Trade School Toronto: Barter-Based Education

Trade School Toronto is an alternative learning project that runs on a barter system. Students pay for classes with a barter items (like food, supplies or help) that the teacher requests.

Position: Co-founder and Organizer


  • 75 classes coordinated and paid for exclusively by barter
  • +600 Students have registered for classes
  • Support in the creation of Trade School Vancouver and Trade School Ottawa
  • Collaborations with University of Toronto, Ontario College of Art and Design University, Toronto Design Offsite Festival


Website and Social Media:

Trade School Toronto

In 2005, I studied at the University of Otago in Dunedin New Zealand. At the campus recreation centre, I was amazed by all the courses that were available (wine tasting, thai cooking), who was teaching them (local experts, some non-professionals), and how cheap the courses were ($15 at the time). I realised that I had knowledge to share too and soon created my own break dancing lessons.

During my graduate in Adult Education and Community Development, I studied Folk High Schools and also learned about other alternative schools and retreat centres such as Tatamagouche Free School, Fall River Centre, and the Highlander Research and Education Center. I was fascinated about any schools that shared knowledge with peers and focused on building community through learning.

In July of 2012, I heard about Trade Schools that were emerging in 10 different cities across the world at the time:

It all started in late 2009 because three of the five co-founders of OurGoods (Louise Ma, Rich Watts, Caroline Woolard) were given an opportunity to work with GrandOpening, and we had a wild brainstorm session about many possible barter storefronts. We decided that “barter for instruction” had a lot of potential. Trade School Headquarters

My interest in creative learning spaces paired well with the passion for promoting alternative economies from friend and fellow community organizer Elizabeth Frasier and That’s Women’s Work Art Collective. Together, we organized the first Trade School in Canada in September of 2012. Since then Trade School has emerged in Vancouver and Ottawa and 50 other cities across the world.

Partners and Friends:

  • That’s Women’s Work Art Collective
  • Harvest Noon
  • Communication Art Gallery
  • Toronto Design Offsite Festival
  • Hart House – University of Toronto
  • OCAD U Student Gallery
  • Centre for Social Innovation
  • Annares Health
  • Wise Daughters

Trade School Bike

Trade School hands