Favourite local grassroots group

Supplied photo

1. Mutual Aid Society

2. Bear Clan Patrol

3. Winnipeg Police Cause Harm

In anarchist theory, “prefiguration” describes movements that put into practice the ideals of the world they are trying to create. There are few better examples of what that concept looks like in practice than the Mutual Aid Society (MAS).

Launched by local anti-capitalist organizers during the spring 2020 lockdowns, MAS is a 12,000-member Facebook group that helps connect community members in need of essentials – diapers, cat litter, air conditioners, toilet paper, groceries and more – with people who have something to spare.

MAS admin team member Rae Gunn describes the group’s ethos as “solidarity, not charity.”

“We’re all here to help each other, and I think that’s why we’ve seen this big increase in growth,” they say. One of the group’s core features is reciprocity: members who post requests for help one week will regularly be back a week or two later offering a donation.

“People are realizing ‘This isn’t a handout. I don’t have to be ashamed. I have something that somebody else needs. I’m going to hand that out,” Gunn says. “It’s that community mindset that I think we’re helping to rebuild within Winnipeg.”

Gunn says the admin team’s mix of backgrounds helps the group stay in touch with the ways vulnerable community members tend to fall through the cracks of more formalized avenues for support.

“Our own admin team is full of people who struggle with paycheck-to-paycheck life ... and what those barriers are, and so we know that there are those gaps for everybody else in our community,” they say.

MAS successfully incorporated as a registered non-profit this year. Gunn hopes this will help the group build toward having centralized locations to reach those without internet access.

“We want to have (a) setup of ‘You need a winter jacket? Come on down, we’ve got a winter jacket. You need food while you’re here? Take some food.’ ... the big wish list is to just not turn anybody away.”

Published in Volume 78, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 30, 2023)

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