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..

La Trueca Quito 2012, animated and edited by Edu Donoso.

Trade School New York 2011, shot and edited by David Felix Sutcliffe.

Trade School Everywhere 2012, shot and edited by Alex Mallis.
With footage from Trade Schools around the world.
Animation by Jeff Sterrenberg.
Graphics by Louise Ma.

Trade School Glasgow video from 2011, shot and edited by Charlotte Otter.



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?

Or Zubalsky built this site and the TS web team will fix software bugs. The Trade School outreach team (Or Zubalsky, Rachel Vera Steinberg, Caroline Woolard, Christhian Diaz, Laura Billings, Brittany West, and many more organizers) will teach you how to use the software on the back end and answer emails about organizing your local Trade School.

Why did we get involved?

Caroline Woolard (TS outreach team): 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 (TS outreach and web team): I am involved because Trade School offers an opportunity to have a continuous dialog about what education can be and the forms it can take. We can look at the ways the project works in the different areas it is taking place and learn from each other. We can question both existing structures of higher education and ourselves and be able to take small steps to change the way we run. The principles of cooperation operate on various aspects of the project: from the classroom, through organizing a Trade School chapter, to organizing with people from other areas. Being able to do that and encourage rethinking notions of value and building relationships through mutual respect is amazing.

Laura Billings(TS London and support team): Originally I got involved because we knew about TS New York and were impressed by its simple but very effective core project model and principles. And thanks to the generous and open way TS operates, we were able to try it out in London. Now we continue to run TS London and to help more new co-founders open in their area because the Trade School model successfully creates connections, flattens hierarchy, and surfaces and shares an astounding and inspiring range of skills and passions - everywhere they are running.

Rachel Steinberg (TS NY, outreach and support): At first I started organizing with Trade School NY because I was interested in the structure of horizontal peer learning, and I wanted to help facilitate this process while learning about it. I discovered that behind the local chapter, there lies a replicable model for a system of education driven mutual aid which is growing internationally. For me it is important that every chapter has agency over itself, while still able to seek support from the larger group.

Brittany West(TS Indianapolis and outreach team) I was immediately drawn to this concept because I felt trapped and disconnected in the traditional education system. I wanted to devote my energy elsewhere, towards a project that was bigger than myself, one that got me involved in my community, but also a project that allowed me to pursue a number of different interests. This model of education is what I was always looking for. The principles our schools are built on question value and worth, foster community and build strong relationships. I have time for anyone who is interested in creating this type of connection that Trade School exists to make.

Timothy Ahrensbach(TS Westminster): I first experienced the addictive power of Trade School when doing an introductory baking class at Trade School London. Here I rediscovered a love for teaching outside the class room and for learning after formal education. From running TS Westminster out of Impact HUB Westminster we got a chance to experiment even further with the boundaries between work, play, community building and learning.  

Eduardo Aguilar (TS Guadalajara): Nosotros nos unimos para ofrecer nuevas alternativas de intercambio sin dinero, nuestra idea es generar proyectos que fomenten los principios de la economía solidaria para la construcción de una nueva sociedad: Cooperación, Beneficio mutuo, Reciprocidad, Amistad y Felicidad, son ejes que nos permiten trabajar para nuestro objetivo.

Robbert Bouman (TS Amsterdam launch team): I got involved because I believe there is tremendous value in teaching eachother in this fashion. Just like we did many centuries ago. Helping TS Amsterdam launch has also brought me new personal relationships with people I would have never met otherwise. TS is great value and great fun.

Simon O’Rafferty (TS Cardiff and TS Dublin ) I got involved in Trade School after a social design group I am involved in spent a short while experimenting with different models of skills and knowledge sharing in our city. We also launched Trade School in Dublin and there is now an active team of people running it there. I was particularly interested in the potential of providing access to learning and teaching experiences for people normally excluded (including intentionally) from formal education. e.g. we have run a TS in Cardiff where all the teachers were refugees and have been running TS in an inner city community centre in Dublin.

Laura Howe (TS Cardiff) I first found out about Trade School when I attended a workshop run by a lady called Tessy Britton called The Travelling Pantry in which Tessy showed some great examples of collaborative community projects. I thought Trade School was a great idea and shared it with the social design group I am involved with. What interested me was that Trade School makes people think about the skills and abilities that they have and realise that other people think these skills and abilities are valuable. It’s empowering.

Rachel Arnould(TS Paris) I have discovered Trade School while co-building the ground of what has become the OuiShare community. At first, the idea was only to experiment the concept, but soon enough we were able to see its real potential: Trade School is not about being forced to learn specific skills, or giving a specific course to people with high expectations, but to share and learn in an environment where everyone is considered equal. And this fact has just empowered people immediately. This added to the flat and community driven organization that lies behind Trade School in general, are some of the many reasons why I am involved.

Mariana Martínez (TS Mexico) Encontrar Trade School para nosotros fue un gran descubrimiento. Proyectos como éste, nos permiten ver nuevas y mejores alternativas para hacer sociedad. La educación es la primera y más importante fuerza que nos permite empezar a mover viejos e inútiles esquemas sociales. Trade school cd. de México es un proyecto que empieza, sin embargo, nos sentimos sumamente entusiasmadas de pertenecer a una red mundial con un espíritu de solidaridad y equidad.

Trade School's Kickstarter campaign video from 2010, shot and edited by Alex Mallis.

 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 50 cities internationally.