The Community Infrastructure Fund for Mutual Aid

Are you doing mutual aid work in the US and seeking funds to build it up? 

The Community Infrastructure Fund is a learning project which supports organizations to develop mutual aid infrastructure.

Focused on US organizations led by BIPOC and marginalized groups, the fund will support the development of resources, tools, and people who uphold communities.

We are enduring a moment in which deep-rooted systemic crises are becoming more acute and visible than they have in decades, with widespread job loss, threats to housing security, and limited government support.

For communities historically impacted by inequitable systems and failed policies, this reality is not new. Addressing an acute need, these communities continue to provide for and support one another. As Black organizers have reminded us, “we keep each other safe.”

As the pandemic has rapidly increased the needs of communities, Omidyar Network has created a fund for US “mutual aid infrastructure” — the resources and tools supporting systems in which people and communities voluntarily care for one another for their mutual benefit. We are joined by Art in Praxis consultants Jess Solomon and Richael Faithful to steward the fund. Created as a way to learn through supporting and consulting with organizations on the frontlines, the fund is an experimental program into mutual aid. By distributing the funding in a participatory way, we aim to mirror mutual aid values and play a small part in contributing to a mutualist future that centers community and supports the individuals leading the work.

About the Community Infrastructure Fund for Mutual Aid

Criteria and Approach 

The Community Infrastructure Fund for Mutual Aid is a $475,000 fund to invest in mutual aid infrastructure and catalyze mutualist systems.

How do we define “mutual aid infrastructure”? The organizing, knowledge sharing, and convening platforms used for mutual aid work; privacy, security, or other tools for organizers; legal services that protect mutual aid work; staffing, communities of practice and other human resources that allow mutual aid to sustain, scale, and grow. We are especially looking for efforts that bridge diverse communities.

This fund is community-informed, flexible, and rapid. Grant decisions will be made by an Advisory Committee consisting of diverse mutual aid activists and social justice leaders.

We aim to:

Support the most powerful work (as determined by the communities they aim to serve) and the people behind that work 

Share knowledge on successful approaches and our learning

Support better coordination and cooperation across mutual aid circles and networks

Facilitate technology build-out that can better support and help sustain mutual aid activity

 

The application will open on June 1 – July 15, 2021 and decisions will be made by August 31, 2021.

Community Infrastructure Fund FAQ:

The Community Infrastructure Fund accepts proposals via the JustFund Portal, a digital platform established to help connect social justice funders, foundations, and funds directly with grassroots organizations and urgent projects.

  1. Go to justfund.us and click Sign Up to create an account on the site.
  2. Register as an Organization. You will receive an email confirming your registration and login information within 24 hours.
  3. Once you’ve received your login information, sign in at justfund.us.
  4. Click Create a New Proposal Draft to begin your application. You may save your proposal and continue to edit it at your leisure.
  5. Once you are ready to submit your proposal, click Submit. Make sure to select Community Infrastructure Fund so that we know to review your proposal.

If you have an existing proposal on the JustFund portal that you would like to submit to the Community Infrastructure Fund, simply log in at justfund.us, make any edits you would like, and click Submit. Make sure to select Community Infrastructure Fund so that we know to review your proposal.

For support or more information: https://justfund.us/how-it-works/?type=org

For a video tutorial on how to submit a proposal on JustFund: https://vimeo.com/446603640

Mutual aid is when communities take on the responsibility for caring for one another and building new social relations that are more survivable. It is comprised of community-directed resources including bailout funds, childcare support, lending circles, emotional support, disaster relief, and translation services. Mutual aid is one of the most effective strategies for community sustenance, becoming an increasingly active form of political participation. It has historically been practiced by many marginalized communities, especially Black, working class, immigrant, and LGBTQ+ communities

“Mutual aid infrastructure” is expansive and includes tools, tech platforms, networks, staff, even documentation, that enables responsible, sustainable, scalable mutual aid activity. This could be  organizing and knowledge sharing platforms that allow individual members to find each other and work together; privacy or security tools for activists; legal services that protect mutual aid activity; staffing, communities of practice, and other structures that make mutual aid more sustainable and scalable. Infrastructure building efforts will:

  • Support the people behind the work 
  • Enable mutual aid or organizing work to scale, share knowledge, better cooperate or coordinate; 
  • Protect mutual aid work, and its organizers, recipients, communities represented;
  • Facilitate technology build-out

The fund is prioritizing mutual aid initiatives and organizations with the following criteria:

  • The organization and their work are led by and accountable to the community being served.

    While the Fund is not restricted on the basis of race, ethnicity or any other protected group, we aim to fund encourage invitations extended to mutual aid organizers most at the margins, including BIPOC, immigrant, working class/poor, and LGBTQIA+ people.
  • Your proposal focuses on investments in mutual aid infrastructure.

    Mutual aid infrastructure are tools, tech platforms, networks, staff, even documentation, that enables responsible, sustainable, scalable mutual aid activity. This could be an organizing and knowledge sharing platform that allows individual members to find each other and work together; privacy and data security tools for activists; new techniques for pooling and distributing funds across hundreds of members; or legal services that protect mutual aid activity; staffing, communities of practice, and other structures that make mutual aid more sustainable and scalable.

