COVID-19: The effectiveness of mutual-aid groups and their lessons for post-crisis community care

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Name: Geography


Covid-19 has shown that much of the state, public sector, NGOs and elements of the private sector are slow to respond to a crisis. In many areas, mutual aid groups have mobilised quicker, responding to the needs present in their communities and/or neighbourhoods. In so doing, they highlight some of the political and procedural 'gaps' in corporate and State-led institutional emergency response programs, as well as help to identify resource allocation that hasn't been pre-planned in crisis responses (i.e. homelessness provision, national health and social care policies, food delivery etc.). However, often these locally organised groups dissipate afterwards, and their vital operational and local geographic knowledge goes under-utilised in providing more effective and appropriate community care in a post-crisis 'normal' setting. The project aims to collate, evidence and conceptually analyse 'on the ground' mutual aid groups (i.e. those working mostly off-line and in-person) that have mobilised in response to the Covid-19 crisis to care for vulnerable people in the community: e.g. people who are shielded, self-isolating, the homeless, those with long-term conditions etc.

This interdisciplinary project has three distinct aims/phases. First, to comprehensively survey and thematically categorise mutual aid provision during the peak, and in the recessionary aftermath of the pandemic. Second, to undertake a deep-dive into selected case studies of categories and geographies to highlight best practice and how they related to (or substituted for) corporate/governmental responses. Third, to produce a multi-media online 'Manifesto of Mutual Aid' that explains the 'how', and crucially, the 'why' of mutual aid to effectuate better policy implementation post-crisis in conjunction with relevant governmental and non-governmental institutions.


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