Mutual Aid as Collective Research

Mutual Aid as Collective Research

Team: Cassie Thornton & Chris Harris

Summary of improvement idea:

With this proposal we aim to explore how a Participatory Action Research approach can be combined with Mutual Aid work, to produce a form of collective research that brings us all closer to understanding the external harms and threats we face together, while working towards the collective mutation and direct action needed for participatory systems change.

Our study will include participants of The Hologram, a widely practiced feminist p2p healthcare protocol. This study in solidarity aims to escalate care from individuals to groups and to expedite the practical information and organizing strategies needed for larger scale social and environmental justice.

What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance?

Mutual Aid (The Hologram) with PAR: Participatory Action Research

What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?

The world is literally burning, as humanity is incinerated for profit, and yet, when we are doing various types of support work for individuals and groups, we are still looking at individual struggle, and we are concerned with ideas of privacy and primacy of the individual that may not be useful to us given the scale of emergencies we face.

When attending to the distress, unmet needs, or transformation of our peers, we grow our situated knowledge, change the quality of our personal relations, and understand that our problems are not simply our own failures – we get a glimpse of the broader patterns affecting us as communities rooted in identity, location, or common habits. We see how people doing mutual support are always already doing collective research.

In addition to the rich history of participatory research by direct action groups, recently the evidence and knowledge produced by participatory research from concerned citizens and collectives is gaining recognition for directing the provision of public health services, being accepted as winning environmental evidence in courts and influencing progressive policy reform.

We will design mechanisms of feedback that include assembly, survey, records, conversations, and other socio-technical systems designs to come alongside and after mutual aid work that facilitate the shared learning for recognizing collective patterns and networking the organization among groups of people we give and receive support from. This relational research work will bind the care for our peer health with the health of our planet again.

What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol?

  • Survey current users of peer to peer protocols about:
    • The impact of giving and receiving mutual aid support and its limits when it comes to interfacing with big collective/systemic harms
    • Name some basic questions and tensions about using situated care as simultaneous to collective research/ learning outcomes
    • Collect wishes about what mutual aid could produce if it worked really well (if we were all healthy what would we do with our shared capacities given that the world is in bad shape?)
  • Interview several survey participants to deepen the conversation about the above themes with a focus on the limits of mutual aid when it comes to sharing what we learn in the process and collective research
  • Study PAR to gather common principles, stories of change and methodology techniques
  • Locate and document direct action groups working on climate who see research as part of their process

In what form will you prototype your improvement idea?

  • Diagram the flow of actors, action, and information in the protocol design
  • Host a working group call format for mutual aid meets PAR to identify needs to solve for
  • Design a workshop format that outlines concepts and processes for incorporating collective research into mutual aid processes for people who do mutual aid, specifically users of The Hologram
  • Write speculative fiction examples of how the protocol would be used

How will you field-test your improvement idea ?

  • Host assemblies with mutual aid workers to share patterns of learning
  • Facilitate a workshop on mutual aid with community research for practitioners already familiar with The Hologram
  • Introduce the protocol in communities who practice mutual aid and pay people to get back to us with feedback.

Who will be able to judge the quality of your output?

  • Anna Berti Suman, Lead in civic monitoring as a source of evidence for environmental litigation and as a tool for mediation
  • Lita Wallis, PAR facilitator, Hologram facilitator and Theatre of the Oppressed facilitator
  • Emma Dowling, sociologist, activist and author of Care Crisis
  • Jennifer Garbers: Expert in citizen sensing for social and environmental science

How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea?

  • Short stories in media based on interviews with past participants in collective research that have responded to an external public health emergency
  • Make memes about collective organization
  • Start a blog where we can post our discoveries, tools and process
  • Make a print/pdf zine for Mutual Aid x PAR

What is the success vision for your idea?

A growing understanding and practice of people caring for people that can escalate the systemic care we need for cooperative planetary survival. A growing engagement in a protocol of community of practice that organizes local emancipatory scholarship for thriving human social change.