SOS Relief introduction

Testimonies read at the beginning

Juju: 6 months before the lockdown (March) started, the NGO I worked for at the time, was in financial trouble and wasn’t able to pay my salary. As an artist, I was able to provide for myself from that time, but when the first lockdown started, I was without income. The NGO has gone bankrupt in April, but due to administrative issues, I’m unable to receive unemployment AND I don’t qualify for any of the temporary financial support measures that are in place. The only reason I managed to keep my head above water is because my landlord is aware of my situation and has not kicked me out of my apartment… With most of my shows and assignments cancelled or postponed, I have no clue when I will be able to provide for myself (again)…

Ik was zelf gedurende 25 jaar freelancer en heb nu een vast inkomen. Mijn hart gaat uit naar moeilijkheden die collega’s nu ondervinden. Ik ondersteun dit initiatief omdat ik graag deel uitmaak van een maatschappij waarin we elkaar ondersteunen, waar vragen en geven zonder oordeel zonder schuld en schaamte mogelijk is.

Dan: I can receive support from the government until December, but RVA is taking a really long time (already more than 1,5 months) to evaluate my dossier and keep on asking to provide additional documents or information. While looking for a job and waiting for answers from the RVA, I cannot pay my rent anymore. This is why i would ask for a 1 time support so I can survive financially one more month while looking for work

Philli: Het zijn harde donkere tijden, zonder al te veel perspectieven — zeker voor de kunstenaars die door de situatie op geen maatregelen beroep kunnen doen. Het is moeilijk om niet op te geven maar dankzij het onverwachte bericht “Goed nieuws. We hebben een match gevonden” werden de dagen wat lichter en warmer. Los van het financiële (ik heb dankzij de steun die moeilijke maand echt kunnen rondkomen maar het structureel probleem blijft natuurlijk) is het zo, zo belangrijk om de steun, de warmte, de bereidwilligheid van de anderen, van de onbekende mensen te voelen. DANK U.This is really true, this is really happening, so nice and heartwarming to see that this works

Juju: I am an artist, living and working in Belgium and I am a father of a 8 year old boy. I am now queuing in the street for food charity. Walk up and down to Social Services. I can’t make ends meet anymore. The situation has brought me down completely. I don’t know how am i going to pay the rent next month and the month after that or provide for my kid anymore, for his simple needs, or my needs or anything else, pay my invoices etc I am at end of the rope.

Gosie: J’ai 30 ans et je vis à Bruxelles. Je travaille en tant que vendeur de produits bio (fruits, légumes etc…) sur différents marchés à Bruxelles. Mon activité a été brutalement arrêté sans indemnisation a l’arrivée du Coronavirus. J’ai pu subsister jusqu’à maintenant grâce a des économies et a la générosité de certains commerçants et personnes de mon entourage.

Mon activité de vendeur de fruits et légumes est sur le point de reprendre petit ÌÊ petit, mais je viens d’effectuer un accident de vélo qui me contraint d’être immobilisé pendant 1 mois sans ressource.

J’ai l’espoir d’être un peu soulagé financièrement grâce a SOS Relief et a ses donateurs.

Phili: Mijn wens is dat iedereen een basisinkomen krijgt. Als gepensioneerde heb ik dit en geef wat ik kan.

Gosie: Ik wou ook nog zeggen: ik ben ontroerd door het dankbericht van de persoon. Het bracht me kippenvel. Leuk dat jullie dit doorsturen, het deed me even opnieuw de nood te voelen en het besef dat ik dankbaar mag zijn.

Voor mij is het een vanzelfsprekendheid dat ik geef en deel wat ik heb.


Who are we? Dan

State of the Arts is an open platform run by artists and cultural workers to reimagine the conditions that shape the art world today. Our main goal is to reflect upon and promote fair arts practices and come up with possible and sustainable alternatives to the market driven art economy of today.

What is the tool? How does it work? Dan

SOS RELIEF is an online tool developed by State of the Arts that facilitates person-to-person financial solidarity. The tool connects people with financial stability to people faced with precarity.

