Don’t Despair, Organise! An introduction to the (yet-unnamed) confederation of Solidarity Funds

The following text was contributed to Freedom by a person involved in Goose Green Solidarity Fund: a newly formed organisation for people who live in SE22 and are struggling financially as a result of COVID-19.

What is a solidarity fund? It’s a pot of money that in our case comes from the community and sometimes sympathetic organisations, that is redistributed to people who apply to it. It cuts out much bureaucracy and tries to make accessing money as simple as possible for those who need it. That’s the solidarity – it’s understanding that people applying don’t need a ‘reason’ that we vibe with, that they understand their own finances and we just have to be there for them. This is a historical imbalance, not something to be judged.

We set up the Goose Green Solidarity Fund with these thoughts – that we wanted to do practical material aid for our community, give money without judgement or barrier to people who self-determined they were in need, but that it was linked not just to them, but to the historical struggle to reverse the distinct and devastating impacts of wealth inequality that have occurred as a result of hundreds of years of colonialism, privatisation, accumulation, struggle. This whole project started small but has always had great ambitions. I think any radical or revolutionary change is so – within your capacity and limits, but with unlimited reach in mind. 

In our area, the inequality is pretty obvious – SE22 London is a quiet idyll which is filled with rows of Victorian Terraced houses, boundaried gardens, but also has several council estates too, somewhat hidden and definitely not on the forefront of the gentrified image of the area. But there are 12,000 people here and all 12,000 of them don’t own their own terraced house or work in the city for a high salary. So we started from there.

There were two of us at first, and now there’s four, which is a good number to work with. We met through the Mutual Aid group that had already been set up in the area. We now work autonomously from them, as we’ve found it easier to go through our own processes with a stronger shared understanding of the goal of the project. This ties into the ethos of the fund – we co-wrote a constitution which includes our expenses policy, and has explicit aims around 

in terms of how it practically works. We wanted to find the most transparent system we could, which for us has been the Open Collective through a group called The Social Change Agency. They act as a fiscal host of sorts, holding our money and distributing it once we’ve okayed the requests. That’s a pretty simple process – if they live in the area, we give them the money, and there are rarely situations where we have to think through it any more than that – it’s not up to us to decide how people spend their fortnightly £50 (which is what we can afford), though it does challenge us in different ways as it is also about learning to trust your fellow human in a very practical way. We’re currently setting up a phone line too so that there’ll be greater access for people without the internet, and also homeless people too. It’s about creating a sustainable infrastructure that can be a vehicle for class unity. It demonstrates foremostly that people desire to help each other, that Mutual Aid is something to be nurtured, and that we can build these links within our communities. We don’t have to look to parties or even revolutionary organisations to create change, we can do this ourselves, and as such, this is about empowerment.

Alongside all of this has, of course, been COVID-19. Despite the setbacks and frustrations of organising online, we’ve somehow been able to do it. We’ve met up once or twice to distribute leaflets about the fund to local shops. Even more inspiring and filled with potential is the fact that we’ve been able to help three other funds set up from as far away as Newcastle to back down in south London, in Peckham and Herne Hill. All the links to their fundraisers, including our own, will be attached at the bottom of this article.

What is our ethos? Here is our constitution itself:

“We the undersigned agree to administer this fund on the basis of solidarity, not charity.

We receive contributions with gratitude and recognize that when money is given to residents from the fund, it is given as a no-strings-attached gift. 
We are non-judgmental and will not ask recipients of funding to provide evidence of how the money is spent. We are against all forms of oppression, including but not limited to racism, sexism, ageism, transphobia, xenophobia and classism.

We are self-organised, independent from political parties and other institutional authorities.

All decisions made by the Goose Green Solidarity Fund are made with the input and agreement of all who administer the fund.

We commit to actively seeking out those in need of aid. 

Particulars of the Constitution:

  • That the Goose Green Solidarity Fund will always aim to grow the capacity of the amount of funds we are able to provide to people in the ward.
  • That the GGSF will aim to share resources and actively assist the setting up of other Solidarity Funds across the UK and particularly to build a London-wide network of SFs.
  • That the GGSF will aim to introduce the handling of cash as soon as possible after the lockdown has eased
  • That the GGSF will always seek to alleviate and support improving the material conditions of the poorest and most in need in the ward
  • To maintain a minimum of three administrators, and always aim for a higher number.
  • That the GGSF, in accordance with the six points making up the ethos of the GGSF, will remain self-organised, independent from political parties and institutional authorities.

  • That the GGSF aims to facilitate the redistribution of wealth from higher-earning to lower-earning sections of society.”

I suppose all that’s left to say is where to find us – we are always looking for contributions, but also helping to amplify our message is grand too. We also provide a DIY guide to building your own fund – email us or tweet at us @fundgoose using the information below!

You can find us, the Goose Green SE22 Solidarity Fund, and the other funds mentioned in the article here:

Goose Green SE22 Solidarity Fund:

Peckham Solidarity Fund:

Newcastle Solidarity Funds:

  • Email: arthurshill.mutualaid(at)outlook.com
  • Phone: 0191 6911 363 for Arthurs Hill
  • Website
  • Email: Elswickmutualaid(at)gmail.com
  • Phone: 07393101018
  • Website

Note from the editor: additionally, if you are able to please support the UK Mutual Aid group. Founded in 2018, it is an intersectional support group for marginalised people in the UK. (zb)