Mutual Money: How innovation enabled community-led COVID-19 responses

In the past five months, as we all experienced the detrimental effects of COVID-19, over 1 million people mobilised themselves to support their local communities in the UK. Thousands of groups organically formed across the country to help the most vulnerable people find shelter, feed their families, access essential supplies and medicine, and emotional support.

As an organisation that has supported community and grassroots movements for years, seeing direct citizen mobilisation at this scale was truly inspiring. It happened all over the country, under the radar of the press and local and national government. Organised through WhatsApp, Facebook and other platforms, literally thousands of people joined a completely distributed and decentralised network and did what they do best – just got on with it.

It’s been tough, but undoubtedly one of the most rewarding projects we’ve delivered

Many of our staff became involved with their local Mutual Aid groups. And between volunteering, work, and living through the pandemic, we still had an innate desire to do more, as The Social Change Agency, to support those on the front line.

The problem is though, when our infrastructure is not being destroyed by robots and/or saved by Bruce Willis, we tend to find it a bit boring. Yet, with the help of some fantastic funders and supporters, we were able to implement a solution to help Mutual Aid groups manage their finances and stay accountable to their members and neighbours. Setting this up as a long-term service involved transforming our internal operations and these have been some of the most hardworking times our team has seen. It’s been tough, but undoubtedly one of the most rewarding projects we’ve delivered.

As I write this, our response has reached over 350 Mutual Aid organisers across the 120 groups. This has enabled groups like Willesden Green Mutual Aid in London to provide food to 300 vulnerable families and Carlisle Mutual Aid to raise over £23,500 to fund life-saving goods for those who were shielding.

We want to say a massive thank you from all of us at The Social Change Agency to those who supported us in setting up this emergency operation. We’re proudly sharing this update in the hope that others can also reflect on the learnings we’ve had and together with us, prepare as best we can for what’s coming next.

Esther Foreman
CEO, The Social Change Agency

Mutual Money: How innovation enabled community-led COVID-19 responses

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