Project of the Day: The Mutual Aid Networks in Madison, Wisconsin and beyond

I often cite this project, along with, as exemplifying attempts to go beyond the fragmentation of the alternatives, in order to create true economic value streams across and beyond a given territory. In this context, the work of Stephanie Rearick and team is exemplary.

Stephanie Rearick explains:

“A Mutual Aid Network (MAN) is a new type of cooperative that pools and stewards value and rewards good work with cooperative economic tools such as timebanking, business-to-business mutual credit, and cooperative saving, lending and investment models.

The goal is to create an infrastructure that empowers people to come together for common purpose and generate, share and steward the resources needed to realize their common goal. This infrastructure will support networks that overlap, connect and share with other networks operating under common principles and using similar yet varying tools and approaches.

We have incorporated a cooperative registered in the state of Wisconsin, which has excellent cooperative law and history. This establishes the framework for future MANs.

The Mutual Aid Network (MAN) framework can be adapted to any size, for any group of people choosing to join together for common purpose that fits agreed-upon streamlined core principles and standards. So you could make a Wisconsin MAN, a neighborhood MAN, a MAN for artists who wish to support each other, a global MAN to develop and steward the infrastructure needed by local MANs… more detail and examples here.

We aim to help establish at least six pilot sites in different locations around and outside the US. The team that has developed the MAN concept to date, Time For the World, and the initial MAN pilot sites will create the legal infrastructure to enable additional MANs to form easily, providing templates of needed agreements and documents for easy localization. Each MAN site will be expected to assist new sites, smoothing the way for more rapid spread, improvement and replication.

The mission of Mutual Aid Networks is to create means for everyone to discover and succeed in work they want to do, with the support of their community.

The community uses timebanking, mutual credit, shared resources (like tool libraries, shared equipment and supplies) and cooperative saving, lending and investment models (like the Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco, JAK bank in Sweden, and New Zealand timebanks’ Savings Pools) to generate, steward and allocate resources toward the group’s agreed-upon goals. All of these models and tools are currently in use around the world, all with success to varying degrees.

This project is an effort to connect them in a comprehensive system capable of:

* Identifying need for, generating, and compensating all kinds of work, not just that which is routinely valued in the market economy

* Facilitating leadership, resources, and skill development within a community to meet its own self-identified needs in a manner that generates and sustains healthy, human-scaled community and economic development.

* Essentially, providing groups of people with the skills and resources to come together to develop and implement projects and share the wealth they generate.

* Using trans-local learning and sharing to rapidly improve, replicate and scale. This means that all MANs will actively share their processes, tools, outcomes and improvements, and support each other in their efforts. It also means that each local MAN has access to a much broader array of expertise and resources than it would were it only local.

* Create ways to harness the value inherent in communities in ways that generate more collective wealth and rebuild the commons – indigenous community economic development.”

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