The Palgrave Handbook of Volunteering, Civic Participation, and Nonprofit Associations

pp 393-416

Self-Help and Mutual Aid Group Volunteering

  • Carol Munn-GiddingsAffiliated with
  • , Tomofumi OkaAffiliated with
  • , Thomasina BorkmanAffiliated with
  • , Grace L. ChikotoAffiliated with
  • , Jürgen MatzatAffiliated with
  • , Rolando Montaño-FraireAffiliated with


This chapter explores a type of formal volunteering, carried out in groups, by peers who share a problematic health, economic, or social condition or situation. Peers meet together in self-help/mutual aid groups (SH/MAGs) to alleviate or improve their own circumstances. Of particular importance are the reciprocal social relationships in these groups — active participants both give and receive support. The chapter traces the broad history of SH/MAGs, reflecting similarities and differences in the co-authors’ regions of the world. The benefits that accrue to people active in SH/MAGs are highlighted at a personal, collective, and community level. The authors explore how self-help/mutual aid is enabled, given the challenges currently facing this form of volunteering, including global economic austerity and the dominance of professional and paternalistic modes of help.