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My Experience of Skill Swapping: Case Study

By: Kate Simpson BA, MA - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Skill Swapping Skill Swaps Skill Cooking

Everyone has a skill. Whether it be gardening, cooking, web design, DIY, driving fluency in a foreign language or a flair for flower arranging, each individual has a talent that could be of worth to others. Skill swapping, the exchange of services or skills for the services or skills of someone else in the community, is becoming increasingly popular. We spoke to Simon Kenwood, a seasoned skill swapper from a Hampshire village, to find out more about his experiences.

Q. How did you get involved with skill swapping?

A. Towards the beginning of the recession, I read an article about skill swapping in a weekend newspaper and thought that it made real sense. At a time when finances were tight for most individuals and families and when many people were losing their jobs, it seemed like a great way to get things done, whilst saving money and meeting new people.

Q. How do you arrange your skill swaps?

A. I used to use a more formal skill swapping website, where you network with other skill swappers, arrange exchanges and barter over details like work load and time periods. This was a good way to get started, but these days I just swap skills informally, in my local community. I prefer it this way as it’s safer, friendlier and more local. Arrangements are also more flexible. I can fix a neighbour’s fence when they need it, for example and call in a favour like a lift to the local airport as and when I need it. A group of friends and neighbours made an informal agreement to swap skills and we publicised the idea through the local newspaper, to encourage others to get involved. This flexible system seems more charitable, as it means that skill swappers in the community are happy to help out others, like elderly relatives, and don’t always expect something in return.

Q. What services and skills do you offer and what do others do for you in return?

A. Skill swaps vary a great deal. I tend to do either physical jobs, like DIY or gardening, or technology related tasks. In return, people usually teach me or cook or bake items for me. I mow the lawn and vacuum carpets for a neighbour with restricted mobility and she teaches me Spanish for an hour a week. I’ve also got a friend who is a great cook. She once made me a huge lasagne when my parents came to stay for the weekend and I transferred all her family videos on to DVD for her.

Q. What’s the best thing about skill swapping?

A. Whilst it can save you money, the best think about skill swapping is the way in which it gets you meeting and talking to other people in the community. It also helps you to value the skills you have and take pride in your hobbies and talents, as well as enabling you to see all the great things that others can do. It’s a really positive, practical, productive thing.

As Simon’s story shows, skill swaps need not take place online. Your local community is the only social network you need. Why not encourage your community to get skill swapping? It’s fine to start small, perhaps just have a word with your adjacent neighbours, but your informal skill swapping group is sure to grow over time.

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