The MoVE team is hosting a webinar on the 26 April at 2pm with mutual aid groups, local authorities, VCS and policy makers to discuss moving the findings from the research into policy and practice. You can register here.
The report highlights a series of recommendations for organisations to consider:
Recommendations for local authorities include:
Recognising and respecting the autonomy of mutual aid groups: Central to respecting the values of groups is developing an organisational culture that is trusting, flexible and able to engage with the diverse voices that exist within communities. Mutual aid groups should be seen as a valuable complementary resource and not a potential appendage to existing services.
Local authorities looking to play a facilitative or enabling role for mutual aid should reach out to informal groups to ask whether and what support they might need.
Recommendations for the voluntary and community sector:
Supporting mutual aid: The lessons outlined above for local authorities regarding recognition, respect and support, are equally applicable to VCS organisations that may wish to work with or support informal community groups. The mutual aid experience highlights the importance of infrastructure organisations in supporting grassroots, community-led groups and organisations.
Offer more flexible volunteering opportunities: A key lesson for volunteering organisations wishing to encourage volunteering and attract a more diverse group of volunteers – as mutual aid groups did – might be to embrace a more flexible approach by dismantling bureaucratic barriers to voluntary action.
Recommendations for national policymakers:
Invest in place: The experience of the pandemic has created a renewed focus upon communities, with the UK government announcing a policy agenda to give more power to communities (Kruger, 2020). However, community action does not exist in a vacuum.
This research has demonstrated the way that groups have drawn upon existing local resources and infrastructure. Any serious commitment to devolving power and decision making to communities and ensuring that the collaborations that have been built can be sustained will necessitate the funding of community infrastructure and the channelling of resources to grassroots groups.
Address socio-economic inequalities: Mutual aid groups have plugged large gaps in welfare provision, but informal community groups must not become a sticking plaster for wider societal problems. National policymakers should focus upon addressing socio-economic inequalities, to create the space for mutual aid groups to focus upon building relationships and harnessing the skills and assets of their communities to contribute to a more connected and cohesive society.
Find ways to support informal volunteering: The mutual aid response was facilitated outside of traditional, established volunteering infrastructure. The mutuality, flexibility and informality at the heart of these groups cannot be ‘harnessed’ through national volunteer platforms or volunteer passports, which seek to create a reserve ‘army’ of volunteers.
Rather, support should focus on localised capacity building and build upon the flexibility and informality that encapsulates this type of volunteering. Central government could support this by ensuring that volunteering policy and funding facilitates, embeds and enables these diverse, informal and flexible forms of engagement rather than restricting volunteering into a homogenous framework.
For details of additional recommendations, please refer to the report.
The University of Hull is committed to social justice and building an inclusive society. Driven by its vision to create a fairer, brighter, carbon neutral future, the University is to working towards widening social inclusion – shaping a society that is built on equity, integrity and respect, tackling inequalities and ensuring that every member of its community feels, valued, respected and supported.