My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.

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3/25/2020

An app for mutual aid groups against coronavirus in Glasgow

After a bunch of mutual networks formed over the weekend of the 14th of March in Glasgow and as I can see from the internet, are still forming around the world, I started to look into the tech side of the response to coronavirus. A lot of things happening, with Tech companies giving away free access to their content, data bundles and services, during the crisis, On the other hand the governments plan and in some cases already carried out intrusive policies that violate many established privacy rights. Many people have also lost their jobs and the capacity to renew their data packages, so have gone offline, just at a time when online forms and services become a far more attractive format than going in person to somewhere that with the lockdown is probably now closed.

So many things can be solved: a neighbour can open their wifi network for others, a group of techies can help build a local wifi network that might cover all of Glasgow and beyond, coronavirus makers on telegram have already delivered so many parts to so many hospitals in needs, using the 3d printers of all of spain and now many countries are also helping to join the maker movement with the fight against the pandemic´s effects on us all, I'm proud to say I'm a member of the new coronavirus UK makers group, and I hope to carry forward ideas there for local mesh networks and other ways  of providing basic internet access to people.

These mutual networks of neighbours, now form so many groups across glasgow, and have been helping each other to get past this pandemic in solidarity with each other, using community networks as a way around the incapacity or unwillingness of many spaces to protect anyone but those who can pay or have the power to be cured or tested. We hope that now with the new bill, we are now able to complement initiatives like the NHSs new call for volunteers. I´ve seen people buy things for others in self isolation and share tips, or information about the neighbourhood and the availability of items, even just sharing numbers to have a little chat. We have a local side from our neighbourhood group, which I hope results in more and more local groups, and then the incredible efforts of Glasgow Mutual Aid in creating a shared system to derive volunteers & resources to those in need.

I set about looking at what had been done in the way of mutual aid apps that can help that effort. The problem is simple: you have a person in need, and a volunteer, and some people are both. If you can assign a person in need to a volunteer then you allocate them in some kind of system that keeps track of who is taking care of who. It´s kind of an elaborate buddy system, but also a community able to think of other ways to help each other.

It was great to find that one of these solutions was written by an activist from the times of the HIV epidemic who also is really good with low-code poster child Airtable. He succeeded in putting together an app that really facilitates the work of signing up volunteers and people in need of support, and then being able to allocate them. It is also easily extendible and allows people to install the same thing in their area. I've been adapting it as a demo for Mutual Aid Glasgow and am actively looking for more IT people who can help out with this and other ideas. I want to see if this "mutual aid management system" is something we can use to then adapt also for space and resource management at a larger scale.

What I do think is missing is a higher level of input from health professionals - possibly those self isolating who have been helping out in the health and safety working group. So we can work with them to provide posters and info, and I think we can use this system to find ways to provide essential items to hospital staff, as well as help neighbours and businesses around us.

Another thing the system will need is the incorporation of hygiene and epidemiology knowledge. I believe that a system of volunteering with low connectivity (see graph theory!) would minimise infection. This means in practice a volunteer would prepare for a delivery route, and deliver with minimum or zero contact in the case of things like food or household items, whereas a volunteer who provides a long term service like child care would be placed with a single family

So how to install it: you have to basically fill in the airtable form or use a free account, then go to
 airtable universe, copy the base, and install it into your account.

In nextdoor, the process is to create a private group, and link this to your forms. This allows a group doing mutual aid to simply use nextdoor as they would normally (like a chat/forum) and they would also have the form functionality.

So far then we have a supporter form, a supportee form and a chat space (which can also be a different network than nextdoor depending on the group). We then have also an administration area, which serves to allocate volunteers to needs expressed by the supportees.

For a much better explanation of this, please watch the videos and read the instructions at:

https://www.chrisdancy.com/employment/2020/3/17/covid-19-neighborhood-volunteer-and-support-system

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