If you've run into someone who said they were bringing dark chocolate in exchange for taking a Jazz class, or used the word barter recently, you were probably referring to Trade School Indianapolis. Trade School Indianapolis is part of an international collective of alternative, self-organized schools that run on barter. Two years ago we wrote a post about them on our blog when they were first getting started. Since then, a small group of individuals have volunteered their time to run and grow the project. What started as a few classes, grew to over 200 barter-based classes hosted in various areas of Indy.
What does this success mean? It means that the community supports this idea, there is a need for educational opportunities that aren't based on a monetary exchange, and that this learning environment creates a true sense of community you won't find anywhere else. Their efforts have proved that relationships of trust and mutual aid, the voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit, is what builds a community.
The really neat part about our branch here in Indianapolis is that it doesn't stop here. The Trade School collective consists of curious, rigorous, and compassionate people all over the world who volunteer their time to make Trade School happen. In 2014, our school became a coordinator for Trade School Everywhere, helping new Trade Schools open all over the world. Our branch has helped schools in Los Angeles. Port of Spain, West Africa, Halifax and even Hong Kong start their own school.
Like any growing organization though, their all volunteer efforts need support from the community to keep going. After two years of all-volunteer work, they've grown to the point where they have real monetary costs and need extra hands to continue running the school. If you've ever wanted to take a class on screenplay writing, sewing, changing a bicycle tire or worm composting, you want Trade School around.
While they could pursue support from large organizations or try and find a corporate sponsor, they wish to remain self-organized and be supported by the community. The membership model keeps Trade School accountable to the people who believe in their mission while validating their existence. If they hit their goal, their financial and volunteer support comes from the group of people who believe that there should be educational opportunities available such as Trade School.
Regretfully, they will be closing in 2015 without community support. Can you help keep their school open in 2015 by teaching classes, volunteering or paying an annual membership fee? You can learn more about their project and pledge your support here.