Solidarity not Charity: Mutual-aid volunteer engagement, experiences, and retention strategies with the Bike Brigade in the context of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a heightened interest in, and need for, mutual aid: a collective effort to meet community needs and redistribute resources. Mutual aid has been a long-standing practice of Black communities, and existed before terms like ‘caremongering’, ‘crowdfunding’ and ‘the sharing economy’ became popularized. Mutual aid is also more than just a crisis response; it builds solidarity and sustained relationships across community members. The key question driving this research is: what prompts volunteers to commit to mutual aid projects during times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, and how can organizations keep this commitment going into recovery periods and beyond? This research examines the factors that enable, and limit, volunteer commitment to learn how mutual aid organizations can better support volunteers and foster sustained engagement. We will be surveying and interviewing volunteer cyclists of various commitment levels from the Bike Brigade - a mutual aid group that emerged during the COVID 19 pandemic - to learn about how individual circumstances (like work), structural contexts (like neighbourhoods and bike lanes) and organizational resources (like the Bike Brigade dispatch technology and online community) impact their experiences delivering essential goods across Toronto neighbourhoods.