Last Updated August 1, 2023

NBkMA Handbook

This document is a collection of definitions and processes written out to reflect the organizational structure and operating procedures of the North Brooklyn Mutual Aid network and admin team. We chose the word “handbook” to reflect the accessible and practical nature of it: that any volunteer or organizer should be able to pick it up and better understand their role in the network and how the group conducts its work.

What this is: Each section seeks to explicitly and clearly define one piece of the ‘domain’ of our work: including membership, initiatives, and process.

What this isn’t: This is not a rigid, prescriptive, or punitive document. We are a community of humans. This document is here to help, not to rule.

The goal: Establish consensus on a set of rules and definitions (a constitution, if you will), that will set the network up for success. We consider a successful mutual aid network one that conducts business with transparency, longevity, and efficacy.

We ask that all neighbors in the NBkMA network read and follow our Code of Conduct. Abuse in any form is not tolerated. If you do not follow the Code of Conduct, NBkMA admin may suspend your participation on a temporary or definite basis.

Table of Contents

Admin | Coordinator | Volunteer | Network/Coalition Partner | Ombudsperson
Rotation | Hibernation | Orientation
Decision Making
Proposals | Voting Power
The Admin Call | Socials/Open Meetings


This section describes current categories of affiliation with NBkMA. We envision a future structure that is less hierarchical and more broadly participatory, and we endeavor to experiment with future iterations.

An admin is involved with the operation of the network as a whole. The expectation of an admin is to check up on the #admin-chat channel at least once a week, vote on any proposals, and attend meetings at least once a month, among other things.

  • Keep up to date with the #admin-chat and have your notifications on
  • Vote on any proposals
  • Attend admin calls at least once a month
  • Commit to a holistic perspective on NBkMA, beyond any one initiative
  • Transparent communication around duties/responsibilities (see Rotation)
  • Keep an up-to-date roster of active admin membership, including any admins in hibernation, what that means for proposal quorums, and with respect to possible rotation.

  • Voting Power

A coordinator is an organizer of a specific initiative. They may also be an admin, but there should be room for a coordinator to limit their responsibilities to their initiative.

  • Provide monthly updates on their initiative
    • Coordinators who are also admins can post in the #admin-chat channel, and will naturally be able to give updates in the semi-weekly admin call.
    • In the case of coordinators who are not also admins (due to capacity or for other reasons), an admin should be responsible for checking in with that coordinator. This is also the person the coordinator should feel like they can always reach out to first about initiative news or organizing assistance.
  • Attend admin calls if they have a proposal under discussion
  • Coordinate initiative volunteer calls as needed
  • Handle rotation for any leadership positions within their initiative

Any neighbor working with NBkMA on a one-off or ongoing basis.

  • Follow through on self-assigned commitments
  • Communicate clearly with project leads and initiative coordinators
  • Attend admin calls if they have a proposal under discussion (not expected to attend for the full call)
  • A volunteer should feel empowered to take lead on projects on behalf of the network (and might be asked to make a proposal to that effect)

Network/Coalition Partner
A partner group is any organization that NBkMA or its initiatives collaborates with on projects with shared aims. With Network/Coalition Partners we share resources and information, provide complementary efforts, and/or highlight and amplify each other’s work in North Brooklyn. Coalition/Network Partners can advance requests for funding or other support through admin.

The ombudsperson is a rotating position within the network to uphold the policies laid out in our Handbook and Code of Conduct. The ombudsperson is expected to facilitate accountability within NBkMA, and to make themselves available to handle internal disputes within the  network. Specifically, the ombudsperson:
  • Strives to be an informed guide on the Handbook and Code of Conduct, and consults the Handbook when ambiguous situations arise
  • Advises admin, coordinators, and volunteers on internal disputes when asked
  • Mediates conflict between admin, coordinators, and volunteers if necessary
  • Escalates conflicts or violations of the Code of Conduct to the admin team if necessary
  • Maintains a private log of internal disputes that is passed on from ombudsperson to ombudsperson
  • Nominates a successor from the admin team when it comes time for rotation

Rotation of the Ombudsperson
Unlike other admin and coordinator positions, an ombudsperson’s tenure is designed to be definite: with 12-month terms. Keeping in mind the sensitivity and potentially taxing nature of the role, its rotation is an important component in preventing both abuse and burnout.

