How to Start Your Own Skillshare

Organizing a Skillshare is fun and easy, since everyone really has something to teach, and something to learn.

The seeds for the Brooklyn Skillshare began in the Spring of 2009 when I attended a similar event in Boston, and was inspired by the weekend-long workshops offered on a regular basis, free of charge. I had assumed that these types of events existed in every major city, and so I was shocked to discover that there were none in greater New York City area. 

To me, the need for a skillshare seemed obvious: 

  • We're in the middle of a recession
  • Education is expensive
  • Information should be free
  • Communities can share: the definition of a "community" is the people of a collective area that share social values and responsibilities--and we often forget to turn to our neighbors
  • With the internet full of 'how-to's' a lot of information IS free, but reading a website is not as enriching of a learning experience as a hands on event where you can meet friends

I decided to take action and start one myself. Mind you, I have had no previous experience in event planning--I'm a photographer by trade--which means anyone can do this!

The First Annual Brooklyn Skillshare was held on Saturday, October 10th, 2009 at Gowanus Studio Space. The day consisted of five blocks of 90-minute classes, with three classes taking place per block. Over 400 people participated. They could take as many or as few classes as they liked, but all were encouraged to make a day of learning.

We did it in four simple steps:

Step One: Find a venue to host your Skillshare. My suggestions are schools, artists studios, YMCAs, gyms, church basements, anywhere that will be large enough (also keep in mind that having separate rooms is really essential to having more than one class occurring at the same time) and hopefully will lend you the space for free.

Step Two: Develop class ideas and teacher suggestions. Here's a sampling from the first Brooklyn Skillshare: "Creating sustainable alternatives to plastic bags using re-purposed materials"; "Bicycle Mechanics 101"; "How to brew kombucha"; "Screenprinting basics & DIY techniques"; "Taking care of yourself with massage basics"; and "Make Your Own Butter and Ricotta!"

Step Three: Raise money. Fundraisers are essential in order to generate buzz about your event AND raise money to cover costs of overhead, food, and supplies. Set up a benefit concerts with local musicians, get local businesses and friends to donate food--we had a bake sale at our benefit show in August (where we raised almost $1,000), use Kickstarter, apply for grants, check out local organizations like FEAST, which hosts recurring public dinners to support local art.

Step Four: Start and make a cool movie so that people can find out about you and participate! 

We know that Brooklyn is in endless supply of artistry and talent, and since we all have something to teach and to learn from each other. We believe that education is a right, not a commodity – and hope this project will foster a reciprocal community in Brooklyn, as we hope to continue holding Skillshares throughout the year, funding permitting.

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