Start a Skills Swap

Cosmopolitan (Philippines) - - Work -

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.

Skills what-now?

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!’”

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