the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the widespread lockdown it precipitated, have made for a grim six months or so for civil society. One of the few bright spots in this otherwise bleak picture has been an apparent upsurge in social action, as a plethora of new local groups and networks have formed in response to the challenges presented by the crisis, alongside a broader swathe of informal acts of neighbourliness and collective spirit that is encouraging.

But there is a danger that in some cases all the enthusiasm potentially masks a crucial point: that the activity we are seeing is not necessarily about charity or philanthropy. The focus of many of the new groups we have seen emerge has been markedly different: emphasising instead a narrative of “mutual aid”. This raises important questions: what is mutual aid and how does it relate to charity? Is this just a reflection of the unique conditions caused by the pandemic, or does it herald any sort of longer-term shift?

Mutual aid is certainly not a new concept. It has a long history, which is closely intertwined with the history of charity and philanthropy. Understanding some of the historical context surrounding mutual aid, and where it fits in terms of different political traditions and views about the role of civil society is important, as it can bring more clarity about how to understand what is happening as a result of COVID; how this fits into various political agendas; how we should understand the relationship between some of the new models emerging and the existing elements of civil society; and what sort of questions we should be asking as we look to the future.

Read the full article about mutual aid during COVID-19 by Rhodri Davies at Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).