I had the opportunity to attend an entrepreneur event with a friend tonight where everyone paid $5 to be there, some local businesses provided food for dinner, three people got the chance to pitch their idea for a micro-grant, and we all voted to determine which of the three would take home the combined entry fees (a total of $410 this evening). This is the first one of this particular event here in town, but they are planning to make it a monthly thing.
All three ideas presented tonight were worthy of the money, but the one that received the most votes was a local trade school that is built entirely around the idea of barter. Teachers are community members willing to teach a skill, and they list the kinds of things that they are willing to take in barter—from produce, to yard work help, to help cleaning up after class, to art, to beer … whatever! Students sign up and attend and bring whatever it is that they are willing to barter for the skill that they learn. The micro-grant they received tonight is going to go toward buying a projector for the teachers to use and for basic supplies (like making copies of handouts).
What a cool idea! I had not heard of such a thing, but I learned tonight that there are almost 30 of these in cities around the world. The one here is still new; they just finished their first “semester” (about 6 weeks long), and their second semester starts next week. They are already expanding the number of class times available because it is so popular.
One of the things I love most about this idea is the emphasis on the idea that we all know something worth teaching to others. This school does not require degrees and certifications and pedigrees to prove that you are an expert before you can teach. It’s about regular people in the community teaching what they know to other people in the community without money being a barrier to ongoing learning. Barter keeps it as an exchange that everyone feels good about, though.
It’s a program to build community. It’s a way to help people participate in ongoing learning. It’s a way to help each and every person involved discover that they know things that they can teach others too!
It’s that last part that really has me intrigued tonight. What do I know that I could teach? If someone had asked me that question before tonight’s event, I would have said “nothing.” I’m not an expert in anything. But by the time I finished listening to her pitch tonight, I changed my mind.
Oh, I’m still not an expert, but I do know how to crochet. I know how to do some basic jewelry making (very, very basic, but it’s still more than someone else might know if they’ve never tried it). I know how to set up a WordPress blog. And I’m sure there’s more.
I went hoping to learn more about what other people are doing in our community, and I did get that. I also came away with an increased appreciation for the fact that maybe I also have something to give. That’s worth much more than the $5 entry fee!
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