    Please see “What is mutual aid infrastructure” above for more.
  • Your work is currently focused on effective strategies for community-directed resources and support, ranging from bailout funds, to childcare, translation, emotional support, lending circles, disaster relief, groceries, and more.

Grants will be primarily for 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations or fiscally sponsored projects based in the US. Applicants with other structures will be considered on a limited basis. We're aiming for a cohort of 10-20 grantees representing a range of solutions across the US mutual aid space.

We want to encourage mutual aid groups that work in all kinds of configurations to apply. We will not exclude applications on the basis of organization structure. However, if you are not a 501(c)(3) or fiscally-sponsored and your group is selected for a grant, there may be additional documentation we need from you, and processing the funds may take several weeks longer. We do recommend finding a fiscal sponsor, if that is possible.

Omidyar Network is a social change venture that reimagines critical systems to build a more inclusive, equitable, and resilient society. We invest in new models and policies to ensure individuals have the social, economic, and democratic power to thrive. You can learn more about us here.

Omidyar Network has launched this fund to understand more about participatory grantmaking and support the critical needs for mutual aid infrastructure following COVID-19. This fund is an experimental learning project and outcomes will help determine our path forward, if any, in this work.

The Advisory Committee will have eight members, consisting of mutual aid or social justice leaders and Omidyar Network staff. The Advisory Committee members are leaders of color who have experience working on mutual aid efforts within communities threatened by the current political and social climate.

Six values drive the fund: 

  •     Be Participatory
  •     Bridge Silos
  •     Flip the Dynamic of Power
  •     Share Learnings with Broader Community
  •     Be Flexible
  •     Be Rapid

The Advisory Committee will help refine the values of the fund, the grantmaking design process, and grantee selection.

The application will be open June 1–July 15. and decisions will be made by August 31, 2021.

Given the range of mutual aid initiatives, funding is dependent on factors determined by the advisory council, such as the initiative requiring funding (are you looking to launch something new, or grow an existing program?).

The total fund size is $475,000. In general, grants will average ~$25,000–$50,000 per grant, though there is flexibility for the amount to be greater or smaller.

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Advisory Board

Irna Landrum (she/her)

Irna is a writer and the Campaign Director with Daily Kos, the nation’s largest online progressive media and activism hub. She has worked on a variety of critical issues including healthcare, ending cash bail, and the 2020 census. She also leads the Daily Kos Liberation League which shares important stories focused on social justice.

Julia Solano

Julia Solano is a designer, futurist, and bamboo architect passionate about imagining and actualizing diverse and equitable futures through participatory program design and facilitation, community architecture, and immersive storytelling. 

 

Olivia Roanhorse, MPH (she/her)

Olivia Roanhorse is the Director Roanhorse Consulting, an indigenous women-led think tank. RCLLC works with unheralded communities, businesses, organizations, and individuals to achieve and aspire their self-determination through forging communities of practice, strengthening indigenous evaluation methods, creating equity through entrepreneurship, and encouraging economic empowerment from within.  Olivia is currently pursuing her Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Olivia has a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Illinois in Chicago and an undergraduate degree from Colorado College. Olivia is Navajo and lives in Albuquerque, NM.

Paris Hatcher (she/her)

Paris Hatcher is the founder and director of Black Feminist Future, a movement incubator that focuses on the dynamic possibilities of galvanizing the social and political power of Black feminisms as a blueprint for liberation. Paris has been working with organizations to amplify the leadership of marginalized communities, win public policy campaigns, and advance reproductive and sexual health justice, gender justice, and queer liberation. She co-founded and was the Executive Director of SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, one of the leading reproductive health and justice organizations in the Southeast.

Paula Graciela Kahn (she/they)

Paula is a transnational movement strategist, harm reduction practitioner, poet, and multidisciplinary performance artist. Paula is the Sponsorship & Community Relations Facilitator with Freedom for Immigrants, an organization devoted to abolishing immigration detention while ending the isolation of people currently suffering in this profit-driven system. Paula is also a consultant with Reframe Health & Justice, a collective committed to developing and delivering holistic, harm reduction solutions to social injustices.

Yin Q (she/they)

Yin Q is the co-director of Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective that advocates for sex work decriminalization & protective policies and provides resources to migrant massage parlor workers. Yin is a writer, BDSM practitioner, and the founder and Creative Director of Kink Out, which generates sex worker and kink positive art and education.

Fund Facilitators

Jessica Solomon

Richael Faithful

“This fund is a powerful opportunity to learn directly from practitioners through catalytic and participatory grantmaking, and we are thrilled to partner with Omidyar Network as fund facilitators. As community organizers, cultural workers, and practitioners of philanthropy, our hope is to spark more nuanced conversations and coordinated actions in the field that would make mutual aid more sustainable and scalable.”

Jessica Solomon & Richael Faithful

Omidyar Staff

Aniyia Williams

Special thanks to:

Julia Solano

Eshanthi Ranasinghe

Still have questions? Watch our June 28th Q&A Session.

On June 28th, 2021, potential applicants dropped in to ask Jess Solomon (Fund Facilitator) and Aniyia Williams (Omidyar Network) questions about applying for a grant from the Community Infrastructure Fund for Mutual Aid.

The Community Infrastructure Fund for Mutual Aid

Are you an organization pursuing financial support to build mutual aid infrastructure in the US?  Sign up to stay informed.