The ombudsperson agrees to an additional 3-month period of hand-off during which they will proactively forward requests to the new ombudsperson and onboard their successor.

Deputy Ombudsperson
The Ombudsperson is encouraged to name a deputy for the duration (or any part) of their term, who can assist with the ombudsperson’s duties.

A deputy ombudsperson is expected to:
  • Join the admin group if they are not already an admin
  • Meet with the ombudsperson regularly to discuss their cases and responsibilities
  • Stand in for the ombudsperson when they are unavailable
  • Assist the ombudsperson in their work, according to capacity and need


Rotation refers to rules for the lifecycle of leadership roles and replacing admins and coordinators.

Nomination of a Successor
  • The current holder of the role begins this process by notifying the group that they would like to nominate a successor. As part of this step, they can either:
    • Nominate a specific neighbor to fill their role, ideally having already discussed it with the neighbor in question
    • Ask for the group’s support in developing a transition plan, identifying a successor, etc.
  • If the current holder of the role is in extended hibernation, this process should be picked up by the admin group on the next semi-weekly call.
  • Once a nominee is found, a time should be found to connect the neighbor with the admin group; existing opportunities might be
    • The semi-weekly call
    • The social/open meeting
    • A separately scheduled meeting

If an admin needs a break, wants to step back, or is unable to perform their responsibilities, they may go into hibernation.

If an admin has a job transition coming up, for example, and communicates to the network that they need to step back for some months, then they may hibernate until they’re ready to resume.

If an admin is not performing their duties, they are considered by default to be in hibernation. For example, if an admin misses two admin calls in a row without communicating about it, they may automatically be considered in hibernation. Another way of thinking about this is: if we don’t hear from you; we assume you need a break.

If a period of hibernation exceeds 2 months (three or more missed admin calls), the group should discuss Rotation for that role, ideally with the hibernating admin, if they are available and have capacity.
  • Admin in hibernation are not counted towards the admin total for the purpose of quorums.
  • If the hibernation period is less than a month, the admin may resume their role without further impact.

Returning from Extended Hibernation
These situations will likely be unique, and should be discussed on a per-case basis. It should be added to the next Admin Call as a discussion item. Some options for returning are:
  • Split responsibilities with the new coordinator
  • Relieve the new coordinator (if they would prefer)

When a new admin or initiative is approved, we want to ensure a successful introduction to the network. The processes outlined below are intended to ensure newcomers have the resources they need to participate and succeed in their work, while also conveying the values of mutual aid and non-hierarchical organizing.

Goals of Orientation
  • Communicate the responsibilities of the neighbor’s position
  • Add the neighbor to relevant communication channels (Slack, sharing their phone number, etc.)
  • Share relevant passwords for network accounts and resources
  • Share specific information for the role or initiative that is being assumed
  • Identify overlapping or symbiotic domains between initiatives/volunteers
  • Review the guiding principles of mutual aid and NBkMA’s mission statement with the orientee
    • A leader in the network should understand the mission and be invested in its success

Welcome Meeting
  • For New Admins or Coordinators
  • Introduce network to the new role/initiative/what will be done
  • Introduce new member to the admin group
  • New member should prepare a short intro and be ready to talk about what’s coming down the pipeline for their project

Transition Meeting
  • During Rotation
  • Either scheduled independently or part of admin call
  • An admin call where both the incumbent and incoming position-holder are present

Decision Making

Proposals are formal requests of the network for organizational or financial purposes. New, ongoing, and/or large requests for money, resources, or member bandwidth should be proposals. Also anything related to roles and membership, or partnerships with outside organizations/elected officials.

Activities Requiring Proposal and Consensus
  • Money: Any new recurring expense or any single expense over $250
  • Resources: Any significant or newly-recurring use of limited, shared assets
  • Member Bandwidth: Any significant new increase in volunteer and admin engagement affecting more than one initiative or the group overall
  • Campaigns, etc: Any significant new campaign or other initiative activity affecting more than one initiative or the group overall

For reference: current NBkMA budget; recurring expenses include weekly fridge allowance ($450 total per week—$150 per fridge, and storage locker ($300 per month).

