Mapping Mutual Aid - in New York City, Eugene, and around the world

From this article on Occupy Sandy: "Even putting matters of ideology aside, Occupy Sandy was simply the easiest, fastest and most effective way for an ordinary, unaffiliated New Yorker to get involved with the relief effort." (from Hurricane Sandy) It goes on to map out lot of what made Occupy Sandy the best place to plug in to help out, and makes the case for permanent mutual aid infrastructure.

I've long been involved in learning and sharing processes that help people work together. Many are listed on the Process Arts website. The most recent related major effort I've been part of resulted in the Group Works deck, which is not about any one process but rather details 91 patterns which tend to show up across many different processes, and maps the relationships among those patterns.

More literal maps are another way to support the spread of mutual aid. Shareable is putting out the call for people to get together and create maps of their area showing all of the sharing and gifting yesterday afternoon night starting one up for Eugene, Oregon. (I'll update this with a link shortly.) This should help anyone who wants to get involved in mutual aid, or simply needs some help, to see what's available. One of the less obvious values of such maps is to make visible the immense amount of mutual aid that already exists! Even with our society being as skewed toward commerce as we all can see, there is still an incredible amount of generosity in action, and people working together to make this a world that works for all.

The first article points out the important distinction between charity and mutual aid. My understanding of this deepened during the occupations of Occupy Eugene. When I talked with homeless people about what was happening in our camp vs. the help they could get at a shelter or through government social services, they described the completely different feel of it - they got a lot more respect at camp, and instead of simply being recipients, they were participants in not only getting our basic needs met, but in working to change the system so that everyone's needs will be better met. As aboriginal activist Lila Watson says, "If you have come here to help me then you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine then let us work together."

I don't think that means our maps should exclude charity-minded resources. Rather, we should reach out and infect charities with our mutual aid spirit! Viva la participation!

#   on: October 26, 2013       tagged: