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Noted: Bartering for Knowledge

Jun 9, 2012

by Chappell Ellison

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

It’s funny how the practices of the past can become the novel concepts of the present. Organic diets and local farming, for example, once the basis of ancient civilization, are viewed today as trendy, modern lifestyles. Similarly, bartering has returned as a promising economic model that could positively impact how we acquire skills. Caroline Woolard recognized such potential when she co-founded Trade School, an educational space that runs on barter. Anyone can teach a class, and students pay with artwork, food, or whatever skill they can offer to the instructor.

“The monetary system is failing people in a global way… lots of social services from health to education to arts are getting cut all over the world and people feel that some things just don’t work in a market economy,” says Woolard in an interview with Shareable. Woolard adds that the goal is to spread this model internationally — anyone can start a Trade School. Custom-built software is provided to help each school manage their classes, giving organizers the freedom to organize the unique principles by which they function. “In Oakland they are explicit about this being a project for educational justice because it is too expensive to get access to information,” explains Woolard. “In other places they want to do it to meet people who are really interested in sharing ideas.”

Artists and thinkers are often asked to work for free, or face the frustrating challenge of determining their own labor-value scale. Trade School provides a space where creators can draw from each other’s talent, defining their own ideas of what a good or service is worth. “Rather than complain about limited funding and access to resources, [it] shows that we already have a lot as a creative community,” says Woolard. “What happens if we have the agency to decide what our objects and skills are worth?”

3 Featured Comments

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye from VintageEye said 8 years ago Featured

    I remember a few barter organizations being around in the 70s. People traded time, work or products with each other rather than deal in cash. It was & is a great way to help makes ends meet and share your skills & knowledge with others.

  • lovelyfeverboutique

    Jessica from LovelyFever said 8 years ago Featured

    The market economy definitely is unequal to a significantly large portion of the world. Education is becoming harder and harder to access to due affordability. An economy that factors in barter would put things on a more equal playing field. I really hope that the barter system does make a strong comeback. Its a wonderful idea to think of everyone trading the byproducts of their unique talents and abilities in their communities :)

  • JewelMeShop

    Georgia from JewelMeShop said 8 years ago Featured

    Bartering is a great concept. An alternative economy and maybe the only way to get paid for your work in times of economic crisis. Moreover it strengthens human relationships. Chappell, this was a great article, thanks for sharing!

95 comments

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 8 years ago

    Interesting!

  • vmsf

    vmsf said 8 years ago

    This is terrific. I actually just co-founded a nonprofit in Bordeaux, France where I'm living called "Réseau d’échanges interculturels" (or "intercultural exchange network," website: http://ribx.unblog.fr/) whose objective is to enable knowledge exchange among individuals and groups. It was started to welcome people (long-term visitors, immigrants, others) to Bordeaux and recognize that we all have something of great value to share with others, regardless of our background, education and language level. I look forward to checking out and learning from Trade School!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 8 years ago

    Wonderful!!!

  • FallenAngelBrass

    Karen and Tina from FallenAngelBrass said 8 years ago

    Great idea, but the links provided in this article lead to websites that are not up and running Trade Schools, but invite the reader to start one in their area. Perhaps I am missing the links to opportunities for artists to join in.

  • SimpleCleanDesigns

    Cari-anne from SimpleCleanDesigns said 8 years ago

    I agree with Iammie, very interesting and a great concept.

  • hmmills

    Helen Mills from 1820BagCo said 8 years ago

    Yes, an interesting concept. Thanks for the enlightenment

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye from VintageEye said 8 years ago Featured

    I remember a few barter organizations being around in the 70s. People traded time, work or products with each other rather than deal in cash. It was & is a great way to help makes ends meet and share your skills & knowledge with others.

  • FranceGallery

    France Gallery from FranceGallery said 8 years ago

    Interesting and very good idea!

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose said 8 years ago

    So interesting! Too cool!

  • Zalavintage

    Zane Saracene from Zalavintage said 8 years ago

    Signing up for a class as soon as I get my daughter to college! Working with fashion and design students in NYC, I can only imagine the creativity shared in these sessions.

  • redemptionart

    Connie Haskell from redemptionart said 8 years ago

    Wow, Chappell, now you have my creative juices flowing! A question, if the school is unable to obtain a free space, how is the owner of the space compensated?

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 8 years ago

    Great concept!

  • estheraguirre

    Esther Aguirre from estheraguirre said 8 years ago

    Sooo true!!! We all have something to contribute!!! Bartering Rocks!!!!

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom said 8 years ago

    This is really cool! I'm not sure exactly how this would work for the teachers, but I would definitely be interested in being both a teacher and a student. The exchange of ideas is great, especially when it is something everyone can afford.

  • StringBeardCraftery

    Stephanie from StringBeardCraftery said 8 years ago

    I work at a new optometry practice for my day job, and bartering is the coolest thing since sliced bread. I think it's beneficial to everyone, and I wish it was done even more. It's interesting to think about determining the value of bartering concepts and non-corporeal things.

  • somsstudiosupplies

    Som from somsstudiosupplies said 8 years ago

    This is a great concept. Reminded me of the practice of the Gurukul system in India.

  • myMountainStudio

    Nikki Weiss from myMountainStudio said 8 years ago

    I've always admired well-run bartering systems. Bartering was just part of life in the old days (out of necessity), and it usually worked quite well. Interesting to hear of people putting it to work for educational purposes. Would like to see the trend of bartering continue to expand into many areas of life. :)

  • Niftic

    Niftic from NifticVintage said 8 years ago

    Sensational to say the least! Thanks for sharing this amazing new way to teach and share! I applaud their efforts and wish them much success!

  • OnToVintage

    OnToVintage from OnToVintage said 8 years ago

    What a great idea. Love all your articles. Looking forward to the next one!

  • aGhoulsNightOut

    Lisa Lange from LangeDollCouture said 8 years ago

    What a great idea! It's time to think back at what works and what a great way to spread the love and the gifts everyone has to share. Thanks for sharing this story!

  • undertheroot

    undertheroot from undertheroot said 8 years ago

    Absolutely! This is such a perfect idea for the now and I will be joining in the march of the hares. Let's find out where it goes and be involved.

  • secondarycreations

    Trudy Shaw from secondarycreations said 8 years ago

    Great idea. Too bad it's limited to certain localities. I suppose that's to enable the sharing of all kinds of goods - it'd be hard for someone in Idaho to barter their vegetables for a class taught by me in Nebraska. But it does limit things - you'd have to be in a pretty large city for this to work, which rules me out. It'd be great to have a "universal trade school" that would allow teachers to barter for things that are easily shared online or shipped over a distance.

  • BizzieLizzie

    Bizzie from BizzieLizzieHandmade said 8 years ago

    LOVE bartering! One of the best things I love about Etsy was being able to trade my bags for things I want and drooled over! Glad to see it coming back around and in the spotlight!

  • ili1408

    Ili Goren from ilijewelrydesign said 8 years ago

    completely agree with this way of thought ! greate post ili

  • shabbyshades1

    Julie W from pbteen said 8 years ago

    great post and idea

  • CopperheadCreations

    Sarah from CopperheadCreations said 8 years ago

    Awesome! I look forward to joining. There are a lot of things I would love to learn how to do, like making my own clothes, woodworking, knitting... :)

  • QueenofCuffs

    mary from QueenofCuffs said 8 years ago

    Love this thinking - trading is fantastic !

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 8 years ago

    Great idea! It works on Etsy too.

  • OuterKnits

    OuterKnits from OuterKnits said 8 years ago

    Love bartering!

  • mariliejacob

    Marilie Jacob from mariliejacob said 8 years ago

    It's a very interesting idea!

  • goodbeads

    goodbeads from goodbeads said 8 years ago

    Great idea,thanks for sharing!

  • squibbles76

    Valerie from squibbles76 said 8 years ago

    “What happens if we have the agency to decide what our objects and skills are worth?” This sounds like a very possible future. One that I don't really cherish, but then again, you would never live beyond one's means.

  • TheBerryPress

    Wendy Hogue Berry from TheBerryPress said 8 years ago

    I traded a portrait once for a man to fix washing machine. I think it worked out well for both of us. Nice article, Great concept.

  • lovelygifts

    Linda from lovelygifts said 8 years ago

    Very interesting!

  • Pickseeville

    Siobhan Haines from Pickseeville said 8 years ago

    I love this...thanks for sharing the great info...

  • Sleetwealth

    Sleetwealth from Sleetwealth said 8 years ago

    love the idea of this being done . more information is needed though. would like to see this thriving!

  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns said 8 years ago

    This is brilliant. Now I just need to find someone who's willing to trade a roof over my head for some art classes. :)

  • lovelyfeverboutique

    Jessica from LovelyFever said 8 years ago Featured

    The market economy definitely is unequal to a significantly large portion of the world. Education is becoming harder and harder to access to due affordability. An economy that factors in barter would put things on a more equal playing field. I really hope that the barter system does make a strong comeback. Its a wonderful idea to think of everyone trading the byproducts of their unique talents and abilities in their communities :)

  • customizeBaby

    Custom Baby from customizeBaby said 8 years ago

    I LOVEEEEEEEEEEE KNOWLEDGE!!!!!!!!!!!!! AWESOMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE ARTICLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'M SOOoOOo LOVING IT!

  • peshka

    Peshka from Peshka said 8 years ago

    great concept!

  • ArtsyFlair

    Michaela Bowles from ArtsyFlair said 8 years ago

    Nice article!

  • roseabove

    Mary Celeste from roseabove said 8 years ago

    Yes, wonderful article. :) It seems like only a few years ago that the idea of bartering was somewhat "hush hush", or even a taboo idea. What a wonderful time we are approaching, where people are beginning to see the light and outside of the box.

  • debbiebailie

    Debbie Bailie from GibsonBespoke said 8 years ago

    masonic handshake...

  • LAccentNou

    Anastasia from LAccentNou said 8 years ago

    This is interesting! Here we've got a "Banc of time" - where people exchange their time, it's nothing about money . I find that it's a fun and warm way to obtain things/services/knowledge and share your knowledge and skills...

  • vinylclockwork

    Scott from vinylclockwork said 8 years ago

    Always nice to bartering with others. Very good Post

  • LUCYSLUCKYLOOT

    LUCYSLUCKYLOOT from LUCYSLUCKYLOOT said 8 years ago

    I have said in the past that it would be so wonderful to bring back bartering in local communities. People could save so much money and get to know each other. But that's just the problem. There is so little or no community left in neighborhoods. It has become such a society break down. How do you seed and start a bartering system? I think a bartering skills trade school IS what could bring communities together! Awesome idea! And great for kids also!

  • ansluasi

    ansluasi from OnceUponABookshop said 8 years ago

    I love this idea! What an amazing opportunity this is for a community, the possibilities are endless. In our modern world of faceless commerce, corporate higher education and diminishing funding for the arts, this offers a chance to start fresh at a grassroots level and return people to an all-too-often impersonal equation.

  • Marolsha

    Maddy from Marolsha said 8 years ago

    Interesting !

  • my2handsstudio

    Donna from my2handsstudio said 8 years ago

    I-actually bartered for services yesterday,in exchange for driving a short distance, I gave my friend tro bars of soap I thought she would like, rather than the cash.

  • paisleybeading

    LuAnn Poli from PaisleyBeading said 8 years ago

    Enjoyed reading this article, Chappell, thanks! What a facinating idea! It brings to the table an increased self-worth, that is so lacking in the cruel world of big business where one is told to "swim with the sharks". A much gentler way, focused not on self, but on how I can help the other guy. Great concept! Bartering was big in the past, I'd love to see it become popular again. In fact, I plan to keep this article in mind and try to create opportunities to barter!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 8 years ago

    A Bedouin's life for me ~ Everyone has something to offer.

  • bumblebk

    Rebecca from bumblebk said 8 years ago

    This sounds like a dream.

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mr. Sal Phan, Bichon Frise from Mclovebuddy said 8 years ago

    another freemason image. so deep. visit my shop!

  • JewelMeShop

    Georgia from JewelMeShop said 8 years ago Featured

    Bartering is a great concept. An alternative economy and maybe the only way to get paid for your work in times of economic crisis. Moreover it strengthens human relationships. Chappell, this was a great article, thanks for sharing!

  • EphemeraAndMore

    EphemeraAndMore from EphemeraAndMore said 8 years ago

    Totally enjoyed the article. Looking so forward to the next one by Chappell!

  • PoetryofObjects

    PoetryofObjects from PoetryofObjects said 8 years ago

    Perfect!

  • julietdiyjewelry

    xiu qing zhu from julietdiyjewelry said 8 years ago

    wonderful.

  • pact

    Patricia from pact said 8 years ago

    That would be a great thing to start here in Portugal too!

  • karnidesign

    karni rauchwerger from karnidesign said 8 years ago

    I wish there was such an opportunity here in Israel. A wonderful way of connecting people.

  • CougarTShirtCompany

    Cougar T-Shirt Company from CougarTShirtCompany said 8 years ago

    I agree, the idea is great. More people would be in a better position to do things. But I also think there were a lot of people suffering economic hardship during barter times. A particular skills may not be needed by the person giving the service desired. I think a mix of the two systems would be neat.

  • AlinaMart

    Alina Mart from AlinaMartDesign said 8 years ago

    Really great concept

  • EmiliaFaith

    Edie Ann from OhHoneyHush said 8 years ago

    Very interesting article !

  • eclectivist

    Kasia from Eclectivist said 8 years ago

    It's great to see that skill exchange is sprouting around the globe! I'm for bartering in all forms, whether is skills, goods, services...

  • janebfraser

    Jane B. Fraser from janesjools4u said 8 years ago

    Sign me up! Where can I barter my janesjools4u jewelry for--other stuff? Great idea. Bartering should come back bigtime.

  • clothwomanquilts

    clothwomanquilts from clothwomanquilts said 8 years ago

    This is a fabulous idea. I need to find people in my area that would be interested in opening a Trade School. Think, Think, Think.

  • PinwheelStudio

    Whitney from PinwheelStudio said 8 years ago

    Food for thought, for sure!!!

  • AzimuthVintage

    Traci McKnight from AzimuthVintage said 8 years ago

    Brilliant! Thank you. These are important ideas to discuss today with the uncertainty and brittle environment of our current world economy.

  • vonlarae

    Von LaRae from vonlarae said 8 years ago

    I have been bartering my entire life, it is good for everyone!

  • vegasblingrocks

    Judy Murphy from vegasblingrocks said 8 years ago

    I trade on craigslist all the time with locals, love it so much as shown by my Vegas email addr: bartermeister@aol.com. A real win win! I also barter on etsy and have an layaway plan.

  • vegasblingrocks

    Judy Murphy from vegasblingrocks said 8 years ago

    --- "have an easy layaway plan ..........."

  • vegasblingrocks

    Judy Murphy from vegasblingrocks said 8 years ago

    I forgot to mention that I am getting ready to add my beautiful jewelry designs and want to make it easy and affordable for buyers via bartering and/or layaway.

  • uniquefabricgifts

    Unique Fabric Gifts from uniquefabricgifts said 8 years ago

    Great article! Something to think about! Thanks for sharing!

  • followthestar

    victoria from followthestar said 8 years ago

    Great idea banding together to barter! I have enjoyed bartering skills, services & goods as long as I can recall(:

  • nadene

    Even Howard from nadene said 8 years ago

    I wonder who is working on this in San Francisco? The link is empty. Also, I'm interested in how they are partnering with existing knowledge sharing sites like skillshare.com and even craftsy.com?

  • MickeyandGrace

    Dana from MickeyandGrace said 8 years ago

    I LOVE bartering...what a great concept...I will have to check it out!!

  • tashascreations

    Natalya Farias from tashascreations said 8 years ago

    This takes me back to the creation of market and early beginning of us. Before money existed people used to barter instead. Good concept!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 8 years ago

    I think to an extent bartering has always existed in one way or another, its a great informal way to gain and trade in an area that may not be your strong point!

  • guziks

    Stephanie from Phylogeny said 8 years ago

    Interesting concept for sharing knowledge. It seems like a great plan for moving forward!

