Building an Authentic Community of Practice


[8] Research: Mutual Aid Networks in NYC

Topic: Mutual Aid Networks in NYC

Key Word Search: Mutual Aid NYC, Mutual Aid COVID-19

Main points from Source #1: Solidarity, not charity: Learning the lessons of the COVID‐19 pandemic to re-conceptualize the radicality of mutual aid.

  • During COVID-19, the term mutual aid was used to describe a variety of different approaches to supporting communities in quarantine.
  • Specifically, as it was co-opted by state governments to describe institutional interventions, there became a growing need to make distinctions between these interpretations of mutual aid
  • This article explores mutual aid approaches under three models: charity, contributory, and radical.
  • It draws comparisons between the mutual aid actors under each model based on their mutual aid practices and political activism or lack thereof to evaluate the true “mutualism” of each respective approach
    • charity: helps by providing resources but doesn’t promote agency or empowerment and doesn’t seek to undermine the system causing injustice in the first place
    • contributory: helps by providing resources and promoting agency/empowerment but only to the end of recovery, also doesn’t seek to undermine the system that caused harm in the first place
    • radical: helps by providing resources, promoting agency/empowerment, AND seeks to undermine our deeply unjust social systems

Mould, O., Cole, J., Badger, A., & Brown, P. (2022). Solidarity, not charity: Learning the lessons of the COVID‐19 pandemic to reconceptualise the radicality of mutual aid. Transactions – Institute of British Geographers (1965), 47(4), 866–879.

Main points from Source #2: Brooklyn’s Pandemic-Born Mutual Aid Organizations Continue Their Work

  • During the pandemic, mutual aid groups rapidly formed to meet the needs of isolated communities in quarantine who were abandoned by the institutional social welfare system that was slow and weak in response.
  • Mutual aid groups were able to adapt to the growing demand in communities through intense cooperation and coordination.
  • Now, some mutual aid groups have slipped into providing peripheral support whereas others are still going strong and seeking to evolve.
  • How mutual aid groups in NYC move on from here, whether it is officially registering as non-profits, refusing institutionalization, or somewhere in between, will have a great impact on the future support networks available to underserved communities come the next emergency in need of rapid-response disaster support

Brendlen, K. (2022, March 17). Brooklyn’s Pandemic-Born Mutual Aid Organizations Continue Their Work. Brownstoner. June 15, 2024,

Encountered challenged in research: Not enough academic sources

  • When I searched the key words “Mutual Aid NYC” in the Guttman library OneSearch bar, there were only 7 sources that populated the page.
  • There are many more articles that pop up when you only search “mutual aid” but of course they vary much more in what they cover about mutual aid

Change in perspective after research: So, it was difficult to know even where to start on exploring how my local community’s mutual aid networks have operated, so I think I will take a step back and share more about the first source that I really enjoyed about the reconceptualization of mutual aid and its radicality—and then assess mutual aid groups that I know of and which are covered in the second source in its coverage of those groups which were active during the pandemic