Solidarity funds: When donating is much more than charity
After the country’s first lockdown showed laid bare the inequalities in our society, over ten resident-run solidarity funds have now started, aiming to redistribute wealth locally.
Solidarity Funds are not a new concept, Black, Queer, intersectional and disabled activist networks have pioneered mutual aid for many years. And the mutual aid groups created to support neighbours this Spring were good, but were largely based on the idea that everyone’s lives were broadly fine until lockdown hit. But that simply isn’t the case for many of us.
In South London, where these new Solidarity Funds started, the idea stemmed from resident Mutual Aid groups, where although offers of food and collecting prescriptions was useful, for some, what was really needed was money to put food on the table, heat homes and buy essential goods.
The idea for the solidarity fund is simple, anyone can donate, and anyone living within the funds postcode are able to receive funds, provided there is money in the Solidarity Fund bank. There is no criteria, no vetting process, and all money is handled by the Social Change Agency so there is no risk of money going elsewhere.
Goose Green was one of the first funds to be set up in the wave of Solidarity Funds. Since starting this summer, Herne Hill, Goose Green, SE16, SE15 and Newham Solidarity fund have redistributed over £24,000 to over 10 residents.
Annie, one of the founders of the Herne Hill Solidarity Fund said:
Inequality has always existed in the UK, and the scale of it has been further laid bare by COVID-19. We wanted to do something practical and local to help in a small way to address economic inequality in our community and support each other where we can.
Solidarity Funds are not charity, the contributions are taken with gratitude, and requests from the fund are sent to residents, as a no-strings-attached gift. Whilst systemic change is needed, the funds aim to facilitate the redistribution of wealth from higher earning to lower earning sections of society locally as a small practical step to combat wealth inequality.
Asking people to contribute to the fund for no particular cause/person is sadly unusual in many aspects of our lives today. Yet this is the aim of solidarity, to encourage people to recognise their wealth privilege and “donate”, no questions asked, in order for others to use the funds as they wish. The fund trusts work on the basis that individuals themselves know what they need and how to get it.
One of the people who received funds from one of the funds said:
This Fund shouldn’t need to exist. The fact that it does, and it has helped many local people such as myself and family can equally be seen as a triumph of social action and a damning failure by both local and central government to take an honest, pragmatic look at the inadequacy of funding provided to those out of work, for whatever means – with particular attention to the current pandemic.
The Fund has for many, including myself, meant the difference between being cut off by a service provider such as gas, being able to eat two meals a day rather than one, or none and being able to feed my brother rather than him going hungry.
So far, there are 9 Solidarity Funds set up in this way in England, with more in the pipeline. The ones currently active are: Goose Green, Herne Hill, SE15, SE16, SE22, Newham, Brent, Elwswick (Newcastle), Arthur’s Hill (Newcastle).
To support some of the South London Funds supporting, please contribute to the South London Solidarity Fund Winter Crowdfunder.
If you are interested in contributing or requesting funds from a specific fund, search their names at Open Collective.
If you are interested in starting up a Solidarity Fund where you live, contact firstname.lastname@example.org