  • lmouer

    Lynsey from lmouer said 8 years ago

    Really interesting article! Great ideas!

  • oneeyedgirls

    Stef Bauer from oneeyedgirls said 8 years ago

    Bartering is a true exchange where no money changes hands only smiles and the satisfaction that you both are gaining something positive and it has nothing to do with the monetary value. A wonderful way to give and receive:) Thanks for the article!

  • amirshani1

    Amir Shani from AmirShanibook said 8 years ago

    Excellent idea and very interesting article

  • fredfrankenfield

    Fred from OtterCreekFinds said 8 years ago

    I know a few people who are part of a farm community a rural part of Ohio, where bartering has been actively going on for over 20 years.Each person offers a skill, anything from furniture building, to raising chickens, benifits others. Participants seem to feel most comfortable in this method of transaction. It seems to be more personal than just a cash transaction. I think that is amazing and it works!

  • TheCaramelJar

    Nicole from TheCaramelJar said 8 years ago

    We barter all the time here at The Caramel Jar! Our new photos were taken by a very talented photographer and customer that sends our caramels as gifts to his clients for referrals. Meantime, during our photo shoot, I learned so much from him about styling our photos, learning about his business and the similarities in ours!

  • KaiceJoy

    Kirsti Joy from KaiceJoy said 8 years ago

    Ooooo, this sounds like a fabulous idea! Being able to trade different abilites, sounds like such a wonderful use of each person's natural gifts!!

  • whateverworks

    Andrea Nichole Still from WhateverWorks said 8 years ago

    Bartering can be very practical. I'm great at crocheting, not so hot at taking pictures. A photographer saw a crocheted dress of mine at a craft fair. She offered to trade professional photography for a dress. It worked out beautifully! Since then I have made more product, & I'm wondering if my photographer friend wants a scarf...

  • whateverworks

    Andrea Nichole Still from WhateverWorks said 8 years ago

    This wonderful profile pic to the left is one of hers! I'm very happy with it!

  • TRSkye

    Skye from TRSkye said 8 years ago

    There was a time we bartered, and I actually remember in school how it was explained to us that bartering was "unfair" and didn't give appropriate goods for time. I found that over-simplified, because surely someone had to determine whether money was worth it or not? I would very much prefer a bartering system, but at the moment my rent won't take my paintings! Still for everything else I'd rather trade for trade. In my village, many of us do just that.

  • IvyandMeApparel

    Meredith and Brooke Bateh from IvyandMeApparel said 8 years ago

    This is a really inspiring thought. Bartering opens up a world of possibilities to people who offer goods and services. Thanks for the post!

  • SavannahSue

    Susan Milligan said 8 years ago

    I tried bartering a few times about 15 years ago when the yuppies thought it was a good idea. I had tangible goods and they offered services. Those services included, painting, exchange of goods, and sometimes exchange of goods plus extra money. Bartering was way too difficult to carry on my books and to report as income and the services they performed as business expenses. http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc420.html Talk to your accountant and understand that tangible goods in exchange for services needs reported as income.

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush said 8 years ago

    I personally, love bartering :) ..anything!

  • customheirloomart1

    Custom HeirloomArt from customheirloomart1 said 8 years ago

    Good information, thank you.

  • stinnovation

    ST Innovation from stinnovation said 8 years ago

    Bartering for Knowledge, this is a best ways for morden people, it chould be let us go outside home and face to face talking or trading, improve our relationship and enhance social observation ability, but I think this best point is that could be save resources and sharing, it in a reduced the burden of family even country.

  • HappyWhoos

    Jessie Friedman from HappyWhoos said 8 years ago

    I think this is an excellent idea!

  • liddysopretty

    liddy sopretty from liddysopretty said 8 years ago

    I like this article...

  • Pastecchi

    Pastecchi from TheAmazonBazaar said 8 years ago

    Wonderful article. The concept of bartering really puts "what is it worth to you" in focus. Money is easily attainable and easily spent. But your artwork/craft/skill is not. Value is not in the dollar. The dollar is cheap, and you are an original.

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