Indoor Public Space

is what we make of it.

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If you Pitch it, They Will Come

Some spaces which seem inaccessible to the public may actually be open to great ideas — you just have to get the conversation started.  In this post, Judy Verseghy of Trade School TO talks about what she has learned about negotiating use of space instead of paying for it.

Trade School Toronto organizes classes which allow potential students to barter for knowledge.

Trade School Toronto organizes classes where students and teachers can barter for knowledge.

Indoor public space is something that I hadn’t considered much prior to 2012, when a group of five Torontonians (including myself) launched Trade School Toronto – an education-for-barter initiative riffing off of the iconic Trade School New York. The five of us all knew that public education without the exclusivity that goes along with cash payment was a great idea – we just weren’t sure where we could host our events. After all, we had no cash, and traditionally venues require payment for their use. Little did we know that soon enough, building managers and store owners all across Toronto would be jumping on board, allowing us the opportunity to bring our classes to the masses.

You see, the thing is, people across the city and beyond have fabulous ideas, but nowhere to launch them. Lack of affordable space is a huge problem in Toronto, both in terms of living space (which is another – very important – discussion altogether), but also in terms of community space where people can come together and create grassroots change. So how do you acquire the necessary space to manifest your fabulous idea, when you have no money at your disposal?

Well my friends, money isn’t everything, and there’s a very good chance that you have something to offer the operators of stores, community centres, schools, markets, and other indoor public spaces. You probably just haven’t realized it yet. Consider even just the following areas of your life, and see what assets you have that you might be able to offer in turn for space:

  • Skills and expertise – can you barter your own skills as a (communications professional/community planner/nurse/whatever) in return for the use of space?
  • Relationships – can you create new interpersonal connections that might benefit the manager of the space that you wish to use?
  • Web space – can you offer free ad space on your website (if you have one)?
  • Advertising – are you writing a press release to get people out to participate in your group? If so, you can pitch free advertising to your potential space donor in terms of a mention in the release or in other advertising mechanisms.

One of TSTO’s best assets is that our classes bring in people — we have found that we can leverage that traffic in exchange for space. There are tons of spaces around the city that are constantly investigating new ways to become or remain animated – this strategy has proven to be particularly effective with art and design galleries.

Sometimes your mission is simply in line with the mandate of the manager of the space that you wish to use. For example, when searching for space for our upcoming dance themed series for TSTO, organizer Sylvia Yee contacted the Ralph Thornton Centre, who said that they were more than willing to provide space, provided that our classes were open to the public, which is exactly what we want them to be.

You have something to give, and people want to receive it. If you pitch it, they will come.

Looking for something to do on April 26th? Come to Trade School Toronto’s newest session: Dance!Dance!Dance! All classes, as always, are paid for via barter. Come get your groove on!


Judy Verseghy has three children and a long history of involvement in Toronto non-profits, including Trade School Toronto.