The Mutual Aid Network(s) has always been a great source of inspiration for the P2P Foundation. A living, thriving example of what we term as a meta-economic network, MAN was also recently featured as a case study in our Commons Transition Primer. To see what they have been up in the last year, read this rollicking (and brutally honest) recap, written by Stephanie Rearick and originally published in their site. Please read Stephanie’s story below and click here to help support her ongoing work for MAN.
Stephanie Rearick: Happy new year! (yeah, I know it’s a bit late but this too-long post took too-long to write! but you can take too-long to read it, there’s plenty of good stuff to be found)
I’m excited to see what big developments 2018 will bring, and expect that we’ll have some happy ones in MAN-land. There’s a convergence afoot among lots of likeminded people and their networks, all across the globe. And that’s all we need to remake this world. So let’s get on with it!
But first, some reflection on 2017…
I wrote much much less than usual in 2017, primarily because it was so extremely eventful and that eventfulness included breaking my shoulder (and other arm injuries from the same bike crash), and more recently getting tendonitis in my other arm while helping redo my roof.
So I’m trying to make up for some of that in this recap. Hope you enjoy it!
January we worked on proposals for hubs in the Madison MAN here at home.
February we decided to officially change our name from the Main MAN to HUMANs (Humans United in Mutual Aid Networks). Read more about that here.
Then we hosted another Summit.
We scheduled this to coincide with a visit from our friend Kali Akuno, of Cooperation Jackson. He and other friends were set to present at a public event called Resist & Build, of which Mutual Aid Networks was a sponsor. So we organized a summit around this event, and brought more of our active members and pilot stewards together for mutual learning.
A lot of very rich discussion and forward momentum happened here, and I’ve shared pictures of our whiteboards and shown where to find some notes here.
But now will note just one very lovely bit of serendipity –
Our friend Blair Anderson, a potential pilot steward in Detroit and generally amazing human and organizer, was in Chicago for a family memorial. The night before our summit’s last day, Blair suddenly felt called to come to Madison. He went and booked a bus at one in the morning, then got here early the next day. He called me in the morning to ask what was happening here, and I was able to invite him to our last day of workshops and planning.
Blair came and gave us a really beautiful and poignant history of his own family, through slavery, then chain gangs under Jim Crow vagrancy laws, then civil rights activism, to Black Panther leadership, to political imprisonment, to organizing new ways of thriving in this culture. And then introduced an incredible vision of making a mutual aid network that can provide meaningful sanctuary to people under threat for a variety of reasons, unfortunately the list of which grows daily.
This discussion spawned lots of new ideas and energy. And also inspired me to think of creating a Church of HUMANs (for real, I’ll share details later) and gain a fondness for the adjective “superversive.” Superversive incorporates, transforms and transcends all which comes before it. That’s the HUMAN approach to our economy.
Speaking of (needing) a new approach to our economy – In March we officially Ran Out Of Money. Well, it actually does hurt. But it is the way of getting all our (my) skin in this game. As the main person who has relied on Mutual Aid Network work for somewhat of a livelihood, it’s giving me a new urgency to making this work to support me doing what I feel called to do in this world.
April – I did a MAN tour of New Zealand!!! This one I did post about, a bit, as I went – in segments 1 and 2 (more photos here). And it resulted in a couple radio interviews you can hear here. But in a nutshell, I was given the most incredible opportunity to tour New Zealand for three weeks, with 11 different stops and hosts, at no monetary cost to myself. My hosts paid for my flight so I could speak at the Living Economies Expo (amazing!) in Lyttelton (home of the famous Project Lyttelton and Lyttelton TimeBank that did such fantastic work in earthquake relief after the 2011 quakes). Then Cherie Conrad put out word to cooperative economy leaders throughout the country and I was hosted for the rest of the time on an epic journey of learning and sharing experience, ideas and inspiration. I learned how they approach savings pools and was also able to show how MAN frameworks could turn savings pools into a more deliberate driver of equity. Tons of beautiful ideas emerged throughout the trip, and are taking form as Mutual Aid Networks of Aotearoa (MANA).
I returned home April 22 and a week later I broke my arm (left humerus right up by my shoulder) in a bike crash. Ouch.
May – The week after breaking my arm I flew to Barcelona Spain to present at the fourth International Complementary Currencies Conference. Actually, staying with 10 friends at a beautiful home in Barcelona was a fine place to recover from a freshly broken arm. And my presentation went well too, despite my awkward gesturing with a sling-bound arm… Here are the slides to the presentation I gave and here is the paper I wrote, Becoming HUMAN: Superversive Strategies in the Face of Fascism and Ecocide, in order to be able to present. Unfortunately I wrote the paper in a hurry so it isn’t academic enough in style and doesn’t have good citations in order to be publishable. But I do hope to keep working on the theme, and implementing the ideas. The gist is that, during this time of the US doubling down on corporate hegemony, private ownership and deregulation, Mutual Aid Networks are a form of corporation that should position ourselves to compete for the new economy and win by playing a smarter game that’s more fun and that includes everyone.
