Mutual Aid Networks (MAN) is a US based initiative with global reach. Its mission is “To create means for everyone to discover and succeed in work they want to do, with the support of their community.”
MAN is a natural evolution from twenty years of local economic development work in Wisconsin, beginning with the local currency Madison HOURS, then Dane County Time Bank. Organizers realized that each economic tool alone was not enough to bring about the economic and social justice they were looking for.
MAN poses several questions: What would it look like if everyone were doing the work they loved, what they felt called to do? What if everyone had the opportunity to build their skills to their maximum capabilities and then apply them to making their communities whole and beautiful?
Communities around the world have long practiced successful models for economic self-sufficiency. Among these mechanisms are:
- Timebanking which contributes to community building through the mutually beneficial exchange of services among neighbors
- Price-based mutual credit which creates liquidity within networks of local businesses
- Cooperative savings and lending which pools resources, builds capacity, and extends community wealth
- Cooperative ownership which provides collective use of resources that are difficult to access individually
While each strategy has been effective in limited local contexts, each can only go so far toward addressing shortcomings in the formal money-based economy. Mutual Aid Networks (MANs) represent a new and unique way to connect these mechanisms into a system that maximizes the strengths of each one.
Individual Mutual Aid Networks comprise sites interested in combining more than one complementary economic mechanism in a local context. Local Mutual Aid Networks are connected by an umbrella cooperative, The Main MAN, incorporated in Wisconsin and designed for global membership. The purpose of the Main MAN is to provide a platform and process for knowledge and resource-sharing and collaboration among all local MANs and their supporters.
Eight MAN pilot sites are emerging in such diverse locations as: Lansing, MI; St. Louis, MO; Allentown, PA; and Providence, RI. Various international venues are also participating in this emerging network, including Hull, UK and Bergnek, South Africa.
Mutual Aid Networks are autonomous organizations and can have any organizational form, and are based on Core Principles adapted from timebanking, commons governance, and Rochdale cooperative principles.