Trade School is an alternative, self-organized school that runs on barter.
It works like this:
1) Teachers propose classes and ask for barter items from students. For example, if you teach a class about making butter, you might ask students to bring heavy cream, jars, bread, music tips, clothes, vegetables, or help with something like finding an apartment.
2) Students sign up for classes by agreeing to bring a barter item for the teacher.
Trade School is for people who value hands-on knowledge, mutual respect, and the social nature of exchange. We believe that everyone has something to offer.
The Trade School network is made up of self-organized barter-for-knowledge schools across the world. It started in 2010 with a small group of friends in New York and spread to Virginia and Milan in 2011. In 2012, we built a better version of our barter-for-knowledge web platform so that we could share it with organizers elsewhere. If you want to organize a Trade School in your area, go here.
Who are we?
We are a constantly expanding group of curious, rigorous, and compassionate people all over the world. Information about the organizers and volunteers who make each Trade School location happen can be found in the about section on their homepage.
Who maintains this site?
We are Or Zubalsky, Caroline Woolard, Louise Ma, and Rich Watts. We work on Trade School in New York with a bunch of other organizers, but we also want to see Trade School grow anywhere people are excited about it. We are the people who built this site, wrote this text, and will fix software bugs and answer emails about your local Trade School.
Why did we get involved?
Louise Ma (front end design): I’m interested in an open forum where theoretical and technical investigations can co-exist, where low-brow and high-concept can cross-pollinate. I’m for an environment where people are brought together by the passionate interests they share with their peers.
Rich Watts (front-to-back-end design): I’m involved because I believe people teaching other people are people at their absolute best. I think barter provides for the type of subjective value that allows the exchange of knowledge to flourish unencumbered by the expectations and stress of money. The world will be a better place when everyone takes time out of their day to teach someone else something.
Caroline Woolard (people corresponding): I am involved because I want to encourage cooperation and discussion about value. Trade School demonstrates that value is subjective, and that people are interested in supporting one another. Where else will you find a teacher’s knowledge (the class) right next to the teacher’s wish list (the barter items)? Trade School is a small part of the solidarity economy- economic practices that reinforce values of mutualism, cooperation, social justice, democracy, and ecological sustainability. I hope Trade School allows mutual respect to emerge between people. With mutual respect, anything is possible.
Or Zubalsky (computer engineering): I think my reasons changed over time. At first, I got involved because I was just excited to learn about this project. I thought this was a great idea and I wanted to know more about it and possibly take some part in. I thought (and still think) Trade School is a wonderful model for education which has the potential to be accessible to many different people. I like how simple it is. As I got more involved, I started becoming more interested in seeing how this model can work in different countries and communities. The idea of this happening makes me happy. Also, I have to say that I was never a part of a group like this, and it’s interesting to even just be in this environment.
How did it start?
It all started in late 2009 because three of the five co-founders of OurGoods (Louise Ma, Rich Watts, Caroline Woolard) were given an opportunity to work with GrandOpening, and we had a wild brainstorm session about many possible barter storefronts. We decided that “barter for instruction” had a lot of potential.
So, from February 25th to March 1st, 2010, we ran Trade School at GrandOpening in the Lower East Side. Over the course of 35 days, more than 800 people participated in 76 single session classes. Classes ran for 1, 2, or 3 hours and ranged from scrabble strategy to composting, from grant writing to ghost hunting. In exchange for instruction, teachers received everything from running shoes to mixed CDs, from letters to a stranger to cheddar cheese. We ran out of time slots for teachers to teach and classes filled up so quickly that we had to turn people away. This made us think, “we should keep doing this!” We opened again from February 1st through April 1st in 2011 in an empty school, paying rent with the support of charitable donations and running on the enthusiasm and donated time we could muster with 8-20 volunteers.
In 2012, Or Zubalsky said, “I want to help you make a system to share with anyone in the world.” Or spent over 2.5 months of full-time work writing the code for this software, Rich Watts and Louise Ma spent over a month designing and refining the front end, and Caroline Woolard spends 5-10 hours a week, year-round, answering emails and talking to excited organizers of potential Trade Schools. Though we are based in New York, we now we have Trade Schools in many parts of the United States (Los Angeles, Virginia, New Haven, New York) as well as across the globe (Milan, Singapore, London, Paris, and Gaudalajara so far).