And speaking of smarter, I had the immense pleasure of meeting some of the people from Cooperativa Integral Catalana, a beautiful project I’ve heard about (in concert with Fair Coop, another favorite of mine) for years. I got to talk a lot with Joel, meet one of the coop’s founders, and tour their Barcelona space (photos from there). Here’s an article that p2p Foundation ran about them. Check it out! They’re great at integrating different sectors of a local economy to make a pretty self-sustaining system.
June we held a small MAN retreat and pilot exploration in Detroit and attended the Allied Media Conference.
During the conference we crashed the meeting of the Digital Stewards, a Detroit organization making mesh wireless networks owned and operated by neighbors, who also use them to create community communication systems. We plan to replicate this in Madison and beyond! We were also thrilled to connect with people from Red Hook Initiative in Brooklyn, who train in this and lots of other cool tech stuff. Hopefully we’ll work together in the future.
For our pilot exploration we held a discussion about how to move forward on a couple projects, including the sanctuary network that came up in our February summit, and a learning circuit between different pilot sites including St. Louis, Detroit, Jackson, and Madison. We had people from St. Louis, Madison, and Detroit, and laid the initial groundwork for a more future work in Detroit and between sites.
July 27 was an inauspicious day, when we lost the wonderful Cheri Maples to injuries she’d sustained in a bike/van accident the previous summer. The loss of Cheri was huge for me personally and for all of us professionally, and as humans. Cheri was instrumental in helping to start and run the Dane County TimeBank, and especially its various transformative justice efforts including the TimeBank Youth Court, mindfulness and NVC training in prisons, support for people coming home from prison, and timebanking in jails. This work was just one piece of a lot of interconnected, powerful, beautiful work in the world as a Dharma teacher (ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh) and former cop, corrections official, assistant WI Attorney General, and more. You can read more about her here.
Summer was spent building the Madison MAN Cooperative, for which we met weekly.
October I did a little MAN tour through Ohio and then Asheville NC. Ohio stops included Columbus, Youngstown, and Yellow Springs where I presented at the Economics of Happiness Conference hosted by Community Solutions, and also did a MAN exploration there. Lots of exciting possibilities, and the conference was cool.
Youngstown was an informal chat at the TimeBank Mahoning Watershed’s monthly movie night.
Columbus was particularly fruitful, and fortunately we solidified more of a relationship with the Care and Share TimeBank and especially Steve Bosserman, who has been helping a lot with Mutual Aid Platform software and way more. Here’s his report on the Columbus MAN developments:
“We gave a presentation at our September Care and Share Time Bank potluck to prep the audience for your program at the October Potluck on the OH-NC tour. Here’s a link to the presentation handouts.
Also, following your visit, we posted a summary of outcomes to our CSTB Facebook group in which we outlined ways we could bring CSTB more fully into the MAN experience. Here is the link to that post on Facebook and as a viewable Google Doc.
In addition, based on your tour visit, we are featuring MAN in a grant proposal to be submitted by the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio (IACO), Simply Living, and CSTB to the Ohio Humanities in March with a preliminary review next month. The purpose of that grant is to have faith groups, “nones”, and secular humanists convene a set of online and face-to-face conversations in the Columbus area to explore how we can move more aggressively toward a “time-based economy” rather than remain dependent on the prevailing monetary economy.”
At the end of the Asheville trip Steve Cooperman took me to meet Kevin Jones, co-founder of SOCAP and champion of Impact Hubs, among other stuff. We had a quick and energetic chat about each of our work. He’s working toward making a long-term investment model for young people to invest in forests. I was able to show him the way MANs can create means for people with money to directly redistribute it, investing in communities with less access. He was intrigued enough to become my first-ever patron! Helping me with a regular donation toward my living expenses, Kevin got the ball rolling on the vision we’ve held for awhile, creating crowdfunded patronage that everyone can tap into. His generous support will be a good motivator for us to create a web-based template to accept contributions like this regularly, in all kinds of currencies and resources. Watch for it!
November – We incorporated the Madison MAN Cooperative, our multi-stakeholder cooperative which we intend to be our city-wide MAN pilot site!
And the next day I flew to LA and went straight to Santa Ana, about 40 min. south, to spend time with the amazing and wonderful Ana Urzua, one of my fellow BALLE fellows and powerhouse cooperative organizer, and her friends and colleagues. I learned some of what they’re doing with Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities and beyond, and we held a MAN pilot site exploratory discussion that was super exciting.
December 13 we held the official launch party for our Madison MAN Cooperative. And one of the first projects we’ve set up is to host a monthly gathering with food and childcare, to make it easy for people to drop in after work or whatever they need. We’ll partner with a founding member organization, Dane County TimeBank, to be at each other’s monthly events so that each of us can have a presence on both a weekday and a weekend each month. The point now is maximum accessibility and consistency so we can keep inviting people in and building our collective work. Stay tuned!
If you’ve gotten this far, you just read a long-ass post. (or skipped ahead. but that’s OK. You can always search keywords if you want to know about certain places, or bits of work, or you can read bit by bit or skip it altogether). Thanks for bearing with me!
Follow the links to learn more about each thing, and join us in our soon-to-resume office hours. And of course join the HUMANs global cooperative network.
And thanks for your interest, work, support, and everything else.
Enjoy your 2018!
founder of this version of Mutual Aid Networks, Board President of HUMANs