Skillshops are learning events where local businesses offer free lessons inside their stores.
Working with Business Improvement Associations in Toronto, I created two distinct full day events featuring free micro-lessons hosted by various local businesses.
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 in Toronto called Bloorcourt, where my local deli butcher knew so much about meat and the florist told me everything there was to know about flower arrangement. How could that knowledge be shared? In my local area too, there seemed like there were plenty of unused spaces when the businesses were closed at night or on weekends. Could this space be better used?
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:
- Given the right opportunity, everyone can be teacher and everyone can learn anything from anyone at anytime
- 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.