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Mutual Aid

Started by droqen, August 05, 2022, 03:02:28 PM

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Quote from: p41Governance and innovation remain local, but knowledge, support, and solidarity are networked and shared.



Working Together
on Purpose

Dangers and pitfalls:
Deservingness Hierarchies - "mutual aid groups .. sometimes set up their own problematic deservingness hierarchies" - exclude no-one.
Saviorism and Paternalism - "The idea that those giving aid need to "fix" people who are in need is based on the notion that people's [needs are] not a systemic problem but [are] caused by their own personal shortcomings."
Co-optation - paraphrasing: if "collective coordination to meet each other's needs" becomes non-primary* (e.g. displaced by financial concerns), it's not mutual aid

*p.s. there is no such thing as having two equal guiding principles. one will always win.


Quote from: p60history is full of examples of mutual aid groups that, under pressure from law enforcement, funders, and culture, transformed into charity or social services groups and lost much of their transformative capacity.

What is the transformative capacity of mutual aid which is lost in this transition?

EDIT:: Oh, maybe it's on the previous page, which I skimmed

Quote from: p59Characteristics of Mutual Aid vs. Charity

[..]Mutual aid projects strive to include lots of people[..] If we want to provide survival support for as many people as possible, and mobilize as many people as possible for root-causes change, we need to let a lot of people do the work and make decisions together, rather than bottlenecking the process with hierarchies that let only a few people lead.

- provide [..] support for as many people as possible
- mobilize as many people as possible for root-causes change


There is a huge chart from pages 61-64. It's a very interesting chart. I'm not going to copy the whole thing down here, because I'm lazy.

I'm majorly concerned about "Open meetings, with as many people making decisions .. as possible" and "Consensus decision-making", because I've seen those go bad, but to some degree I also believe in it. It's something that takes some experience and/or skill to manage though -- open meetings can suck A LOT.



Quote from: p65
No Masters, No Flakes

Hey, looks like they're going to address that stuff in this chapter.

Quote from: p65[We can] dive right into the work, [..] but fail to create good internal practices for our group to be strong and sustainable. It makes sense that we are not good at creating [fair, participatory, transparent,] emancipatory group structures. [..] We do not have much practice imagining or being in groups where everyone can truly participate in decision-making.


Wow, okay, I absolutely feel the opposite of all of this, and I guess if this is the norm then, I dunno, I'm sad about it? Where does this disinterest come from? Predictably, Spade places the blame at the feet of capitalism.

Quote from: p66Capitalism makes us think about short-term gains, not building the long-term capacity for all of our well-being. This can make it easy to go for the quick fix and ignore the damage we might be doing to each other along the way. Many of us think "process is boring."

Process is the best and anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken and must learn otherwise.
I truly believe this.
Process is life.


I place the blame at the feet of disconnection of process from result. But that's not capitalism's fault, is it? If anything, didn't it come first, wasn't capitalism built to serve its banishing? (I could be totally wrong.)


Quote from: p67Hierarchy = Horizontal decision-making structure based on consensus that prevents decision-making from being concentrated in one person or a small group, and that can help tasks and roles get distributed to many people
Vague decision-making process = Clear decision-making process that everyone is trained in and that includes all members

Leadership held by people who have seniority or self-select = Training new people in how to participate fully in decisions and in new skills and roles; // Cultivating a culture of group participation, feminism, anti-racism


Quote from: p67Clear structures help us stick to our values under pressure

Right now my wallpaper is a simple statement: "STRUCTURES ARE INHERENTLY AMORAL." If you need structures to stick to your values... I'm concerned.


Quote from: p68-69This chapter will cover three organizational tendencies that often emerge in mutual aid groups that can cause problems, and provide ideas for how to avoid them:

One. Secrecy, hierarchy, and lack of clarity. [..]
- participants not knowing what is going on
- participants not knowing who is making decisions
- having all the decision-making concentrate in one person or clique (lack of delegation is a major cause of burnout)
- risk the group being torn apart by conflict because of these dynamics

combat by:
+ clear decision-making structures
+ caring, emancipatory cultures

Two. Over-promising and under-delivering, non-responsiveness, and elitism. [..]
- promising to help more people than they can help
- making it seem like they have a community need covered when they don't actually have the capacity to address it
- exacerbated when groups receive grants for specific projects, so there is money at stake in falsely claiming..
- when people are not making decisions together, someone may make a promise for the whole group without consulting others about whether it is a priority or a possibility

Three. Scarcity, urgency, competition. [..]
- culture of scarcity (money, time, attention, labour)
- closely related to previous point (over-promising)

may lead to...
- getting competitive with other groups or within
- not taking the necessary steps to do our task well, due to urgency/rush
- forgetting to be kind to each other


Okay, this entire section is about how to organize and how consensus decision-making works, and it fucking rules. 5th chapter "No Masters No Flakes," starting at p65.

[pingback: CONSENSUS games]


Quote from: p103Rather than a fantasy of being rich and famous[..] we cultivate a fantasy of everyone having what they need and being able to creatively express the beauty of their lives.

I wrote down this quote while walking past the police station, ignoring a man shouting about God and his penis and about how I'm laughing at him. He was calling me names for reading a book.

It's not healthy to have a society where I do things like ignore people... but I have adopted, become comfortable with, maintaining a Still Face attitude towards people in need for the sake of... my own comfort, I suppose.


Quote from: p104-105Handling Money

[..] Because most people in our society have a tangled, painful relationship with money that includes feelings and behaviours of secrecy, shame, and desperation, a lot of otherwise awesome people will misbehave when money is around or get suspicious of others' behaviour.

Quote from: p106[A] pitfall of hiring paid staff is that when groups become staffed, unpaid volunteers in the group sometimes expect that staff person or few staff people to suddenly do all the work, and volunteers sometimes check out (especially if they felt overworked before the group started paying staff).


Quote from: p107-109Burnout

[..] Burnout [causes us to / is when we] lose connection to pleasure and passion in the work and instead encounter difficult feelings like avoidance, compulsion, control, and anxiety. [..] people who feel burnt out often feel that they cannot return to the work, or that the group or work they were part of is toxic.

[..] Burnout is created or worsened when we feel [
  • disconnected from others
  • mistreated
  • misunderstood
  • ashamed
  • overburdened
  • obsessed with outcomes
  • perfectionist
  • controlling
]. Burnout is prevented or lessened when [
  • we feel connected to others
  • there is transparency in how we work together
  • we can rest as needed
  • we feel appreciated by the group
  • we have skills for giving and receiving feedback


Quote from: p111-115, quotes snippedHow Mutual Aid Groups Can Prevent
and Address Overwork and Burnout

1. Make internal problems a top priority
"Training in meeting facilitation.."
"Collective planning of the group's work.. work plans.."
"..transparency in the group so that people know what each other are doing.."
"Regularly schedule conversations where people can hear from each other about what is going well and what needs work in the group's dynamics, or can discuss issues or concerns about their own role and ask for the group's assistance"

2. Make sure that new people are welcomed and trained to co-lead

3. Establish mechanisms to assess the workload and scale back
"How many hours is each member working?" "Did they.. track their hours for a week to make sure they are aware of how much they are working? Assess the workload and scale back projects until the workload is under control."
[ I know this might sound silly but this is radical to me -- that you would track hours in order to scale down the workload until it is under control. I love it. ]

4. Build a culture of connection

5. Make sure that the facilitation of meetings rotates, including agenda-making and other key leadership tasks.

6. As a group, recognize the conditions creating a culture of overwork.
"It is not one person's fault,.." "Create a shared language for the pressures.. so they are easier to identify and address.."