Building an effective network - your feedback needed!

We help groups get started repairing electronics in their communities, record their data and now get involved with campaigning for more repairable products.

Ever since we started in 2012, we’ve been super open, sharing and testing our ideas with our community in London. In fact the reason The Restart Project :restart: became an actual charity as opposed to an informal association is that our volunteers pushed us to do more than simply host repair events, our “system change” project needed a more formal structure, a way to find resources and get stuff done.

Our system change project is not really about us, we felt we had to step into the breach and get started. But we would be really happy not to be the protagonists here, and if we can seed change, or help subtly change the direction of things, or even be a momentary catalyst, we would be very happy doing just that.

We are now a smallish organisation with the equivalent of 5 full-time staff, which may seem like a lot of people, but read on to get a feeling for all that we are involved in, from London to the UK, to Europe and globally. (Fundraising to sustain this activity has not been easy, in fact it took us years and years of failing before we got this far.)

Now that we’re here, our vision is that we have about +/-10 years left to campaign and significantly change product repairability and design policy at global level (through Europe), and if we decide to try to exist beyond that, it will likely be only in the area of education and working with young people.

Being a convenor: events, campaigns and alliances

We’ve played the role of convenor in recent years, helping in 2017 to start the Open Repair Alliance :muscle: with an Open Repair Data Standard, and hosting the first-ever international community repair gathering, Fixfest 2017 in London.

Last year with Fixfest UK 2018, we helped convene a group to draft the Manchester Declaration :scroll:, which had a big impact, ending up on the UK government’s radar via coverage in the BBC.

Likewise, in an upcoming Right to Repair campaign on a European level, we have been working together with iFixit Europe, ECOS, and the European Environmental Bureau to convene various allies and outline a campaign and ensure that the voices of community repair groups are well-represented.

We are trying to learn how to share the work of collaboration and convening with partners, and where appropriate hand over.

The first real step towards this is that we are handing over the second international Fixfest this year to Runder Tisch Reparatur (the German repair roundtable). Learn more here! :calendar:

Open everything: sharing software, data and learning

All of our software has been licensed as open from the beginning. It’s free and everyone is welcome to use it, remix it, build on it :computer:. We’re helping community repair groups in other countries localise our software and make it relevant to them, and we are constantly improving ways that groups can share their data.

Our Restart Party Kit :ledger: has also been free and open since the beginning and will continue to be. All of our media is licensed the same way, where possible.

All of the data collected is downloadable and available :bar_chart: to the public, although perhaps not yet in a way that is optimal for groups if they were to want to backup or save their data. We’re looking into “portability” of data, too, given that we helped create the Open Repair Data Standard that will help aggregate community repair data. (Perhaps another better app will come along, and you’d like to move there.) Related to this, if in case we would need to close, or radically scale down our support, you would be covered. We are really open to suggestions on this.

:left_speech_bubble: As always, we are extremely open to bright ideas, suggestions, criticism, call-outs at the pub (or online). We don’t take any of this personally and we see exchange of ideas and views as a really healthy part of any network.

The role of has also been an attempt at “convening”. Our notion was that “Restarters” :woman_mechanic:t4: are everywhere, in every neighbourhood, and also hopefully in every local repair group and repair café. We thought this could be a shared identity, one useful in building a community.


However, since the beginning we have struggled with the question of whether to align the brand with our own :restart:, or to give it another identity altogether. (We also need to do a better job of providing useful materials for groups that do not call themselves Restarters or host Restart Parties.)

Do you have suggestions about how to name this network? This site? If you like its branding, please tell us too :wink:

Moderation and governance

We are also struggling with the question of how to build this community — and moderate it — together with members. We are pretty responsive to feature requests and questions, but we may not be able to sustain this for years and years into the future. This is something we are thinking about - a lot!

:innocent: Would you like to get involved with moderation? Let us know!

Decentralising support

We provide support to so many groups around the world who often have small questions or need a little encouragement. It’s becoming slightly unsustainable, and we need to have some serious reflection about network “structure” and how we might formalise peer to peer support, or some regional or decentralised support.

We’ve noticed recently that many repair activists in the UK are looking to help others in their region. And in smaller countries, groups have become de-facto hubs of expertise and help. We’d like to know how — or if — we can add value and support.

All comments/thoughts on this are very welcome.


Hi Janet

Here’s my thoughts. I haven’t been around here all that long, so perhaps I should apologise in advance if I give offence. Not sure. Here goes.

This whole question is refreshingly open - yes we all need to embrace change and seek ways to change/adapt even when it might be a little uncomfortable or challenging to have to accept that it’s necessary or desirable. I guess the landscape is changing as a result of Restart’s efforts and as others start to catch up in some areas (e.g. RepairMonitor) then maybe some of Restart’s effort is best directed to new targets.

