Skillshop: Learn Local

Skillshop organises events where businesses and local spaces provide lessons to the wider community. Skillshop has created a full day of free micro-lessons hosted by various local businesses through partnerships with Business Improvement Associations in Toronto.

Position: Founder

Results:

  • 60 lessons taught by 45 neighbourhood store owners
  • 500+ students attended lessons
  • Partnerships with Bloorcourt Business Improvement Association and Junction Business Improvement Association

Website and Social Media:

Skillshop.ca
@Skillshopca

Inspiration:
While organizing Trade School Toronto, it was difficult to find class space that was storefront, accessible and near transit for free or barter. Fortunately our organizers managed to work with cafes, art galleries, and universities.

Around the winter of 2013, I started thinking about my neighbourhood called Bloorcourt and how my deli butcher knew so much about meat and the florist told me everything about flower arrangement. It seemed like was also plenty of unused spaces in my neighbourhood when the businesses were closed at night or on weekends. I sent a quick message to my local BIA (Business Improvement Area) about the idea of hosting Trade School in businesses. A couple months later in March, the BIA coordinator asked to meet. They explained that their summer festival was going to be cancelled because of on-going construction and wondered if this “street learning fair” that was I was talking about could be an alternative for them.

I went forward with the idea from here because I wanted to offer a quick alternative to the summer street festival. I love the local, unique shops of my neighbourhood and I wanted to create way to support them all.

It also had the potential to be an experiment that would prove a couple ideas that kept me up at night:

1) Given the right opportunity, everyone can be teacher and everyone can learn anything from anyone at anytime
2) The social exchange of learning builds relationships and increases social capital between those involved in the exchange. Lessons in this way have the potential to increase the long-term profits of local business because of the increase in social capital between customers and business owners as well as the marketing of the business classes to those within and outside of the neighbourhood.

Press:

Partners and Friends:

Bloorcourt Business Improvement Area (BIA)
Junction Business Improvement Association
Helen Kontozopoulos
 

Skillshop helped The Junction BIA create “Santa in the Junction”

cocktail

5 lessons for teenagers considering university (from the future you)

Hey there,

It’s me – yourself, in the future. I think a lot about education these days. And I am still paying off the debt we incurred during the undergraduate degree you are considering attending. I wanted to send you this letter from the future to help you consider your next steps.

I remember what it was like to be you at 17. You told yourself that you didn’t really know what you wanted to do with your life, but you actually knew quite a bit at the time. You were doing some pretty neat stuff that you’ll like talking about in the future, when you’re me. These experiences were all very important, so keep it up. Soon you will have to start make some decisions about what will happen after highschool.

I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t stay in my hometown. I want to get away. It will just be like highschool if I stay. If I don’t go to university, I will end up a loser.” I know you’re excited about going to university  – and that’s a great feeling to have. Think of the parties! Doing whatever you want! Your plan will look like this: go to university, get a good paying job, pay off the student debt easy, become the boss.

Spoiler alert! It doesn’t work out that way.

Here are my best tips for you, as someone who has lived your life. I hope these might change your ideas about going to university and your next steps after highschool.

1) Take a break, but keep learning.

You have been stuck in an institution for 13 years. You need some time to process what you have seen, and to figure out what things you like and what things you don’t like. You’ve done a lot, but there are pieces missing that you won’t find in a university syllabus. Did you know that you could work on an organic farm anywhere in the world through Woofing? Did you know that there are programs like Canada World Youth where you can live and volunteer across Canada and abroad? What about Folk High Schools? You can kick it to Norway, learn Norwegian, go mountain climbing and study world peace – no tuition needed (it’s actually illegal to charge). No. You did not consider it.  It was never an option. It may not look well with your friends or your parents to not go to university, but the alternate experiences you can find are a real asset that they won’t have.

2) Learn for free.

Go to university… for free. Visit any university and start looking through the undergraduate courses they offer – even graduate programs. Go with your friends who are in the classes and paying full price. Speak to the professor directly: tell them that you’re interested in their course and would like to audit it. Chances are they will say yes. You will find out:1) whether or not you like the topic; 2) if you like how universities teach; and, 3)about other students who are interested in similar careers. Lastly, universities are always hosting speakers from around the world for special events that are often only promoted to the university. Often, they’re free. Go for it.

3) Home work and travel work.

In the future, you will be paying for your own housing. Your own place! It’s exciting. But you know what’s even better? Not paying for rent. It’s expensive. I know living at home with your parents is a bummer. But one thing your parents can easily offer you, for at least a short time, is their  roof! They might ask you to pitch in here and there, but compared to living on your own – you will save a lot of money. Keep that crappy job you had before for a few more months, and pick up odd jobs while you’re at it. This can help you get out with a plan in hand.

Yes, get out and work some more! There are so many ways that you can earn money for the adventurer in you. You’ve got connections. Spend 6 months asking about connections around the world and I bet you’ll find something great. Work at a Hostel. Go Tree Planting.  Pick fruit in New Zealand.  It’s easier than you think for someone with energy, a good back and willingness to travel.

After that, you can go to university or commit to another direction, with money saved and no debt.

4) Hang around with successful, remarkable people.

This is hard. I know you want to be cool and hang around with cool people. But cool people at 17 are not always cool later in life. I’m not asking you to stop hanging around people who you think are cool, cold turkey. However, do consider that there is a lot to learn from people of any age. Connections with people older and younger – and people who are not like you – will be enriching and useful your whole life. The more you hang around with successful, remarkable people, the more you will be successful and remarkable.

5) Reflect and set goals.

Later in your life you might hear yourself talking about setting goals, reflecting on your needs, and blah blah blah. I know you think this lame as a 17-year old. But please, give it a try.

  • Write two lists: First,  write down everything you are good at.   Second, write down everything you like doing. Then, check out your lists. You might be surprised by the different and exciting combinations of the two lists.

This very basic step will guide you in your 17-year old life. It also helps you be unique. In the future there will be so many jobs that don’t exist in your present. Find your unique mix and soon you’ll be making up your own job. Also, try this exercise out every couple years as your ideas, opinions and interests will change – yep, change is a constant.

  • Next, think of something you want to accomplish in the next few months – or even half year. Write it down. Write down a few month-long goals. Then write down the steps you think you’ll need to accomplish each goal.
  • Find someone who can check in with you and be your “accountability buddy”. Ask them to help you keep on track.

Do this often.

Best of luck for you and your future. I am proud of you.

All my best,

You.