Start a Skills Swap
If you’re thirsty to learn a new skill,you could trawl online courses, visit seminars, or just click through that holy grail of unanswered questions, Youtube. Or you could join a skills swap—the cool new way to get smart without a textbook in sight.
A skills swap is when people get together to trade knowledge. It’s not an official learning institution—it’s more like a showand-tell for grown-ups. Co-founder of Night Owls (a skills swap initiative in South Africa) Batya Raff Smadja explains, “A skills swap is built on the premise that people barter knowledge for knowledge. There is no exchange of money. We all have something to teach—and a million things we’d like to learn.”
how does it work?
The aim is to offer a variety of skills that are “often very removed from people’s general skills set, broadening their creative knowledge and network,” Smadja says. After the first visit, you’re encouraged to share a skill of your own at the next one. So let’s say you know how to knit: you’ll teach knitting and, in return, someone will teach you the basics of image retouching in Photoshop.
Abrie Coertze of Night Owls says that they have an open-door policy, and so far have encountered people with a passion for everything from 3D printing to macramé, book binding, and experimental ink drawing. “There is no skill too mundane,” he says. “The core principle is learning. We want to know as much as we possibly can—and everyone who comes to Night Owls walks away with that same desire.”
why it works
Despite the ease with which we can go online and learn pretty much anything, there’s a lack of human interaction and networking that people often crave. Night Owls creates a DIY mentality “based on the growth of the shared community,” says Coertze. Also, it allows one-onone training, and a hands-on experience that’s fun and free. While not everyone feels confident enough to stand in front of a crowd and speak openly about their passion, Smadja explains that people shouldn’t shy away because of insecurities. “People often come to us and say they would love to teach but that they don’t have anything to teach others,” she says. “As soon as we ask them to give us one thing they know how to do, at least five people standing around immediately say, ‘I would love to learn that!’”