Trade School is a self-organized learning community that runs on barter. Anyone can sign up to teach a skill, and learners offer barter items to meet the teacher’s needs. Local chapters coordinate gatherings for exchange, and open source software facilitates communication between organizers.
Started in New York City in 2009 by three young artists, this network is now running in over fifty cities. Our all-volunteer effort has reached over 20,000 students and teachers in fifty cities. Over 100 local organizers communicate daily online to support one another.
Or Zubalsky, a Trade School New York organizer, built the open source software so that the back end and front end of TradeSchool.coop can be translated into any language. Organizers in Athens, Ho Chi Minh, Bogotá, México, Quito, Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Guayaquil, and Puebla have translated the coordination platform into their local dialects. Caroline Woolard, a Trade School New York organizer, and Brittany West, a Trade School Indianapolis organizer, help new schools open.
Organizers use our open source software to translate TradeSchool.coop into any language. Organizers in México, Greece, France, Spain, and Ecuador have translated the software. TradeSchool.coop organizers are 90% female. Women attend and teach more than 60% of our classes. As a group dedicated to social justice, seeing so many women in positions of power is exciting.
Today, we are writing a book about our work together. We are a community who understand mutual aid and self-organization in our local contexts. Most of us have never met in person, but we inspire one another to prefigure the politics we want to see.
Trade School began 2009 as an experiment by a group of New York City artists who built OurGoods. This group included Louise Ma, Rich Watts, and Caroline Woolard. They received an opportunity to work with a storefront, and came up with barter for knowledge. Over the course of 35 days, more than 800 people participated in 76 single session classes. Classes ranged from scrabble strategy to composting, from grant writing to ghost hunting. In exchange for instruction, teachers received running shoes to mixed CDs to flowers. In 2012, Or Zubalsky built an open-source web platform to share with local organizers. Or spent over two months of full-time work writing code. Rich Watts and Louise Ma spent over a month designing and refining the front end. Caroline Woolard spent several hours a week talking to organizers of new Trade Schools. Today, organizers across the globe work together to keep the project moving forward. The international team includes Indianapolis organizer Brittany West and New York organizer Caroline Woolard.