Trade school – barter for knowledge

jam making 2Have you ever wanted the chance to try something new? Do you know someone that can shabby-chic, build or mend and do you think ‘Oh I wish they would show me how to do that!’? Do you know any amazing makers, bakers, growers, creators and think they are so awesome they should share their skills and knowledge to inspire others? Can you do something amazing and would love the opportunity to share how to do it with others? If so Trade School Dudley is just the thing for you!

Be a teacher, learner, co-founder or all three! Join me on Tuesday 7 June 10am-1pm at DY1 Stafford Street, Dudley to find out more!

Trade School is a non-traditional learning space that runs on barter where anyone can teach a class! People with a skill or talent that they can teach to others propose a class and ask for a small barter item from learners. For example, if you teach a class about making butter, you might ask students to bring cream, jars, bread, recipes, music tips, or help with something like finding a flat.

Learners sign up for classes by agreeing to bring a barter item for the teacher. Everyone has something to offer!

You could learn how to bake bread in exchange for potted herbs, teach basic bike maintenance in return for recipe suggestions or books, and learn how to use social media and the internet by bringing wool or materials. You can teach a class about anything you are passionate about –and say what you’d like to receive in exchange.

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, but they now have Trade Schools in over 50 cities internationally. You can read more about trade school by visiting their website.


Residents in Wrens Nest, Dudley have run a number of pop up trade schools and how to session over the last 3 years. This summer we are hoping you will help start Trade School Dudley and Trade School Coseley, because wow people can do incredible things and have the most amazing skills to share!

A magic moment for me is when Wrens Nest ran a trade school so people could learn how to make jam. I got chatting to Stuart, a local resident, about growing and he explained how his garden is overflowing with plums that he didn’t know what to do with. I told him about a baking project that a seven year old girl had started and said that I was sure we could make use of his surplus supplies!

The following week whilst the Seed and Feed growing gang were meeting, Stuart popped along with bags and bags of plums. One of the gardeners had harvested some beans from his garden and shared these with Stuart as thanks for the plums. We all sat staring at the ample pile stacked before us and thought ‘Right, what can we do… ‘ Steve, one of the gardeners, suggested that they would make great jam and it just so happened that he knew how to make it, which was a good job ’cause the rest of us didn’t have a clue! So Jam Trade School popped up.

Steve asked that learners brought barter items that included jars to put the jam into, anything that supported the gardening project, anything useful for baking or a surprise. People brought barter items including jars, tomato feed, pots, flour and one lady shared her grandmother’s recipes.

jamOur youngest learner was just five and our oldest was in their seventies but everyone came together to learn, have fun, share and take home some of the best jam ever tasted! There was even time to make upside down plum pudding! And Stuart who had donated the plums in the first place got a bowl of pudding, a jar of jam and some new friends in his community.

Other Wrens Nest Trade Schools have included gardening, crocheting, seed balls, how to make an insect home and relaxation techniques. There is something magical in seeing someone who has a skill like crocheting or jam making showing someone else how to start, the spark of passion being passed from one person to another, the patience and encouragement, the laughter and fun. It really is quite wonderful!

So come on, who’s up for bartering knowledge and getting Trade School Dudley on the go?!

Join me on Tuesday 7 June 10am-1pm at DY1 seed ballsStafford Street, Dudley. This session is for anyone interested in being part of starting, or teaching or learning at Trade School Dudley or anyone simply curious to know more. It will be a friendly, informal chance to find out about how Trade School started. Find out what types of activities you might do as part of a Trade School founding team or join a conversation about what the first season of classes could be.

Helping people to get ideas off the ground

Imagine you have an idea for an activity in your community, something open to all, that people could take part in every week. There are often lots of things which get in the way of getting such ideas started, even simply to try them out to see if they work. Rooms for community activities cost money to hire (understandably). Funders need groups to have lots of paperwork in place. And they often assume you know everything you need to at the beginning. There isn’t much scope for learning from experience and adapting things as you go. It’s easy to see why lots of great ideas never get off the ground. And why lots of rooms in community venues often sit empty, without these amazing activities taking place in them.

Which is why it is so exciting for Dudley CVS to be working on something which is re-thinking how things usually work. Our starting point is discovering all sorts of amazing things in Wrens Nest which can support projects – rooms and resources in a the community centre, skills and talents people have and want to share, ideas of things people want to do together. Open Hub is the name given to this platform we’re creating to nurture local projects and enterprises.

On the 2nd of February this year two mums from Wrens Nest Estate took part in an Open Hub project co-design session. In just over an hour we shared visions for the community, discovered all sorts of skills and talents we each had, looked at some projects started in other parts of the world, and designed a Stay & Play project. The first session took place 3 days later and has been running weekly since. Promoted through Facebook and word-of-mouth to begin with, 8 families (that’s 13 kids) joined in during in the first 5 weeks.

On 24th of February five local residents took part in a session to co-design a cooking project focused on healthy eating and trying out recipes from Slimmers World. A week later 13 adults and 4 kids got together to cook their first meal and eat together. They have been getting together to cook and eat each week since.

We’re still in the middle of lots of learning and testing of how to create these completely new ways of working, and we will share this in due course. In the meantime we’ll be making all the individual project designs and resources we’ve developed open source, so that anyone can borrow and build on them. To find out more contact me ( or add a comment right here on this blog.