Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

Dr. Teresa Mares


Mutual aid, relationality, leverage points, neoliberalism, community, reciprocity


Neoliberal economic policy has exploited and expelled increasingly great numbers of people from spheres of economic influence via a vast web of interconnected subterraneous systems. This web of systems intentionally functions to generate wealth amidst a small percentage of people via such exploitation and expulsion. The systems thinking theory of leverage points suggests that systems will not transform unless their goals and paradigms change, and, ultimately, unless those who constitute the system have the ability to transcend paradigms—to use them as tools rather than ultimate truths. Relationality—the paradigm that no one and nothing exists in isolation—intentionally illuminates the interconnections that render the world as it is today, and mutual aid is a tool that people have used for millennia to help themselves survive in the world by helping others do the same. This research aims to explore whether and how a cooperation between the paradigm of relationality and the practice of mutual aid might have the potential to serve as a leverage point to promote transformation of the neoliberal market system into a more equitable, just, and sustainable one. I conducted fifteen interviews with people in four different communities in Burlington, Vermont in which I am involved. In each of these communities, I thought I had seen mutual aid happening in ways ranging from overtly organized to merely habitual. To get a sense of how participants thought about relationality and mutual aid in each community, I asked them to describe to me their social network, their relationship to the given community I was studying, how they think about helpingothers, and how they think about connection in general. Based on my own observations and lists of needs that participants provided during interviews. I also examined the ways in which participants were meeting each other’s needs in each network. Leverage points for systems transformation are sometimes hiding among everyday activities and underlying assumptions about how the world works. By examining these aspects of everyday life, it is possible to get a glimpse into how such leverage points come together, and subsequently how they might have potential to affect systems transformation.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.