COVID-19 & Connection: Collective Care through Mutual Aid
How responsive collective care models, in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, may guide us towards more sustainable collective cultures of health and wellbeing moving forward. We aim to understand (1) the values and best practices which contribute to connected communities; where people feel they belong to one another; (2) what practices serve moments of crises and what should be sustained long term; and (3) the extent to which emerging collective care models subvert or reify social inequities
Our research team conducted a media analysis of mutual aid across the United States. This informed subsequent interviews with approximately 20 individuals organizing and/or participating in mutual aid in Colorado, aiming to understand their motivations, benefits, and challenges. Three initial findings emerged: many mutual aid efforts that quickly emerged in reaction to the pandemic are now challenged, several months into their work, to shift and evolve to address ongoing needs for longer term collective care and prevent the depletion and burnout of mutual aid organizers. Second, in shifting practices to be responsive, collective care efforts may inadvertently recreate health disparities, leaving out certain community members or reifying capitalistic and individualistic practices. Lastly, connection between people is a core element of mutual aid, suggesting that collective care may not only create access to tangible health resource, but it may also be critical in creating belonging.