Awesome Ottawa

Trade School Co-op Ottawa

December’s Awesome Ottawa award goes to Shirley Manh to support the establishment of a barter school, or “trade” school, in Ottawa.

Shirley, whose day job is at a not-for-profit, describes herself as an ordinary person who took an opportunity to do something not so ordinary — she rode and lived off her bicycle for two months. “Afterwards,” she explains, “I spent a year not buying anything brand new and critically re-thought the purchasing decisions I made. That extra-ordinary year taught me a lot about my consumption habits (reuse plastic wrap!), how to make and repair things (toothpaste! shoes!), and the non-monetary value of things I did have (presentation skills). Now,” she says, “I want to share the ‘extra’ with others! I want to start a Trade School in Ottawa.”

“Trade School Co-op Ottawa,” explains Shirley, “will be an alternative, self-organized school that runs on a barter system — direct exchange of goods or services for other goods or services. My vision is for it to enable sharing of hands-on knowledge and practical wisdom and skills, to show the value of ‘alternative’ education in non-traditional spaces, and to celebrate the social nature of non-monetary exchange.” Interested teachers will be able to propose classes and ask for barter items from prospective students. “For example,” Shirley explains, “if you teach a class about making butter, you might ask students to bring their own supplies (heavy cream, jars), and ask for things you need (winter accessories, vegetables, a bike basket).”

The school will be a part of an international network, through which current offerings include singing for pleasure (Glasgow), macrobiotic cooking (Barcelona), and the struggles women are making internationally to create more collective forms of reproduction (New York). To learn more about the global Trade School network, visit http://www.tradeschool.coop.