To participate you can choose between giving or receiving.

GIVE: select the amount you want to give (50, 100, 200 or 400 euros). When we find someone who needs it, we contact the person with the bank details in order to make a direct, one-time transfer. One can give as many times as they want.

NEW: SOS Relief has introduced a new feature (nov 2020) which enables a new form of engagement, called Golden Reliever: give the same amount to a new person once a month for 6 months!

RECEIVE: select the amount you need (50, 100, 200 or 400 euros) and fill out your bank account number. When we find someone who can afford this, they will receive your bank information and make the transfer to your account. You can only receive once.

SOS RELIEF is run by volunteers of SOTA, without funding.

we can drop this ----- Little interview between Gosie and Justine about admin

Why did we create this tool? And why did we make the choices we made? history. Justine

When the corona crisis happened, we saw many people struggle, also in our very close friendship circles. Many artists for example don’t have savings due to the precarious status they are already in. We believed that a) the government should step in and take action, but at the same time we saw that the government was not acting fast enough according to the circumstances of precarious living conditions. Still now b) people fall through the gaps of governmental support. The support was for people who had eg kunstenaarsstutus, or are independent….

After a crisis meeting with the core-group of SOTA, where Justine shared her solidarity action on a micro-level in her network, we created a little workgroup, existing of Philippine Hoegen, Gosie Vervloessem, Kobe Matthys, Einat Tuchman, Nicolas Galeazzi, Kevin Fay, Laura Smolders, Dan Mussett and Justine Maxelon to think of a possible solidarity action to support people in need.

We took one month to think of possible scenarios (crowd funding, creating a fund, setting up a facebook action …) until we came to the final version of the tool. Some ideas failed because of bureaucracy and the legal status of SOTA, for instance it was legally impossible for us to create a fund. We were also in dialogue with the Koning Boudewijn stichting, but this wasn’t a good enough solution neither.

Jack Verstappen who had access to a customer service software which he transformed to our purpose SOS Relief created the SOS Relief tool as we know it now.

We formed pairs to discuss what this tool is and could propose on a more deeper and larger societal level. What society or community does it help to create? What are the values underlying the tool? How do we deal with anonymity for example. In which way does SOS Relief promote trust between strangers? And in which way does it create community?

We didn’t come up with the tool out of nowhere, but we were inspired by talks with friends and by looking at some other initiatives like Artist Relief Tree on Facebook and the Leveller from which we took or adapted some principles. A video by Roxanne Gay (play some parts?) inspired us to formulate the following beliefs for SOS Relief.

Timeline Gosie we need to speed upokmaybe straight to Jack, as its already atimeline?

  • 17th of March total lockdown, SOTA directly started to take action (questionnaire to evaluate the situations of artists caused by the Covid-19 crisis + the thinking on solidarity action group was formed)
  • 7 ht of april - for a week we test-run the tool in our own circles with mainly positive responses, but also it showed the difficulties that we couldn’t transform (eligibility of SOTA, anonymity was an issue for some people)


  • 15th of April 2020 launch of the tool (video?) + appointing three regular admins who would run the tool which needs a lot of manual administration
  • item on the VRT news on the 21st of May- framing as an initiative from artists for artists. Outcome: A lot of new and generous givers, but with the perception that it was only for artists and a lot of them wanted to give explicitly to flemish artists
  • sticker campaign
  • Selected for the DS Standard solidarity campaign. Unfortunately we didn’t win the prize, but we got a full page advertisement on the 13th of August.


  • questionnaire. What did we find out? People are willing to give a 2nd time, when reminded. Many people gave 50 Euros, so with small amounts a big amount was raised, SOS Relief is mainly circulating in the artistic sector
  • Golden Reliever campaign, “Close the gap”, aiming specifically at the artistic sector. Very successful initiative! How many golden relievers? 51
  • de morgen article concerning the “Close the Gap” action, 10th November 2020 also framed as an initiative for artists (help an artist in need)
  • prolongation of the golden reliever possibility. Surprise for us that some people raised the amount they give for the 2nd round of golden relieving. This gives us hope and we wonder how participating in SOS Relief is influencing their actions in society in general.
  • anniversary campaign “Keep the fire burning”, promotion and also celebration of the achievements of SOS Relief
  • Ultimas for SOTA (10.000 Euros) that went directly and fully to SOS Relief; every amount that is given is doubled by us from this Ultimas pot.

