Mutual Aid 101


This toolkit includes step by step instructions for how you can build your own mutual aid network while staying safe from the spread of COVID-19. You can start by posting on social media: “I’m going to support my neighbors through COVID-19. #WeGotOurBlock” and keep us updated on your mutual aid work through #WeGotOurBlock.

On Wednesday, March 18, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and   organizer Mariame Kaba discussed a response to COVID-19 based in community building and resource sharing — “Mutual Aid.”

Mutual aid is “cooperation for the sake of the common good.” It’s getting people to come together to meet each other’s needs, recognizing that as humans, our survival is dependent on one another. If you’re interested in learning more about the long history, politics and practice of mutual aid, we encourage you to read the links we’re including at the end of this toolkit.

Download a printable copy of this toolkit here.

Download printable #WeGotOurBlock signs for your windows/door here.

Credit: Becca Barad

Table of Contents

Page 4

What is Mutual Aid?

Page 5-8

Building a Neighborhood Pod

Page 9-10

An Invite for Neighbors

Page 11

Health & Safety Tips

Page 12

More Resources

What is Mutual Aid?

Mutual Aid is a practice and politics that emphasizes solidarity rather than charity. What does that mean? It means we recognize that our well-being, health and dignity are all bound up in each other. It means that we understand our survival depends on cooperation, not competition. In this particular moment, we see that our health is also dependent on other people’s health, and we can literally save each other’s lives. Rather than disengage and feel powerless, mutual aid allows us to plug in where we can make the most impact — locally.

Mutual Aid is…

Mutual Aid is not…

Building a Neighborhood Pod

This guide is adapted from Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville’s “Neighborhood Pods How To.”

Before the first step: Who’s in your support network? Before beginning to build your neighborhood pod, we recommend taking some time to figure out who would already show up for you when you’re in crisis, and vice versa. Check out this resource by Rebel Sidney Black.

Step 1:

Find a buddy or two (if you can) to build your neighborhood network/pod.

Start by identifying someone in your building or block, and text/call them to ask them to be your partner in building a neighborhood network.

Step 2:

Identify your zone.

Are you trying to support people on your floor, in your building, your block, your neighborhood, or a non-geography-specific social community? Try to start small: 5 - 20 people is a good ballpark. Build out as you gain confidence, organization and more knowledge of the resources in your community.

Step 3:

Invite your neighbors.

If you don’t already have phone contacts for your neighbors, you’ll need to reach them somehow. Here are some ideas:

Note: Initial outreach should be language-accessible. For example, if your building is majority Korean-speaking, include both English and Korean in your invite.

For a sample invite (text or flyer) in several languages, please check out page 9.

Step 4:

Build your pod.

Name your group. If your pod/network is more than 30 people, consider splitting into two groups. Big groups can get unwieldy and you can always still reach out to and coordinate with the other group!

You have a couple options in terms of communications setup:

*What’s a phone tree? Check out this resource for more information. A phone tree is a system for spreading information with a group of people quickly through the phone. You have a few people, called your “key group,” and they communicate information to and from the subgroups they’re responsible for. That way, each time something needs to be shared, you don’t have to set up a huge conference call. We very much still recommend phone/video conference calls for discussion and decision-making, because non-hierarchical coordination is key to mutual aid. You can get a free Zoom account for your videoconferencing needs!

Step 5:

Have an intro conversation with each other.

Set some community agreements, for example, treating each other with respect and assuming the best intentions. You also want to get a sense of what each person needs, and what each person can do to help.

These are some questions to ask each other:

You might find that it takes multiple conversations with each other before people feel comfortable discussing the last few questions. That’s okay! Relationship building is not a means to mutual aid, but fundamental to the work itself.

There are several ways to do this in a group that’s larger than a couple people.

  1. We recommend focusing on building relationships with each other before immediately jumping into asks. One way to do this is dividing everyone up into pairs. Each pair then talks to each other over video/phone and takes notes about the conversation to input into a spreadsheet. Switch pairings and do a couple more rounds of 1-on-1 conversations so people in your pod have relationships with not just one other person in the pod, but multiple other people!
  2. You could also use a Google Form or Spreadsheet and have everyone input their responses on their own and read over each other’s responses to the questions.

If you go with #1, make sure to clarify upfront what information gets shared with everyone in the pod and what information stays in your small group conversation. Consent about information sharing is important.

Step 6:

Support each other.

Your pod will have lots of needs at this time, and they may change as this pandemic continues. Some needs that might or have already come up:

An Invite for Neighbors

Here is a sample text/invite for neighbors, in some of the most commonly-spoken languages in Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s district NY-14.




“Hello! I’m [NAME]. I live [in your building/on your block/in your neighborhood] and this is my number: [PHONE #].

I’m reaching out because I know that with COVID-19, it’s important for us to be connected to each other so we can pool resources, share information, and help support one another.

I’m going to coordinate a group text or a phone call for our [building/block/neighborhood/community].

Will you please reach out to me on my phone so we have your contact information? Thank you!”


¡Hola! Soy [NAME]. Vivo [en su edificio/en su cuadra/en su vecindario] y este es mi número: [PHONE #].

Me estoy poniendo en contacto porque se que con el coronavirus es importante que estemos conectados para que podamos compartir recursos e información y ayudarnos unos a otros.

Voy a coordinar un grupo de texto o una llamada telefónica para [nuestro edificio/ nuestra cuadra/ nuestra comunidad].

¿Me podría contactar por teléfono para que tenga su información?  ¡Gracias!"  


হ্যালো! আমি [NAME]. আমি [আপনার বিল্ডিংয়ে / আপনার ব্লকে / আপনার আশেপাশে] বাস করি এবং এটি আমার নম্বর: [PHONE #].

 আমি আপনার কাছে আসছি কারণ আমি জানি যে COVID-19 এর সাথে আমাদের একে অপরের সাথে সংযুক্ত হওয়া জরুরী যাতে আমরা সংস্থানগুলি ভাগ করতে পারি, তথ্য ভাগ করতে পারি এবং একে অপরকে সাহায্য করতে পারি.

আমি আমাদের [বিল্ডিং / ব্লক / পাড়া / সম্প্রদায়] কে বার্তা দিতে বা কল করতে যাচ্ছি.

আপনি দয়া করে আমার ফোনে আমার সাথে যোগাযোগ করবেন যাতে আমাদের কাছে আপনার যোগাযোগের তথ্য থাকে? ধন্যবাদ!

Chinese (Mandarin, but you can use for Cantonese speakers as well)

你好!我是[NAME]。我住在[这个楼房 / 这个街区/这个社区]。这是我的电话号码[PHONE #]




Health & Safety Tips

Organizing mutual aid during COVID-19 means taking extra precautions to protect yourself and your community from the spread of the virus. Here are some tips for minimizing your exposure:

More resources

We can’t stress enough, this kit is only the very beginning of the long history and practice of mutual aid work. To learn more, check out these resources:

Mutual Aid 101