If you’ve given to a fundraiser lately to help someone fill in the financial gaps between personal and governmental funding, you’ve participated in mutual aid.

Mutual aid is a concept that has deep roots in local communities. Throughout history, neighbors have supported neighbors when things go very wrong. Mutual aid was the go-to mechanism during the Civil Rights movement — from the Black Panthers’ school breakfasts to clothing drives — as communities of color were deprived of support. Since then, mutual aid has provided support after all kinds of disasters, from hurricanes to terror attacks, when government aid was slow to respond.

In the wake of the pandemic’s start, mutual aid is having a rebirth on a large scale. Put simply, mutual aid is collective coordination to meet the needs of each other, and is grounded in the principle of mutuality and solidarity, not charity.

As low-income communities in New York City respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the relief efforts in the most vulnerable communities are being led by unincorporated groups like mutual aid networks, groups of neighbors, grassroots organizations, and small nonprofits that have built trusting relationships with not just the communities they serve, but among each other — building a network of resource sharing across mutual aid groups within NYC and across the U.S. Despite the fact that these groups have deep reach into communities, they often face barriers to receiving funding.

As we continue to navigate the pandemic’s unprecedented challenges, Robin Hood has begun fueling mutual aid networks, by providing grants to organizations that embody the proximity model — supporting those who know first-hand (and better than anyone else) what is best for their own local communities.

Read the full article about mutual aid by Stephanie Park, Ollie Gillett, and Lori Boozer at Robin Hood.