The Feeling’s Mutual: Can we be less prescriptive – and ‘more pigeon’?

Mutual aid means that we look out for each other: you support me and I support you. In the wake of Covid-19, thousands of new groups have been set up on these principles. But is there a danger of losing the 'mutual'? In this podcast series – The Feeling's Mutual – hosts Bob Thust, Maff Potts and their guests discuss, and offer their potential solutions.

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In this episode, Maff and Bob are joined by Vidhya Alakeson, founder and CEO of Power to Change, an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England; and Angela Fell, who set up RIPEN, a training and development company, in 2016.

The conversation looks at how formal, locally-rooted organisations can create a supportive ecosystem for mutuality. How do we nurture community action without spoiling it by removing its spontaneity and informality? Formal and informal are often shown as opposites, while the role of the former should enable the latter to “grow naturally and organically in the community”.

We seem to have ended up in a world where we think that a formal service is the response to every human need

“We seem to have ended up in a world where we think that a formal service is the response to every human need,” says Alakeson. “But we could never meet every human need in that way. But more importantly, it sort of kills our human spirit.”



The tendency for institutions to formalise community action and “turn everything into a project” risks also destroying what is already there, according to Fell, who worked with local councils for more than a decade before starting RIPEN. “How do we make sure that whatever we do to move forward doesn't replace what we already have?”

Where do we start? Maybe by being ‘more pigeon’. Sit on a roof, have a natter and get to know each other.

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Podcast edited by Laura Joffre.

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