Humbling experience cause they don’t have much but were offering plenty. Why would I leave this?

Mutual Aid

Mutual Aid

In the past few years attention  to mutual aid, the spontaneous and voluntary assistance people give to each other in crisis has increased markedly. From the street-level WhatsApp groups that emerged during the Covid-19 lockdowns, to for instance the efforts by Sudanese civilians caught up in the recent re-ignition of conflict in the country, it is clearer than ever that the first line responders in any crisis are communities and the help we as individuals render to each other.

Mutual aid is nothing new, indeed the way communities organise themselves and respond to crises is the very basis on which the “survivor and community based response” (sclr) approach was developed. With the global localisation agenda continuing to face significant challenges in meeting its goals, and the increasing pressure on the humanitarian system, it is time for the formal humanitarian system to take a critical look at how it can better understand and support this natural human tendency to help each other.

Below, we have gathered some of the recent research and discussion on mutual aid:

Mutual Aid in Sudan: the future of aid?

Nils Carstensen & Lodia Sebit


“Every village & town we passed thru people would come out with their kerkade (hibiscus) juice and cold water for the ‘Khartoum travellers’. Humbling experience cause they don’t have much but were offering plenty. Why would I leave this?” – Tweet, 24 April 2023, @dalliasd

The chaos and destruction of the recent conflict in Sudan has been met by a wave of efforts by ‘ordinary’ Sudanese people to help themselves and those around them. At the same time, traditional humanitarian aid has struggled to mount a response to the crisis.
This recent piece, published by the Humanitarian Practice Network, explores the glimpses of mutual aid we can see through media reporting and social media emerging from Sudan.


Blog: The feeling’s mutual: the humanitarian sector must help local people and communities to help themselves

Simone di Vicenz (Christian Aid & L2GP)

October 2023

A blog sharing the key takeaways from the online practitioner-donor dialogue on mutual aid hosted by ALNAP and L2GP. “Mutual aid is real and big. It works at scale, exists outside the humanitarian system and is crucial to the people affected by crises worldwide.”

The French think tank Group URD is also engaged with research into mutual aid and its potential. Follow their work here.

Blog: From localizing the international system to actually supporting locally-led action

Vijayalakshmi Viswanathan, Alnap

October 2023

“Truly supporting locally-led action means beginning with the existing strengths of that particular crisis-affected ecosystem.” This blog from ALNAP presents examples of mutual aid from different crises and argues for the need for systematic change in how we deliver international humanitarian assistance.


A practitioner-donor dialogue on mutual aid supporting crises affected communities to help each other

Practitioners from Kenya, Myanmar, Sudan and Ukraine shared their experiences with locally-led response, and donors then reflected on how they are supporting locally-led response and what more they can do.

Frontline Civilian Response in Sudan: Saving lives and the importance of the localization agenda

A conversation with USAID Administrator Samantha Power and frontline Sudanese responders, hosted by USIP. This highlights the crucial nature of the localisation agenda for supporting civilian-led crisis response.


Rethinking Humanitarianism: How mutual aid in Sudan is getting international support.

“As international NGOs and the UN struggle to access certain areas, decentralised mutual aid networks – known as emergency response rooms (ERRs) – have stepped in to fill the vacuum.”

In this podcast hosts Heba Aly and Melissa Fundira speak to Hajooj Kuka (Khartoum State Emergency Response Rooms) and Francesco Bonanome (UN OCHA Sudan) about shifts in the international humanitarian system to support local mutual aid.