The key reason I like/respect/support Restart is the activism for Right to Repair - from what I see you are all doing a great job with the convenor role, and working hard on events, campaigns and alliances.

Brand/identity is an interesting one. My observation is that to the uninitiated, the word “Restart” doesn’t mean too much. And a spanner is arguably not representative of what a Restart Party aims to fix - electrical devices. As a visual metaphor it’s fine.

This might be controversial but I think there’s scope to separate the activism from the Restart Party side - after all there are plenty of “repair cafe” participants in, like myself - why couldn’t they all be repair cafe events - let them own the events, let Restart focus the activism. That could also mean directing event data towards RepairMonitor, removing from Restart the cost/effort/distraction of maintaining the Fixometer.

Supporting the activism is for me an essential reason for having the community here and clearly should be something that Restart keeps going with - has forums which are tumbleweed empty which is a surprise given its global reach. What you’ve done here is established a modern and reasonably active “town” - it has a library full of repair information, a way for groups to report progress, a place to chat, people who run the town, …

I’ve previously floated the idea of setting up a regular community call programme for party/cafe leaders/volunteers - I think this could help party/cafe leaders share ideas, and assist with decentralisation by putting them in touch with each other. I guess this would have to operate on a country/region or shared language basis. If Restart were to facilitate this (the convenor role again), it would rely on the participants for content.

From here I can’t tell that the community moderation and governance is a problem. I think if the community calls get rolling some participants will become more active in the community.

There I said it. Interested to see reactions.


Thanks @Ian_Barnard! You raise some really relevant and provocative points, so we’re curious to hear from others, if they resonate at all, or if they have slightly different takes. We’ll wait a little bit before responding.

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Not a problem! Many people like our logo :restart: and want to use it for all sorts of things, but we get that it might be very new to many and that some kind of more “generic” fixing identity might be useful to bring everyone together in the digital space. (To the groups that use our identity, we would still make that possible, don’t worry!)

This is great to hear. We think it’s one of our main reasons for being! And this came out strongly at the first-ever Fixfest.

We would love to get out of the software business :smile: but our main question here is how to involve repair activists in the analysis of the data we collect, which we hope helps fuel the Right to Repair activism. And this will require a thriving community. (Also, just noting that the Fixometer does more than collecting data, it helps groups announce events and get RSVPs from volunteers, which is unique. It can also create exportable events feeds. But if this is not needed by others, we need to know!)

Again, good to hear, and we are working on this! We’ve finally figured out the technical part of this (how to embed Jitsi and adding a chat tool), and we’ll be announcing some first tests soon. And in fact, we’d be delighted for regions / groups to take over these tools and make their own use of them.

We’re interested to see where this goes too!

If others might like to chime in, we’re really keen for more feedback.

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I wanted to discuss some of this when we last met but forgot!

I think it is important for Restart to remain involved in some Restart Parties as this helps get some direct feedback and inform some of the policy work. The network of repair events is also a way to disseminate both knowledge and requests for action. Basically the bottom approach that Restart has adopted is something I hope it’ll continue to subscribe to.

Another great, partly related, aspect of Restart is its human scale. Not just the size of the organisation but also how it relates with the many other actors and repair events. I find hierarchies most often problematic. The governance of Restart and its relations to others is something crucial for how it evolves. I find mesh-like networks based on mutual trust attractive structures.

Restart’s focus on inclusivity is also essential as social enterprise that exclude some cannot be true to their mission.

More controversially, I’d hope Restart to also campaign on more difficult issues such as to normalise (guerrilla) repair, e.g., helping change laws so that it’s ok to carry tools and fix things as we go along every day; promote for people who, currently unlawfully, leave items outside their flat to attach a note describing what’s the issue (if any), etc. The societal changes that are needed should address the everyday casual repairs as well as systemic changes by the industry.

Happy to explore any or all of these next time we see each other.


Thanks :panda_face: just reassuring you that it is not at all in our plans to step away from our grassroots work in London. We see it much the same way you do. We feel the call to be active on multiple scales, and that is potentially our greatest strength. (However we have to be really strategic, as we are such a small team.)

Again, a great reminder. We also have an allergy to hierarchy, and we’re constantly trying to figure out how to create this kind of “mesh” or “ecosystem” - but it’s often a challenge as it feels institutional funding tends to push us towards more hub-spoke, more hierarchy. Plus we are embedded in a political and economic system more broadly that favours lone “heroes” and “entrepreneurs”, it’s something we have to consciously push back against.

This came out strongly at the first Fixfest and again at Fixfest UK, and we hope finally as we are hiring a campaigner to push forward on this aspect. Guerrilla repair could be a way of reaching an audience online that might not attend our repair events.

Let’s discuss offline too! Wish I could be at the Party in the Park on Saturday but I’m actually visiting Eyam Repair Cafe @Colin_Shaw to record a segment for the One Show (!!)

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