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Mutual Assistance Groups: How to Start One

Mutual assistance groups, or MAGs, can provide essential support in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency or catastrophic event, but making sure you have a MAG that’s responsive and effective means you also need to make sure it’s formed on a firm foundation. If you’re considering starting a MAG of your own, here are some guidelines to consider.

Forming a Mutual Assistance Group

Finding members

You’ll probably want to begin by considering your own personal contacts like family members, like-minded work contacts or church members. Initially, it’s probably a good idea to limit yourself to those you know feel similarly; many people view preppers as a little odd at best and malcontents and agitators (or just plain crazy) at worst. Spreading the word among the general populace that you’re forming a group could wind up backfiring on you. Instead, look for specific groups or events where you’re more likely to meet people with similar interests. For instance:

Above all, listen to what others are saying. Good listening skills are critical to identifying people who may feel much as you do. Then test the waters slowly by talking with people to see how much their ideas match your own.

Forming the group

Once you’ve identified like-minded individuals, pose the idea of MAG and gauge their reactions. Offer to help them with a task or chore or ask for their help so you can see how they react to the idea of working together and cooperating.

Next, invite those who are receptive to a social gathering like an informal potluck to see how everyone gets along. Open the discussion, but don’t monopolize it; letting others give their opinions and ideas helps you identify which members are most likely to be cooperative, who would make good leaders, and who might not be a good fit for the group.  Look for signs that people are enthusiastic and excited as well as indicators that might indicate someone is uncomfortable or even suspicious. Ideally, you want members who are aligned on principles as well as on the best general strategy for responding to emergency.

Now that you have your MAG members, decide on roles within the group. You might decide to assign specific teams or groups led by an individual member – for instance, a group on food preparation and storage. It’s also a good idea to have a general leadership that oversees all the groups, establishes a meeting schedule and helps run the actual meetings. Consider developing a set of rules or a constitution to help the meetings run smoothly and keep the group focused and on task.

Assigning more general tasks to all group members improves individual preparedness and helps the group grow and move forward. A good starter activity for your group might be the creation of individual 72-hour bug-out kits. Work together to develop a list of items or let members put together their own bug out bags and share their contents at the next meeting. During both individual and group tasks, assess which members are helpful and cooperative and which members might not be pulling their own weight.

Finally, remember that a MAG is not necessarily a permanent alliance. Think of membership more like a lease arrangement, where renewal is based on mutual willingness to participate and communicate. This approach keeps a vaguely familiar stranger from showing up on your doorstep five years from now saying something like, “But we’re in a MAG – you’ve gotta help me!”

Starting a MAG offers benefits beyond emergency preparedness; it’s a big step toward building a community that can provide support in all sorts of situations. In today’s fast-paced world of increasingly impersonal interactions, a MAG fills a critical role in establishing bonds that can increase your own security and enrich your life.

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