Philanthropy from a transnational and grassroots perspective

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How mutual aid and community care ignite further grassroots organizing possibilities for long-term change: Reflections from the case of Kapit-Bisig Laban COVID Montreal

Kapit-Bisig Laban COVID MontréalThis article reflects on the Montreal chapter of a national mutual aid network, Kapit-Bisig Laban COVID (Linked Arms in the Struggle Against COVID), that was organized by Filipino community organizations, allies and concerned members of the community from early 2020 to 2021. The paper also integrates findings from interviews done with Filipino community organizers and essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Mutual aid and community care are not new models of voluntary giving and exchange outside of state provisions. However, these networks proliferated during the COVID-19 pandemic in response to increased vulnerabilities across communities, including those lacking social safety nets and/or access to basic resources. Mutual aid is set in a belief that cooperation and unity in sharing resources can help overcome common struggles and resist individualism and competition as a form of advancement.  

In this paper, I explore how the Kapit-Bisig Montreal mutual aid network responded to the COVID-19 realities of Filipinos in Canada who disproportionately hold essential jobs, can face social isolation, and are often a part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TWFP).1 These jobs and other social factors placed them at greater exposure to health risks and rights abuses as well as a lack of access to important resources.  

Another reality in building mutual support is that many Filipinos abroad face a phenomenon known as “double provision” wherein their employment and resources are tied to supporting families in the Philippines in addition to building a life in their new country. Thus, this mutual support and notions of giving and exchange inherently extends beyond territorial bounds. 

The Kapit-Bisig Montreal network combined a case work and collective action model that recognises how this emergency-based response is part of a broader movement connecting displacement and rights in the Philippines to the realities of people abroad. The organizing groups were able to pool their resources, and lessons emerged about strengthening alliances to weather the storms of crises. However, these transnational grassroots groups continue to be challenged by infrastructures and capacities that may not be in line with core funding opportunities, especially facing a lack of charitable status to apply to many funding opportunities to begin with. Nevertheless, grassroots mobilization and organization continue by directing the accountability of their missions and activities toward the everyday realities of their communities. 

Philanthropic initiatives, grant-making foundations, and community organizations that support migrants and diasporic communities have much to learn from the transnational narratives and mobilization strategies of these on-the-ground grassroots initiatives who may benefit from more flexible, long-term and solidarity-building financial and material resources. 

Colting-Stol, J. (2022). How mutual aid and community care ignite further grassroots organizing possibilities for long-term change: Reflections from the case of Kapit-Bisig Laban COVID Montreal (Linked arms in the struggle against COVID). Retrieved from:

This article is part of the November 2022 special edition. You can find more here