We’re so excited to announce that the Grassroots Disaster Relief Toolkit, a website platform supporting communication across our decentralized network’s disaster efforts, is now live! In collaboration with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, we designed and built the site over the last two years with a lot of love and are finally ready for folks to begin using it.
You can access the site at www.relieftoolkit.com. The site provides tools for connecting organizers and resources and nurturing our capacity for preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disaster along the principle of mutual aid. Users can create and edit profiles for disasters and communicate publicly through forums and privately with other users. Mutual aid-based groups are also able to create their own group profiles so that others can contact them. Soon we plan to add a library that will allow users to add and browse informational resources related to disaster relief.
The concept for the site and its features were originally developed through conversations with folks working in grassroots disaster relief. We also collected input through a survey asking MADR members what tools they felt they lacked when responding to disasters in their area and while organizing across a decentralized network.
We found that one of the largest barriers to deepening our network’s capacities is not having a way to share and catalog what we were learning in our local contexts with the wider network. We started dreaming about how our capacity for response would grow if we didn’t have to learn skills on our own with each new disaster. What if when we needed to learn how to mold remediate a home, we had a directory of groups with experience in that skill to reach out to? What if lessons we learned about building power through recovery could be shared for others to read and discuss? What if by creating a space for cataloging the informational resources we use, more people in our network were encouraged to create their own resources for sharing?
We also found that the network was eager to have a public forum to organize and discuss this work within. Typically, a Signal thread, Slack channel, or Facebook page are created and used to communicate across a given disaster’s response efforts. There’s utility and security in these invitation-based spaces, which the Relief Toolkit doesn’t seek to replace. But we also felt that a forum would have its benefits as a publicly accessible, archivable, and searchable container for conversations.
Our development team was really excited to build out solutions for these challenges because we’re aware of how essential it is for mutual aid-based work to be well supported in order to meet the growing need for it. Acute climate disasters are only growing in frequency and scale while the state and other institutions of power exacerbate the conditions of recovery with increased militarization, privatization, and gentrification. But with minimal resources our network uses creativity to meet survival needs while we learn what our values mean in practice. We learn so much every time we respond. Our hope is that the Relief Toolkit can help facilitate the sharing of what we learn.
The Relief Toolkit is very much still in a trial phase and a little rough around the edges. There’s still bugs we need to learn about and fix, there’s limitations that we’d like to develop beyond, and, more than anything, it’s an experiment that will help us learn what is and isn’t useful to our network. We’re grateful for folks’ patience and input as our volunteer-based small team works to fix bugs and make improvements.
If you’re interested in getting involved in the project, there’s a lot left to do. We could use more hands on deck with our content administration team to publish and update content. We also want to grow our team of frontend developers and site designers. Email us if you’re interested.
Check out the site at www.relieftoolkit.com, create a user profile, add a disaster to the map, start a conversation in the forums, or add a profile for a mutual aid-based group you’re a part of. And of course, please let us know if you encounter issues or have feedback for us. You can get in touch with us at [email protected].
A huge thanks goes to the developers who have brought this project to life. And a big thanks in advance to folks who are excited to experiment with these tools and help nurture the project’s future iterations.
We’ll look forward to seeing y’all on www.relieftoolkit.com.