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Mutual Aid in a Fragmented Society (COVID-19 Response)

People wanting to help and people needing help want to connect but in a fragmented society it is difficult to match up goods and services with needs.

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The following are a couple of emails I wrote and sent to a number of people because I want to use my skills to help in this crisis, but have found it difficult to find a useful way to do so.

It’s rather frustrating to say the least. These may not the most exemplary emails in the world, but I think they are reflective of what a number of folks feel, even if for different skills, or other concerns.

Setting up a neighbour helping neighbour website for Midland / North Simcoe

Hi all,

I’m looking to set up something like https://neighborexpress.org/ for Midland / North Simcoe. It is a site that is designed to connect volunteers with people who need help during the Covid-19 pandemic (although it’s usefulness could extend beyond that).

I’m primarily a technology professional, however, and the full solution for this involves much more of the getting and managing volunteers. I’m therefore reaching out to everyone I can for either direct support in this endeavour or to pass this on to those who can and would be willing to support this.

I had initially just planned on setting up a Discourse instance on a VPS (virtual private server) I already have, but quickly realized that really make this works will take more than just a quickly setup forum on a very small server.

Obviously I’m looking to provide technology support and much more to try to make this happen, but I can’t do this alone.

If you know anyone who can and might help, please pass along this message!

Central location to find help, who to help, and information during COVID-19

Dear <contact>

There are a plethora of sites and social media groups popping up, even just in Simcoe North, aiming to connect helpers to those who need help (and vice versa), as well as to provide information (of varying degrees of validity and usefulness). A central resource centre is needed in each community, however maintaining such a resource (and managing the community-based centres at the provincial and federal level) is beyond the capacity of government using only government workers.

Therefore I suggest that it would be wise to engage technology professionals like myself (at least when I’m well) – https://www.linkedin.com/in/cshoredaniel – as well as community leaders and agencies to moderate resources which involve community members e.g. offering and asking for help, or answering questions (with mechanisms for removing those who are providing inaccurate or unhelpful information), and to do it quickly (i.e. not get bogged down in endless arguments about policy or doing a lot of bike-shedding).

I am ready to assist to the best of my ability, and I am sure there are many through the country, province, and town who are of the same mindset. If there is anything I can do to get this happening more quickly, please call email me or call me at [offline contact info redacted]

+++

Since my last email, I’ve been talking to others, doing research, and thinking about how I can help others during this crisis. As a technology professional (https://www.linkedin.com/in/cshoredaniel/) when I’m well, my initial reaction was to build something to solve problems like mutual aid / neighbour helping neighbour, and accessing help and resources in the community. It quickly came to my attention that there are many fragmented efforts of this variety already, so instead I’m putting my offer to help those who are in a position to create centralized resources that still tap community members (which I believe organizations, especially govt tend to be bad at).

It is my hope that this kind of approach can continue to exist in some form beyond the pandemic, but the immediate concern, obviously, is preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus while ensuring the community, province, and country remain safe and well during the shutdown.

Regards,

Daniel F. Dickinson

https://www.linkedin.com/in/cshoredaniel/

https://www.thecshore.com

[Offline contact info redacted]