We’ve written before about the Fixer’s Collective, a group of improvisational fixers and menders based in Brooklyn, NY as well as Chris Hackett and the Madagascar Institute, who are devoted to facilitating “out there” creations – especially flamethrowers – for just about anyone who shows up. But lately we’ve been hearing about a number of similar projects coming out of NYC’s most forward-thinking borough–collectives of folks bonded together by a common purpose or interest, offering services at fairly low – or NO – cost.

But this isn’t about Brooklyn or the particular brand of young people associated with its DIY culture. It’s about a really compelling model of learning and service provision that could work anywhere there are willing people (and indeed, other cities have similar crops of great projects).

Take for example the Brooklyn Skillshare and their powerful mission statement:

Education is a right, not a commodity. We are all students and teachers, and we believe that everyone has something to teach and to learn from each other. The Brooklyn Skillshare is a communal, hands-on, learning experience that aims to serve as a jumping-off point in the construction of an autonomous, nonexclusive, reciprocal learning community.

Brooklyn Skillshare hosts full-day skill shares once a year, and small classes and events throughout the year. Classes range from home-canning, to how to order wine in a restaurant, to sewing basics. Anyone can volunteer to be a teacher, and all of the classes are FREE with a suggested donation.


Similar in mission, the Brooklyn Brainery is “crowdsourced education,” relying on community members to propose and teach its intriguing selection of classes, like making your own stationary, playing with natural dyes, fortunetelling, and budgeting and bookkeeping for artists (all for a modest charge).


Again, we love their philosophy: “Teaching at the Brainery isn’t about being a world-renowned expert on a topic, it’s just about being excited to help people learn the things you’re already excited about.”

This is what excites us about the model: it separates teaching from the idea that in order to have something to teach, you must be a “professional” or “know everything.” And it’s based on the idea that not only should everyone have access to learning new skills, but also anyone can learn anything, at any time. You might be embarrassed by the fact that you still can’t figure out how the heck to use a semicolon, but you are not the only one.

Which is why we’re gonna head over to 3rd Ward to learn welding, and the ins-and-outs of corrugated cardboard…


All that’s needed is some community space, a desire to learn, and a willingness to teach. Is there anything like this in your community?  (Just google “learning collectives” along with your town or city.) If not…perhaps it’s time to start

Related posts: the fixer’s collective: improvisational mending + fixing
4 great downloadable d-i-y’s from canal house cooking
‘self-taught’ lessons about learning and creativity
reader’s finds + a great, simple approach to learning
chris hackett’s brooklyn ‘obtainium’ mine

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