Times are getting tougher. From rising food prices through to the forthcoming hike in energy bills, people are understandably fearful about what’s coming. Alongside of this fear is the feeling that a government in hock to corporate interests does not really care what happens to us. Any concessions that they may make will a) be implemented because they fear civil disorder or b) be done in a desperate bid to shore up their electoral support. It really does feel like we’re being left to fend for ourselves.

This is where mutual aid and solidarity in our neighbourhoods becomes absolutely vital. Luckily, despite decades of neo-liberal doctrine aimed at making us more atomised and selfish, when you scratch beneath the surface in most communities, you’ll find a lot of voluntary groups who each in their own way, want to make where they live a better place. If every voluntary group ceased operating, we would swiftly notice the difference as the social fabric starts to fray.

The building blocks of a world based on mutual aid and solidarity are already in place. We are most definitely not starting from scratch. What we want to do with Grassroots Alternatives here in Avon and with our sister project back in Essex, Alternative Estuary, is to support and promote existing community projects and inspire the formation of new ones. Also, we want to encourage networking between projects so they can bounce ideas off each other, learn from each others mistakes and when needed, help each other out.

Below is a selection of posts we’ve written this year looking at various aspects of grassroots activism and what mutual aid and solidarity mean. We’ve also looked at how groups and projects can network with each other so they become greater than the sum of their parts. We hope these will inspire you to get stuck in with a grassroots project that will make a real difference and build the community solidarity we need in these troubled times.

Change comes from the base 5.7.22

“Action for change in our communities happens because residents see a need and have lost faith in the ability or willingness of the authorities to act. There are plenty of examples where residents are doing this without any prompt from a movement or an organisation. What follows is a mix of examples from Essex and Bristol…”

A fluffy project? Nope, not us… 23.6.22

“That’s what the Grassroots Alternatives project is about. It’s about empowering people to bring about fundamental change and build a better world in the process. When you start talking about bringing power back down to the level of the neighbourhood where we can all be accountable to each other and take it away from the elites, you’re making a fundamental challenge to the status quo. Challenging the status quo is a serious business.”

Building neighbourhood solidarity and resilience 18.5.22

“With all of the grassroots community projects we promote and do our level best to support, there’s one key fundamental and that’s generating a sense of neighbourhood solidarity. We’re not talking about an exclusive sense of solidarity centred on one particular group – we’re talking about the kind that respects the variety of people that go to make up a neighbourhood.”

Finding each other and getting stuff done 7.5.22

“The idea of affinity groups comes out of the anarchist and workers movement that was created in the late 19th century and fought fascism in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Anarchist movement provides an exhilarating example of a movement, and the actual possibility of a society based on decentralised organisation, direct democracy and the principles behind them.”

Consensus, keeping it small and federating 17.2.22

“Everything we do as activists is a learning curve. None of us are perfect. However, there are things we can and should be doing to build the new world we want from the grassroots upwards. It’s in this spirit we’re putting out these pieces to add to the discussion about how we go forwards, to learn from each others experiences and to be inspired by each others ideas.”