Example Proposals
  • Add an admin to the network
  • Add a new project or initiative
    • This should always involve a discussion on the next admin-call
    • The expectation is that there should be a greater level of depth for proposals of this kind
  • Spend $900 on a new fridge
  • Reimburse buying supplies for a new weekly event
  • An event with a local councilmember

Contents of a Proposal
  • A message with context
  • The “ask”
    • Money or bandwidth, how much, and for what
    • Who’s involved, especially if it associates the network with an outside org
    • Whether it’s a one-off or an ongoing action
    • Urgency
  • How the proposal aligns with our mission/values
  • The proposer, and (if relevant) the initiative associated with it
  • The urgency
    • (typically we’ve defaulted to ‘immediate’, i.e. as soon as a quorum is reached, but we may want to specify greater or lower urgency)

Criteria for Evaluating Proposals
  • Local Focus & Local Impact
  • Builds Solidarity
  • Builds Community
  • Democratic and Accountable
  • Responsible and Sustainable

Lifecycle of a Proposal
  • Proposals are passed up to a relevant admin
  • Admins post the proposal in the #admin-chat
  • By default, proposals are passed or rejected as soon as they reach quorum
  • Admins vote on the proposal; once it has achieved a quorum it is considered finalized (as either passed or rejected).
  • It can also be paused for discussion (see Voting Power, below).
  • Certain proposals published should be published on the website (i.e., Changelog!)
    • Adding or removing team members
    • Adding or removing initiatives
    • Major modifications to the Handbook

Voting Power
All admins are asked to review and vote on proposals, with grace for the occasional absence. In general though, we look for a healthy quorum of at least half the admin group to consider a proposal properly reviewed. If an admin is concerned about low participation, that may indicate a lack of understanding or buy-in—it’s recommended that a call for discussion be made to address this.

Voting is typically handled informally, in the Slack channel, with a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down emoji (though in practice, concern warranting a no-vote will likely call for at least some discussion).

A proposal can either be passed, rejected, or paused for discussion. The proposer (or proposers) is responsible for advocating for their plan, clarifying points of confusion, and allaying community concerns. This means responding to calls for additional details or discussion with diligence and empathy.

  • Everyone should have a voice
  • We should drive towards consensus through conversation

Types of Votes
  • Yes
  • No
  • Abstain (counts towards quorum, but neither yes nor no)
  • Call for Discussion (replaces any notion of a veto) pauses voting, and adds proposal to docket for the next Admin call or an ad-hoc call with the proposer and a quorum of admins


An initiative is a dedicated arm of operation within the Mutual Aid Network.

Initiatives intentionally have independent structures and organization, supported by the network at large.

An initiative is expected to align with the mission and values of the organization. Initiatives are at minimum constituted by one or more initiative coordinators, and are often supported by volunteers.

An initiative that does not sustain its own volunteer group might be better grouped under an existing initiative.


The network’s admin team has regularly scheduled opportunities to share knowledge, discuss various initiatives, and socialize and build community with our neighbors. The two primary recurring events are the semi-weekly Admin Call and a seasonal Social/Open Meeting.

The Admin Call
The admin call is a semi-weekly meeting currently held on Monday evenings. Currently the format is broken up into major discussion items, beginning with those most urgent or timely, followed by ongoing discussion items such as reviewing the Constitution. All current admins are invited, and prior to each meeting, admins are asked to drop their updates into the week’s agenda, and add any major discussion items they wish to see addressed. Guests, i.e. initiative coordinators with items up for discussion, are also included.

  • Trickle-in/Intros
  • Assignment of Note-Taker
  • Immediate Discussion Items
  • Ongoing Discussion Items
  • Wrap-up

Socials/Open Meetings
About once a season, the network organizes an in-person social event or open meeting in public where network leaders, volunteers, and other neighbors can meet, get to know each other, and strengthen our community bonds.


a community group of
neighbors helping neighbors

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