The Mutual Aid Movement post-pandemic – Updates from The Changing Ideas Mutual Aid Fund

The following blog post was written by Eda Tajuddin, Programme Manager for our sister organisation, The Social Change Nest.

Last year, The Social Change Nest launched our very first fund:
The Changing Ideas Mutual Aid Fund. As we emerged from the COVID-19 crisis response, many of the mutual aid groups we were supporting were facing difficult transitions. When the cost of living crisis hit, their challenges seemed to increase. Volunteer burn-out, shifting community needs and a struggle for funding were all working to dampen the incredible energy of the mutual aid movement. We didn’t want to see this fire die out and wanted to support the groups as they evolved into their next iteration. 

The need was high and continues to be

The Mutual Aid Fund was established by The Social Change Nest in partnership with Changing Ideas and with additional support from Disrupt Foundation. We received 150 applications (totalling approximately £670,000 in funds applied for) and awarded over £90,000 worth of grants to support the next iteration of the mutual aid movement in the UK, post-pandemic. Altogether, we’ve given out 22 grants across the UK and we are so grateful to our funders for their investment and recognition of the importance of community-led change.

it still blows us away every time we see how much they can do with small pots of money and how quickly they can move once they have received it

It’s been about 5 months since we gave out grants to the first round of amazing groups (listed at the bottom of this blog). We had our first learning convening in January and there was a lot to talk about. We know how impactful community groups are, but it still blows us away every time we see how much they can do with small pots of money and how quickly they can move once they have received it. We asked the groups to share their updates in a collaborative diary and it is 30 pages of hard work, inspiring stories and heart-lifting photos. We’ve done our best to summarise the key achievements so far (that’s right, so far – we’re only halfway through)…

They’re expanding their reach and growing their community

Groups are finding creative ways to promote themselves and grow their communities, whether that means recruiting volunteers or reaching new supporters. This has been especially crucial during a time when many groups started to see a drop off in volunteers – firstly because people were returning to work and then because of the cost of living crisis.

  • Newham Solidarity Fund collaborated with a local artist to develop a postcard, that helps promote the group whilst ensuring those seeking their solidarity funds are in the right postcode. They also created t-shirts and badges to help raise funds and awareness of the group’s work. 
  • Splo-down Food Coop hired their first community ambassador to help them build relationships and reach more neighbourhoods. Together, they were able to throw a 2-year celebration and an annual general meeting (AGM). 
  • St Anns Food Hub developed a brilliant promotional video, ran a social media campaign and created a new donation page, which raised £800 alone over Christmas. 
  • Women on Bikes were able to increase the reach of their work, which led to them being featured in a BBC documentary.

They’re bringing the community together

Mutual aid has always been about reciprocity and bringing people together according to needs and during the pandemic, this mostly meant virtually. Now that the community’s needs are evolving, the fund has enabled groups to bring people together in bigger, different ways. For some this means developing a permanent physical space and for others this has been through hosting in-person events. 

  • Both Byker Mutual Aid and Progress Estate Mutual Aid are in the process of securing and developing a permanent community space. 
  • St Michael’s Community Hub upgraded their community allotment, bringing people together and ensuring a space where they can gather. 
  • Staveley with Ings Together set up their Warm Spaces Project – a safe space for the village, as well as opportunities for older community members to socialise over hot drinks and a hot meal. 
  • Hastings HEART set up a Community Information Hub to bridge the digital divide and provide a safe space for people. This has proven ‘very helpful and useful for people because they don’t know where else to go for help’. 
  • Chorlton Community Cooperative threw a big Chorlton Get Together – a community-led, family-friendly gathering in the centre of Chorlton. This has brought people together and sparked collaborations, building momentum for their vision of a better, greener Chorlton.

They’re upskilling their team and improving their systems

Because mutual aid groups are on the frontlines of supporting the most vulnerable in their communities, it’s often difficult for them to invest time and funds in themselves. The Mutual Aid Fund has helped groups make these longer-term investments, which means bigger impact and less burden on the group. 

