News and Articles

Caremongering and Reciprocity

Photo Credit: Zachary Simmons
March 26, 2020

Isolation. Quarantine. Distancing. While these are some of the words we are hearing over and over as we live through the COVID-19 pandemic, what could use more coverage is the extraordinary care, connection, and support that is being mobilized in communities around the world. 

In a movement that has come to be known as “caremongering,” ordinary people are forming volunteer networks through digital platforms and offering help to bring groceries and carry out other necessary tasks for those most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Maclean’s recently documented this movement that is spreading across Canada in: “The ‘caremongers’ getting food and essentials to the country’s most vulnerable.” 

These volunteer networks are a form of mutual aid — a reciprocal relationship that has existed in our society for as long as humans have had social connections. Reciprocity embodies a core value at SCSC — both as a pillar for conducting research and programming, as well as a subject for inquiry. A parallel system that draws on mutual aid is “time banking,” a reciprocity-based work trading system in which hours are the currency. Dean Velentzas, a 2018 Social Connectedness Fellow, found in his research that time banking had the “potential to bridge divides between people, overcome negative stereotypes, and empower members of society who are disenfranchised by current economic systems.” The grassroots caremongering movement holds similar potential and stands as a living statement to community resilience and social connectedness in action. 

We are currently at a crossroads amidst this pandemic — with fearmongering, social exclusion and economic downturn on one hand and caremongering, social inclusion, and a currency of care on the other — the path we must choose is clear.