How to run a free skool


This section outlines the nuts and bolts aspects of organizing a free school. Topics include: forming a core collective, practical tips on meetings and meeting process, tools for keeping the free skool going, getting the word out, how to incorporate new members, and connecting to the larger community.


Your core collective


Likely the most important aspect of organizing a free skool is finding that perfect group of people who have the skills, the theory, the time, the energy, the resources, the connections, the passion, the drive, and the capability of making an awesome free skool happen. This section discusses how to locate your initial group, how to run collective meetings, how to delegate tasks, and how to resolve conflicts.

There are likely many skills, interests, and personality types represented in any group, free skools are no exception. There are particular roles that you will likely need to fill in your free skool: the visionary, the community connector, the organizational detailer, the techie, the accountant, etc. This section discusses the kinds of roles you need to fill to keep your free skool running. Keeping to the form of a free skool, you will need to be able to organize folks non-hierarchically. A key part of organizing your collective will need to focus on group process and group dynamics to keep everything healthy and happy. As such, special attention needs to be paid to conflict resolution and particularly the development of skills around consensus decision-making and direct-democratic process.


The basics



You have your group together. Now, what are you together to do? The basic architecture of a free skool consists of holding classes, somewhere to have them, someone to bottom-line them, and some mechanism for letting people know where and when to show up


Calendars

Share example calendars from various free schools, discuss the benefits of digital vs. paper calendars, and share some techniques for dissemination of calendars. This will include where to place your calendars to reach your intended community, how to create open-source and wiki calendar solutions on the web, calendar formatting, etc.


Classes

Locating facilitators or bottom-liners for courses. There are various ways to determine which courses your free skools should offer. This page will discuss community polling and surveys, holding community interest meetings, and connecting to preexisting organizations and movements. Once you've found facilitators, you will need to coordinate them. Share tips and tricks on working with facilitators to schedule times and locations, addressing problems such as training facilitators in free skool philosophy and pedagogy, and problem solving enrollment and attendance issues.


Space

Discuss finding spaces in the community. Possible locations can include: university classrooms, public libraries, public parks, friendly cafes, anarchist infoshops, hackspaces, housing cooperative common rooms, community centers, and more. Share strategies for finding a devoted space for your free skool. Discuss the logistical considerations coordination with voluntarily hosted spaces and developing friendly relationships with others who occupy these spaces.

Promoting your free skool

Promotions are integral to bringing people into the free skool community, filling classes, and having a successful project.

Throwing special events


Aside from operating a free skool, many free skool collectives have special events that last a day or more. These events are generally places where people come together and share knowledge and skills, as well as food and music.

skillshares

Many free skool special events feature skillshares as a central component of the day. Often this is a good time for teachers within your free skool to demonstrate their course to a wider audience. Also, the skillshare is an opportunity for facilitators with less free time or those wanting to try out a new course to participate in the free skool and get a feel for facilitation. Additionally, these special events host information tables from local organizations hoping to outreach to the free skool community and the wider public. These organizations generally fit with the mission of the free skool of working toward open culture, anti-oppression, and autonomous, self-reliant communities.

festivals

Free skool festivals often showcase local musicians and performing artists. These artists will draw a crowd not inherently interested in the educational aspect of the free skool and as such can operate as powerful outreach tools, in addition to being festal expression of community. The bands tend to be local and independent artists who share the values and ideals of the free skool. Generally these bands donate their time, as free skool festivals are free to attend, though sometimes donations are solicited and these can be shared with the artists.

Food at free skool events is often provided by a local chapter of Food Not Bombs, an organization that focuses on diverting healthy vegetarian food from the waste stream and using it to feed people. Food Not Bombs is not a charitable organization, but rather a grassroots community group that sees food as the cornerstone of any community.


Money & resources


Finding funding for your free skool can be a challenge, but there are some ways to make it happen. Firstly, the question of financing can seem counter-intuitive to the aims of the free skool which ideally aspires to a free culture where education is available to all regardless of their ability to pay. However, because we are situated in a capitalist consumer society, this leads to some tensions and practical difficulties when it comes to acquiring the necessary resources for running a free skool. Everything that goes into a free skool theoretically costs money (space, food, people's time, materials, etc.) There are creative ways to acquire the things you need as well as creative ways to acquire funding.

Donations

Donations and gifts are one of the easiest ways to acquire the things you need to run your free skool. Tap into the power of mutual aid, Kropotkin's concept of the human tendency toward instinctive cooperativism, to keep your free skool moving. One of the best ways to inspire donations is to donate yourself. Giving can be a revolutionary act. Most free skools depend quite fundamentally on donated time from facilitators and donated space from the community. These aren't generally that difficult to obtain, though this may vary by community. Other necessaries can be aquired through donations as well: produce seconds from a grocery store or farmers market stall, unwanted building materials or electronics, books, etc. These can be found on the craigslist free listings, streetside, in stores themselves, or at your local freestore or recycle center. Keeping a wishlist on your website of needed materials can be helpful as well. We live in a society over-saturated with consumer goods, use this unnecessary accumulation to your advantage.

Fundraisers

When it comes to those things you actually have to buy, there are a few good strategies for raising a bit of cash. Fundraisers are one such way.

Grants & Institutional Affiliation

Another is to obtain community or university grants. Many free skools are affiliated with universities in some way. Often university students are members of the core collective of a free skool, and as such have access to university funding for student groups. Many free skools will register as student groups and use these grants (which vary in size) to fund the educational mission of the free skool. Sometimes your local government, labor union, or a non-profit foundation will provide small community development and education grants that can assist with funding your free skool.


Community connections


There are plenty of other organizations and groups in your community that may prove to be indispensable allies in running your free skool. This section will include resources to connect and contact various groups such as: Food Not Bombs, Critical Mass, infoshops, Maker, FreeGeek, pirate and community radio, hackspaces, free clinics, peer mental health support, anarchist bookfairs, cooperatives, and others.


Free skool publications


This section will discuss the types of publications that tend to be created by free skools, including course catalogues and disorientation zines. There will be information on archived historical documentation of such materials, as well as practical information for their creation and publication.
A disorientation zine is a publication made at a university to counter-act the orientation materials generally distributed by university administration to incoming students. As the free skool movement has been connected to campus activism and free university organizing, the disorientation zine is a common publication of free skools. Disorientation zines generally include articles such as: critiques of the university and its corporatization, connections to local radical organizations, local people's histories including labor and indigenous resistance, and other articles.