  • Trans Aid Cymru bought programmes to help them manage their emails and social media, which has led to more consistent engagement and better turnout to events. 
  • Balfour Mutual Aid has bought new fridge/freezer space, improved their apps  and provided training and DBS checks for existing and new volunteers. This has allowed them to grow their community so they can now serve over 500 people! 
  • Hastings HEART has conducted a series of volunteer training events and streamlined their databases.
  • SE15 Community Fund has collaborated with a local fundraising expert and creative agency to plan their 2023 fundraising drive.

All these groups have been able to build momentum, think about sustainability and alleviate some burden. They were finally given some much-needed space and money to step back from survival mode and strategise, experiment and invest in themselves. All this with grants of £5,000 or less… Imagine what these and other groups could do with more! 

Join us

If you’re a grassroots group interested in becoming part of The Social Change Nest or a funder who’d like to support the grassroots movement, please get in touch.

For now, we’re going to leave you with some lovely quotes and a list of the groups so you can celebrate them even more!

“It’s been excellent to have that bit of money to do [the marketing and promotion] because it’s crucial at the moment in order to keep the organisation going and everyone involved” – Kim Batty, Hastings HEART

“There’s lots of energy around and we couldn’t have done it without the funding” – Nick Dixon, Chorlton Community Cooperative

“The Mutual Aid Fund helped me to make this organisation sustainable.” – Shazia Shan, Women on Bikes

“Thank you for continuously supporting the grassroots movement, for always listening and for being so proactive!” – Byker Mutual Aid (feedback survey)

The (amazing!) mutual aid groups who received funding in round one

Balfour Mutual Aid

Balfour MA is a volunteer run community in which people can take what they need and contribute whatever they are able to. They are unusual in not having eligibility criteria and in having an online ordering app.

Byker Mutual Aid

Byker Mutual Aid is a grassroots community group providing mutual aid support for local residents in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne. They have a weekly food handout and provide solidarity grants.

Chorlton Community Cooperative

Chorlton Community Cooperative exist to help grow their community and make it a greener, kinder, safer, more thriving, more inclusive and more connected place to live, work and play.

Hastings HEART

Hastings HEART is a grassroots network of community volunteers willing to be called on to help people, organisations and projects across Hastings and St. Leonards in East Sussex.

Newham Solidarity Fund

Newham Solidarity Fund is a community-led project that helps neighbours to support each other. Built on the principles of mutual aid, solidarity and good will, the fund awards small grants of up to £50 per month to Newham residents.

Progress Estate Mutual Aid

Progress Estate Mutual Aid was set up by residents of the Progress Estate in Eltham, London SE9, in March 2020 to help each other in their local community, initially during the pandemic and more recently in their daily lives.

St. Michael’s Community Hub

St Michael’s Community Hub is a space for pupils, parents, and local communities to connect and build compassionate relationships in Handsworth, Birmingham. It aims to provide opportunities for self-empowerment and community support for local residents.

St. Anns Food Hub

St Ann’s Food Hub is a group of neighbours in Haringey, working towards food justice and against food poverty in the area. The initiative, born out of the Mutual Aid Group in St. Ann’s Ward (Haringey) in April 2020, provides access for residents of Haringey to affordable and nutritious food.

SE15 Community Fund

The SE15 Community Fund offers financial grants to people located in the SE15 postcode, who may be struggling, with grants available of up to £50 per month per household.

Splo-down Food Coop

Splo-down Food Coop is a community led food cooperative for people living in the Tremorfa, Adamsdown and Splott areas of Cardiff. They are an alternative local food economy – bringing fresh, quality, and sustainable food products to their residents at wholesale prices.

Staveley with Ings Together

Staveley with Ings Together is a Mutual Aid group that started during the Pandemic to provide mutual support to people who had to isolate themselves. This continued as an umbrella organisation for small groups doing charitable activities.

Trans Aid Cymru

Trans Aid Cymru is a trans, non-binary and intersex mutual aid group led by TIN people for TIN people in Wales.

Women on Bikes

Women on Bikes is a women only cycling group in Liverpool, set up in 2020. The aim is to encourage and empower women to take part in cycling and learn new skills – especially targeted at those women who are less likely to have this opportunity due to cultural diversity.

Funders, discover how we can work together to reach and fund more grassroots movements

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