Jack’s presentation

Short text per slide, some without as it purely visualises something specific

  1. -
  2. In the next couple of minutes, I would like to share with you some facts and figures on the SOS relief results over time and visualise what has been achieved so far.
  3. In this chart you can see the total amount of both requested (blue line) and given (red line) according to the SOSRelief tool.
  4. Mid May 2020 tv coverage accelerated the participation
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  6. October time frame was the 2nd wave of the corona crisis, which is clearly visible with an increased growth of requested support.
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  8. Shortly after the 2nd wave, the SOSRelief team got creative and launched the Golden Reliever, which was a game changer. Golden Relievers commit over a period of 6 month, to make a monthly contribution.
  9. With the original program of single contributions the hard reality would have been

    • a gap of 130.000€ between requested and given
    • receivers would have had to wait for 11 months to get support
  10. But as mentioned, the contribution of the Golden Relievers has been a game changer

    • they reduced the gap between requested and given to 46.300€
    • and reduced the waiting time to 6 months
  11. This chart shows the flow between the givers on the left and the receivers on the right. Above the dotted line is the still unfulfilled gap, which is partly covered by the pledge of golden relievers

  12. Roughly 70% of givers did one single contribution, which covers roughly 30% of the relieved group
  13. Roughly 15% of givers did multiple contributions, which covers roughly 20% of the relieved group
  14. Roughly 15% of givers are golden relievers, together they cover roughly 50% of the relieved group
  15. Thanks for listening to some facts and figures about SOSRelief.

Beliefs in the Relief? Core-Principles - Dan

When we launched SOS Relief we intended it to be for anyone in need, not only artists. At the core of State of the Arts we advocate solidarity with other precarious workers in general, so the SOS Relief tool was also aimed at the broader field than the arts field alone.

SOS Relief was intended to provide that alternative vision about how solidarity and wealth redistribution could transform our society into one which is fairer for all, and for many it became a beacon of hope in the gloom of the cancellations and uncertainties brought about by the lockdown.

These are the Beliefs in the Relief which you can find on our website:

  1. We believe that people need cash, no questions asked.
  2. We believe in trusting that if people ask for cash now, then they need it now. So, we don’t lose time doubting motives and playing detective. Rent payments and grocery bills don’t have the time to wait now.
  3. We believe not in charity, but in solidarity. If one of us can’t make ends meet today, then tomorrow, it could easily be someone else.
  4. We believe in direct, person-to-person support. If we can help the other, then why don’t we?!
  5. We believe that right now, the world we live in just does not work for too many, and we need to think of different ways of doing things. This is an opportunity to experiment and engage in a concrete gesture of social solidarity that supports mutuality.

We think of this tool as an experiment in a different way of doing things. It has flaws.

Challenges and Difficulties Gosie

  • long waitinglist and waiting time; the tool cannot react in real time to the urgency of people
  • lack of total anonymity is challenging for people on the giver, but also the receiver side
  • we feel that we need more promotion to motivate givers, but we don’t have the capacities as a volunteer run initiative to work on promotion constantly
  • a lot of unpaid labour; 2 full days a week
  • the massive amount of admin behind the scenes
  • support of institutions difficult due to the bookkeeping
  • SOTA perceived as an artistic movement which it is, so it’s hard to communicate the message of solidarity beyond the artistic field

What could happen in the future? Justine

Becoming an open source tool, so many different communities can use and adapt it to their own needs. Is there a possibility to automatise the admin? But what does it create then in regard to the dialogue of the community created around SOS Relief? Also doing the admin helps to feel the urgency of people.

Are we going to end the running of the tool at one point?

The concept of community: What is the assett of this tool to create community? What could be a follow up experiment or next step on experimenting with solidarity?