Sociology PhD Student Kerri Scheer recently received the Mitacs Accelerate Grant from the Mitacs Accelerate Program to conduct research with the Toronto Bike Brigade. The Mitacs Program sponsors research collaborations between universities and private/non-profit/government sectors to support industrial and social innovation in Canada. The Toronto Bike Brigade is a group of volunteer cyclists who have been delivering essential goods to historically excluded folks in Toronto on behalf of different community partners. Scheer is surveying Brigade volunteers to generate insight on volunteer recruitment and retention for mutual aid groups in the context of COVID-19.
Securing the grant involved submitting a proposal to Mitacs, in collaboration with the Brigade, and submitting to the U of T REB. Scheer received both an ethics and proposal approval at the end of October 2020, started the research in November, and expects to have the project wrapped up in March. The funds are being administered via the UTM business office.
Below is an abstract for the project (tentative title: Solidarity not Charity: Mutual-aid volunteer engagement, experiences, and retention strategies with the Bike Brigade in the context of COVID-19):
"While 'mutual aid' is not new (being a long-standing practice in racialized communities to make hostile capitalistic relations more survivable), the COVID-19 pandemic has produced a renewed interest in, and need for, mutual aid projects. The pandemic has highlighted, and exacerbated, existing systemic issues regarding food insecurity for historically excluded populations and communities and has amplified the strain on existing social services and charity organizations. The inadequacy of existing supports has provided an impetus to expand and examine alternative means of collective care. However, the context of a pandemic that necessitates mutual aid also presents challenges to its model. In eschewing traditional state/corporate funding to maintain control of their mandate, mutual aid groups rely heavily on an active and engaged volunteer membership; pandemic public health orders have precluded opportunities to gather and mobilize aid in-person, limiting the ability of mutual aid groups to cultivate the collective strength and social networks they rely upon to carry out their work." (cut for length)
Kerri Scheer is a PhD Candidate specializing in law and public policy. The Mitacs project is distinct from her dissertation research, but fits her broader research interests regarding administrative justice and social policy. My MA was in the Socio-Legal Studies Program at York University and my BA was in Sociology at Trent University. The working title for her dissertation is: Producing Law & Governance: A Case study of the Ontario Health Professions' Discipline Processes. Her faculty supervisor is Paula Maurutto.